Head coach Ed Blankmeyer released St. John’s baseball’s 2018 schedule on Wednesday, which begins with seven straight games back in the state of North Carolina a year after such a trip exceeded any expectations going in.
After that journey down south this season, the Red Storm will return home to make most of the renovations of its home ballpark with a loaded slate of games, aiming to get the squad back to the NCAA Tournament.
A new artificial turf playing surface should make the field better able to withstand harsh early spring weather in the city during March. As a result, the team will play 26 games in Queens.
The Johnnies open with a three-game set February 16-18 against Campbell in Buies Creek, and a week later will spend a weekend at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary. St. John’s will face Monmouth, UMBC and Penn State in a four-team tournament.
St. John’s will then face North Carolina on February 28, almost a year to the day after the team went into Chapel Hill and beat the then-No. 7 Tar Heels 5-4 on a Jesse Berardi home run in the seventh inning.
St. John’s return down south follows a successful trip through the Carolinas that put college baseball on notice in the early going last year.
As a part of the program’s best start to a season since the days of Frank Viola and John Franco in 1981, the Johnnies began last season winning 10 of their first 11 games, all in North and South Carolina. Another one of the road trip’s high point came in a 7-4 win in extras over then-reigning national champion Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. The trip helped vault the Johnnies into the top 25 in most of college baseball’s polls.
Back home to the renovated Jack
After a three-game set at New Mexico on March 2-4, this year’s edition of St. John’s baseball will open its home schedule at Jack Kaiser Stadium on March 6. Some highlights, below.
St. John’s will also face old conference rival UConn for three games in the early going of its home schedule. The Johnnies will host the first two games against the Huskies March 16-17, and Sunday’s series finale will be played in Storrs.
Big East Play
The Red Storm opens Big East play at Villanova for a three-game set from April 6-8. The following weekend the Johnnies will host Creighton, last year’s conference regular season champion. St. John’s will also visit Xavier in a rematch of last year’s Big East tournament final from April 27-29, and the team will also visit Seton Hall on May 11-12.
The Johnnies will host Georgetown April 20-22 and Butler to wrap up the regular season at the Jack on May 17-19. The Big East Tournament this year will shift to Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio, on Memorial Day Weekend.
On the road
The rest of St. John’s remaining non-conference road schedule includes three-game sets against Kansas on March 9-11 and at Minnesota on March 29-31. The series against Minnesota will be held indoors at U.S. Bank Stadium, the host of this year’s Super Bowl. The Golden Gophers will later visit the Jack for a game on May 15.
Local road trips
The Red Storm will also visit fellow area schools Wagner on March 27, Columbia on April 4 and Hofstra on April 18. Iona will make its two annual visits to Queens on March 14 and May 1.
Last season, St. John’s qualified for the NCAA Tournament and returned to the Palmetto State for the Clemson regional, but losses to Vanderbilt and UNC Greensboro ended their successful season at 42-13, their second-most wins in a season in program history.
Can they do last season one better?