For the fourth straight season, the Seton Hall baseball team will face elimination in the second game of the Big East Tournament, following a 13-inning, 2-1 defeat to Butler, on Thursday night in Mason, Ohio.
The fans in attendance at Prasco Park had free baseball from the start, as the tournament host venue was not charging fees for admission. However, the two teams still managed to give spectators more than was originally promised, as two pitchers from each side: Shane McCarthy and Andrew Politi from Seton Hall, and Ryan Pepiot and Josh Walker from Butler, managed to carry the game a full 12 innings.
In the 13th inning, Matt Leon came on in relief of Politi, needing one out, but with a runner on second. Butler shortstop Michael Hartnagel had driven in the Bulldogs’ only run, and had made a few swift plays in the infield as well, but he stepped to the plate against Leon, and made his biggest contribution. Hartnagel hit a chopping ball into left field, driving in the run that proved to be a dagger for the Pirates; a big hit in a game that was absent of a run for 11 innings.
The game started out with two important runs, though, and Seton Hall shortstop Al Molina was in the middle of both. In Butler’s first inning against McCarthy, Hartnagel hit a line drive that slipped off Molina’s glove, scoring Bulldogs second baseman Zach Jarosz. Molina wasted no time to make amends for the error, as the senior uncorked his fourth home run of the season, high over the left-center-field portion of the fence.
The early runs were not an indication of how the game played out, as McCarthy and Pepiot settled in for 7.0 and 7.1 innings, allowing only the first-inning runs, which was unearned in the case of McCarthy. For McCarthy, it was start No. 50 in a Seton Hall uniform, passing Joe DiRocco – who pitched in the Pirates’ last Big East Tournament title in 2011 – for second-most in school history.
The two starters breezed through the middle innings, showing signs of fatigue in gesture, but little to no drop-off in effectiveness of pitches. Pepiot did run into trouble in the seventh inning, though, when Seton Hall loaded the bases with no outs.
The Pirates thought for a moment that they had taken the lead when a player crossed the plate and Rob Dadona reached first base safely, on the second half of a 4-6-3 double play attempt with one out. However, the second base umpire, Bob Howard, deemed that Christian Del Castillo interfered with Hartnagel’s throw to first, providing the third out to end the inning.
Politi took over in the wake of the interference call, and the former starter displayed his endurance by throwing 75 pitches over 5.2 innings, striking out nine in the process. After Politi’s final full inning of relief, the Pirates pushed for a run, putting two players on-base for Dadona. The senior lead-off hitter made contact, but hit it straight into the glove of the Bulldogs’ right-fielder.
Following Butler’s run in the top of the 13th, Seton Hall again tried to force a rally with two outs. Mike Alescio gladly took four pitches outside the strike zone, followed by Ramiz, who walked on five pitches. Nick Dabrio, pinch-hitting for Matt Toke, lost a 3-1 advantage when he swung on a low-and-away pitch, but the strike meant that both Alescio and Ramiz could run on the payoff from Butler reliever Jack Pilcher. Pilcher saved his best pitch for last, though, and Dabrio went down swinging.
The loss means that Seton Hall will face Georgetown in an elimination game on Friday, May 25, at 2:30 p.m. EST. The Pirates will likely put the ball in the hands of Ricky DeVito, who was named Big East Pitcher of the Year on May 23.
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.