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St. John’s Baseball: Red Storm take series over Butler to begin Big East play

The Johnnies opened up the bats last week... and played a peculiar series.

College World Series - Arkansas v Oregon State - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Johnnies continued riding their hot streak from the past couple of weeks with a solid 4-1 week as well as a 2-1 start to Big East Play.

Joe Kelly, who had two saves, won Big East Player of the Week.

April 2, St. John’s vs. Saint Peter’s

St. John’s 7, Saint Peter’s 5 | WP: Murphy (1-1) LP: Chandel (0-2) S: Kelly (2)

The Red Storm began their long week on time with a Tuesday game at home coming off their series win at St. Louis.

Jeff Belge started the Saint Peter’s game for the Storm. But after 58 pitches (and three innings and two runs given up), he was pulled for freshman Ian Murphy. Murphy got the win for his three innings of work and five Ks.

On the offensive side of the ball, St. John’s played below the standards they had set in prior weeks and amounted only six hits over the nine innings.

Still, C Mitchell Henshaw and 1B Ryan Hogan led the charge with two hits each and three runs, three RBI, and a walk between them. The rest of the team kept the ball in play, striking out only five times, but struggled capitalizing on chances as 10 runners were left on base for the Storm.

The highlights of the game for the Saint Peter’s Peacocks came in their 3-run 9th inning that would fall two runs short of a comeback. The 9th inning rally consisted of two singles, two walks, and a hit batter. The final out for Saint Peter’ss came via a strikeout with the tying run on base.

The Peacocks pitched well enough to win the game, allowing four runs, but were victimized by three defensive errors that accounted for the other three Red Storm runs that ended up winning the game.

April 3, St. John’s vs. Columbia

St. John’s 22, Columbia 7 | WP: Greenberg (1-1) LP: Harrington (0-1)

St. John’s dismantled Columbia on Wednesday, one day after their defeat of St. Peter’s. The score line shows the Red Storm were firing on all cylinders for their final game before Big East play begins.

Preservation seemed to be a big theme for St. John’s pitching against Columbia; only 1 of the seven pitchers who threw for the Red Storm pitched for more than two innings. As a unit, the pitching conceded only three earned runs and struck out nine. The Johnnies also walked nine and hit three batters.

For the Red Storm bats, everyone got in on the action. Ten batters had earned at least one hit by the end of the game and three batters had a 3-hit day. The same 10 batters that recorded a hit each got in the RBI column, led by DH Mitchell Henshaw with a four RBI day.

The Red Storm broke out for 10 runs in the 4th inning, perhaps the only thing that could have topped their eight run 3rd.

Between the two innings, the Storm recorded amazing stats. The scoring was subsidized by their alert baserunning with five runs coming off of three errors by Columbia. Another three runs came off a Mitchell Henshaw home run, which was one of two on the day for the Storm. It was an efficient two innings; only two runners were left on base.

Columbia was treated to a hitting display of their own as LF AJ DiFillipo hit a 2-run HR in the second inning as part of his 3-RBI night.

The Columbia pitching staff sent a total of 9 pitchers to the mound for their 216 total pitches and 17 earned runs on the day.

With pitch count staying low for each pitcher, the Storm were well rested for the upcoming series against Butler.

April 5-6 series at Butler

The Red Storm began their Big East play with a series against the Butler Bulldogs. The series, originally scheduled for three days, saw the Sunday game moved up to Saturday because of weather.

That second game on Saturday was called after nine innings found the teams tied at four, due to darkness.

The game was finished after two extra innings were played on Sunday.

Game 1: St. John’s 4, Butler 1 | WP: LaSorsa (4-2) LP: Pepiot (4-3) S: Kelly (3)

Fans of offense look away! Game 1 was a defensive battle where runs are hard to come by.

For the Red Storm, the offense was slow. There were only 6 hits, but St. John’s was led by LF Mike Antico. Antico went 2-4 on the day inflating his season batting average to .296. He also accounted for 2 of the 4 St. John’s runs for the game.

Joe LaSorsa followed up his Big East Honor Roll with a 7-inning 1-hit shutout. LaSorsa struck out seven to his two walks on the day. He was relieved by Joe Kelly who conceded three hits in his two innings of relief. The sole Butler run came off a 6th inning wild pitch by LaSorsa.

Like St. John’s, Butler struggled to come across scoring opportunities with their seven total baserunners on the day.

The Butler pitching performed up to par after Ryan Pepiot was pulled in the 4th inning. The bullpen pitched 5.1 innings allowing only three hits.

Game 2: St. John’s 7, Butler 11 | WP: Voss (2-0) LP: Mooney (2-1)

Game 2 of the series was close on paper but was dominated by the Butler Bulldogs since their huge 2nd inning.

St. John’s came out of the gates with a run in the top of the first, thanks to a Mitchell Henshaw single and error by the Bulldogs. From then on, the offense was playing catch up with Butler, and once the game was knotted at six in the 4th inning, the Red Storm found themselves trailing again after the 6th.

The Red Storm pitching was solid throughout the whole game, but Butler found St. John’s Achilles Heel with one batter. On pitches to everyone but the 3rd batter in the Bulldog lineup, the Red Storm gave up three earned runs and struck out 11 to only five walks.

Butler’s effort was on the shoulders of that third batter, RF Harrison Freed, who began his career night in the 2nd inning. With the bases loaded and two outs in his second plate appearance, he hit a Grand Slam to cap off the inning. Freed finished the game with his slam and another 3-run HR to bring his total to seven RBI and two runs scored.

Game 3: St. John’s 5, Butler 4 | WP: Kelly (2-0) LP: Schmit (0-1)

Game 3 was one of the more peculiar games in recent memory for the Red Storm.

The game was started on a Saturday as part of a doubleheader due to Sunday’s weather forecast... but was called due to darkness and finished on a Sunday before said weather arrived.

Jeff Belge started the game for the Storm and pitched 5.2 solid innings with 2 ER, 8Ks and 5 walks. Following Belge was Ben Greenberg and Turner French who kept the game close enough through the 8th inning. Joe Kelly came in for an inning on Saturday before the game was called and put in another two innings of work to help the Storm steak the rubber match on Sunday.

The St. John’s offense was playing from behind for most of the second game as the fatigue from Game 1 became apparent. The Red Storm struggled to string together hits and never going on a rally to get multiple runs in one inning.

The sense of urgency as they were down two in the bottom of the 9th kicked in as C Wyatt Mascarella and substitute 2B Brandon Bossard each collected an RBI hit.

Play in the extra innings on Sunday was lackluster as the fatigue from now two 9-inning games in one day set in.

The Red Storm seized a run on a throwing error in the top of the 11th inning, a run that ended up winning the game after Joe Kelly pitched three ground balls to end the game.

The Johnnies played a great week asserting their dominance as one of New York’s best college baseball teams, showing optimism that they have a real shot at repeating as Big East Champions.

This week brings five games, all at home, for St. John’s.

The week begins on Tuesday April 9th against the University of Albany at home at 2:30 [watch on ESPN3], followed by Long Island University, Brooklyn on April 10th.

The weekend series will be from April 12th-14th against Xavier in a Big East Home debut for the 2019 season.