The No. 9 St. John's Red Storm downed the Liberty Flames, 4-2, in game one of a doubleheader, Saturday afternoon at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
Red Storm right-hander Ryan McAuliffe and Flames right-hander Caleb Evans locked up in a pitchers' duel through the first five innings, before visiting St. John's broke through with two runs in the sixth inning.
Liberty drops to 8-6 on the season while St. John's improves to 12-1. With the win, the Red Storm take the first game of the three-game series.
Neither team was able to move a runner past second base until the top of the fourth. With two outs, St. John's moved third baseman Robbie Knightes, who drew a one-out walk, to third on a single by first baseman John Valente. However, Evans struck out shortstop Jesse Berardi to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.
The Red Storm struck for the contest's first two runs in the sixth. Left fielder Michael Donadio walked and catcher Robert Boselli III was hit by a pitch. After a Liberty pitching change, Knightes laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position. Center fielder Jamie Galazin followed with a sacrifice fly to score Donadio for a 2-0 lead, and St. John's made it 3-0, on a fielding error by Flames' third baseman Trey McDyre with two outs.
The visitors extended their advantage in the top of the seventh. With two outs, pinch hitter Troy Dixon doubled and scored on a single by Knightes for a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Liberty broke through with two runs to slice its deficit to one. Second baseman Andrew Kowalo walked to open the home half of the seventh and advanced to third base on a two-out double by designated hitter Payton Scarbrough. Kowalo then scored Liberty's first run of the afternoon, when Red Storm third baseman Knightes misplayed a grounder by shortstop Josh Barrick. Center fielder D.J. Artis followed with a run-scoring single, cutting St. John's lead to 3-2.
The Red Storm added an insurance in the eighth on a RBI single by designated hitter Gui Gingras for what proved to be the final score of 4-2.
Evans falls to 2-2 on the season. He gave up two runs, one earned, over the first five-plus innings. The right-hander struck out four and walked four.
McAuliffe moves to 3-0. He allowed two unearned runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked four. Reliever Joe Kelly did not allow a run over the final 2 1/3 innings to record his first save of the year.
St. John's outhit Liberty, 10-5. Gingras led all hitters in the contest with three hits.