Heading into the spring, Ed Blankmeyer’s St. John’s baseball club will certainly have the “top dog” target on their back.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Red Storm are predicted to finish first in the Big East Conference, and the individual awards are pouring in.
Watching this St. John’s team last season, it was easy to get caught up in how dominant they were at the plate that some might not have realized how dominant their pitching was.
This year, the attention will focused on the mound first. The ace of the Red Storm staff, Sean Mooney, was named the Big East Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
As a freshman, he burst on the scene becoming the second player in conference history to be named Conference Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the same season.
In addition to the conference recognition, the New Jersey native Mooney was named to the Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American second team.
The preseason praise is well-warranted; Mooney had an undefeated in the regular season, and opponents were held to an average of .196 and struck out 88 batters.
The bats earned a lot of preseason attention, as well.
After being named a unanimous selection to the All-Big East First Team, outfielder Anthony Brocato was named Preseason co-Player of the Year alongside of Butler’s Tyler Houston.
Brocato was tied for second (alongside former teammate Jesse Berardi) in the conference with 47 RBI. Brocato also hit 8 homers, a total no Red Storm player had matched since 2012.
In addition to Brocato, returnees Josh Shaw and John Valente were also named to the first team.
Shaw, a junior infielder, started all 55 games at second base for the team. Shaw registered 18 multiple hit games and only totaled 8 errors in those 55 starts.
Valente, a redshirt senior, is looking to build off an extremely successful campaign in 2017. He was named to the Big East First-Team, All-Clemson Regional team, and a member of the ABCA/Rawlings All-Region second team. Valente led conference play with 81 hits, and was third in conference play with an average of .372.
Also on the Big East All-First Team for the Johnnies was relief pitcher Joe LaSorsa.
LaSorsa and fellow reliever Gavin Hollowell will be the anchors of the bullpen after the departure of Ryan McAuliffe to graduation. The big left-hander LaSorsa finished with a record of 7-1 with an ERA of 2.34. Hollowell kept his ERA under just over 1.00 in 19 appearances for the team.
Despite all of the preseason notice, there are significant losses for the Red Storm. The departure of Jesse Berardi and Troy Dixon, both of who now are in Major League Baseball farm systems, will loom large. Starting third baseman Robbie Knightes, and Gui Gingras also graduated. All four of those players had batting averages over .300.
The bar is set high for this team, and with some key graduations, new faces will have to step up.
A late February showdown with North Carolina, who St. John’s beat last season, should be a good early season test of where the team is.