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May 24, 2012
Mik Aoki's strategy backfired Wednesday afternoon in first-round action of the Big East tournament.
Freshman righthander Pat Connaughton (4-4) failed to register an out against the first eight batters he faced and St. John's scored seven runs in the first inning as the No. 2 seeded Red Storm (34-21) easily defeated No. 7 seed Notre Dame Wednesday, 12-2, at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
The loss drops the Irish (29-26) into the loser's bracket against No. 6 seed Rutgers - a 6-1 winner over No. 3 seed Seton Hall - at 10 a.m. ET Thursday, with the loser eliminated from the Big East tournament.
Aoki decided to bypass pitching No. 1 Will Hudgins against the Red Storm, choosing instead to save him for the second game of the Big East tournament, which would either advance the Irish to the third round undefeated or stave off elimination from the tournament.
The move didn't seem like a huge risk considering Connaughton entered the game with a 1.86 earned run average and 36 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings, including a solid performance against St. John's the last week of April.
But after allowing just eight earned runs all season, Connaughton surrendered seven to the Red Storm before exiting the game without recording an out. Connaughton's earned run average jumped to 3.49.
St. John's added a run in the second and four more third after the Irish offense stirred a bit with a pair of runs in the second. Sophomore righthander Donnie Hissa didn't fair much better for the Irish, allowing another five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.
First baseman Trey Mancini, who claimed the Big East Home Run Derby crown Tuesday night, went 3-for-4 for the Irish while rightfielder Alex Robinson also slapped three hits. But the rest of the Irish managed just three hits combined against St. John's righthander Matt Carasiti (5-5), who scattered nine hits over six innings and allowed just two earned runs - an RBI single by leftfielder Mac Hudgins and a sacrifice fly by centerfielder Charlie Markson.
Hudgins (4-3, 2.22) will face Rutgers lefthander Rob Smorol (8-3, 3.24) Thursday morning.
In other opening-round action of the Big East tournament, No. 1 seed Louisville defeated No. 8 seed Pittsburgh, 8-4. No. 5 seed Connecticut knocked off No. 4 seed South Florida, 7-2.
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