The 2013 St. John's baseball season kicks off down in Florida as the Red Storm take part in the Snowbird Baseball Classic this weekend.
The Red Storm are coming off a 40-23 (18-9) season in which they were crowned champions of the Big East regular season* as well as the Big East Tournament, when they beat South Florida 7-3 in the title game.
The team also made a tremendous run in the College World Series, winning the Chapel Hill Regional and advancing to the Tuscan Super Regional where they lost both games of the two-game series to Arizona. The Wildcats were the eventual national champions.
Now back into gear for this season, St. John's will face Florida Gulf Coast Friday, then take on Mercer on Saturday before ending their trip with a doubleheader against Ohio State and, again, Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday.
Under Ed Blankmeyer, St. John's is 7-10 on Opening Days. They were riding a four-game Opening Day win streak going into the 2012 season before the Red Storm lost to Michigan State.
Blankmeyer, who has had a phenomenal run with the program during his tenure, is 23 games shy of becoming St. John's baseball all-time winningest coach. Joesph Russo (1973-96) currently sits at the top with 612 wins.
St. John's has been ranked 2nd in the Big East preseason polls this year behind Louisville. Sean Hagan and Sean O'Hare both were selected to the Preseason All-Big East team.
Hagan, the senior left-handed pitcher who went 8-3 with a 2.90 ERA, will be the Opening Day pitcher on Friday. Hagan pitched 108.2 innings last season - the most in school history.
This will be Hagan's second career Opening Day start after pitching one back in 2011 against Minnesota in which he went 5 innings with 0 earned runs and 4 strikeouts.
Hagan was drafted on the third day of last year's MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins, but elected to return to school.
The projected starting lineup for the 2013 season is as follows:
1. Dustin Breshears / SS / Sophomore | No Stats
2. Paul Talbut / RF / Senior | (48 GP) .265 avg 0 HR 24 RBI
3. Sean O'Hare / 3B / Senior | (63 GP) .341 avg 3 HR 43 RBI
4. Frank Schwindel / 1B / Junior | (56 GP) .332 avg 4 HR 30 RBI
5. Danny Bethea / C / Senior | (51 GP) .263 avg 3 HR 30 RBI
6. Zach Lauricella / DH / Sophomore | (52 GP) .263 avg 3 HR 32 RBI
7. Martin Kelly / LF / Junior (red shirt) | (44 GP) .232 avg 0 HR 17 RBI
8. Jimmy Brennan / CF / Senior | (45 GP) .207 avg 0 HR 19 RBI
9. Bret Dennis / 2B / Sophomore | No Stats
St. John's has suffered some key personnel losses this season. Jeremy Baltz (San Diego 2nd Rd), Kyle Hansen (White Sox 5th Rd), Matt Wessinger (Rockies 5th Rd), and Matt Carasiti (Rockies 6th Rd) were all drafted.
But with the losses comes some key returns such as O'Hare, Schwindel, Lauricella and Bethea as well as pitchers Hagan and James Lomangino.
The road to the College World Series begins once again for the Red Storm and after last year's performance, there isn't much reason to doubt that they can make another magnificent run into postseason play.
*St. John's shared the 2012 regular season title with the Louisville Cardinals.
Follow the Rumble on Facebook | Follow on Twitter: Rumble In The Garden | Follow on Tumblr