Spring is (almost) here, and the St. John’s baseball team is getting laced up to start their season tomorrow.
New faces, returning leadership
The coaching staff is a bit new, with Ed Blankmeyer moving on to lead the NY Mets’ affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones. Longtime assistant Mike Hampton takes control of the dugout, while former player Danny Bethea comes on board as an full-time assistant, after a stint as volunteer assistant last season. Bethea joins pitching coach George Brown, who has been on staff since 2018. Brown is also a former Red Storm star.
The Johnnies will return Big East First Team player Mike Antico — selected Big East Preseason Player of the Year in December — along with pitchers Ian Murphy and Nick Mondak. The Johnnies also return utility player Ryan Markey, infielder Carson Bartels, catcher Mitchell Henshaw, catcher Ryan Hogan, outfielder Peter Abinati, outfileder Sean McGeehan, among others.
Antico batted .386 last season; Markey hit .291; Henshaw hit .284, the three highest percentages on last season’s squad. McGeehan’s six home runs tied him with Mike Antico.
The Johnnies will look to a new set of players for pitching. JUCO Joe Joe Rodriguez, picked in the 20th round of last year’s MLB draft, gets a chance on the mound this weekend. A number of freshmen, including Sonny Fauci and Dominic Coombe, come in with strong accolades and should get a shot. Shortstop Vincent Bianchi was drafted in the 39th round of the 2019 MLB Draft before choosing to come to St. John’s as well.
St. John’s schedule outlook
This year’s schedule bears some resemblance to last season’s, with a long month of games on the road before coming home to tussle with local foes.
The season begins on February 14 with 3 games in 3 days in Northwest Georgia in the Atlanta Classic. The season opener will be against Kennesaw State University of the Atlantic Sun Conference. A day later, the Johnnies will travel 30 minutes away to Decatur, GA to take on Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference. The Georgia trip will commence in Atlanta on Sunday February 16 against the ACC’s Georgia Tech, who found themselves in an NCAA regional tournament last year and are ranked #19.
The Johnnies will fly to the West Coast for a 3 game series against the University of California from February 21st–23rd. The Golden Bears, like Georgia Tech, were also in the NCAA Regional last season.
After the Cal series, the Johnnies will fly back to the East Coast for 4 games in the Carolinas. UNC Charlotte will host the Johnnies for 3 games over a weekend from February 28-March 1. The road trip in the Carolina’s wraps up on Tuesday March 3rd against Presbyterian College in South Carolina.
The Johnnies will bounce back West to Sin City to play UNLV from March 6th-8th. The three games against the Runnin’ Rebels will bring the Johnnies up to 13 games away to begin the season.
Barring snow, sleet, or other inclement weather, the home slate begins on Tuesday, March 10th against St. Peters from the MAAC and Iona (also from the MAAC) the next day. The Johnnies will end that week with a 3 game series against Fordham. The Rams will host the Johnnies on Friday March 13th and the Johnnies will host the Rams on Saturday the 14th and Sunday the 15th.
The next week brings the Army Knights on Tuesday, March 17th with allows UC Irvine to come to Queens from March 20th-22nd. The Johnnies went 2-1 against the UC Irvine Anteaters as the away team last year.
The final week before conference play has the Johnnies playing host to Fairfield on Tuesday March 24th and visiting Wagner on Wednesday March 25th. The weekend series will be home-away-home as the Johnnies take on Stony Brook.
The Johnnies will have a game at Columbia on Wednesday April 1st before they travel to Plymouth, PA to take on Villanova to open conference play from April 3rd-5th.
The next week, St. John’s will travel to Albany to take on the Great Danes April 7th.
Thursday April 9th, the Johnnies will host a noon game and 3pm game against the Butler Bulldogs in the only scheduled doubleheader of the season. The series will take a day off and wrap up on Saturday April 11th.
April 15th the Johnnies will travel to take on Hofstra before they host Georgetown from the 17th-19th of the month. Last season, the Hoyas were the only team to sweep the Johnnies in a series despite finishing 7-11 in conference play last year.
Hofstra will visit the Johnnies the next week on Tuesday April 21st; Fairleigh Dickinson will come to Queens on the 22nd for their only matchup with the Johnnies this season.
The weekend series will have the Johnnies travel to South Orange, NJ to take on Big East rival Seton Hall in a 3 game series from the 25th-27th of April.
April will end with a home game against Iona on the 28th and a game at Long Island University on the 29th. May opens with a 3 game series against last year’s conference runner-up Xavier from May 1-3 in Cincinnati.
Marist will visit the Jack on May 5th and Maine will wrap up non-conference play from the 9th-11th of May in Queens.
The next week the Johnnies will play their final 3 games before the Big East Tournament as they host reigning champs Creighton for 3 games from May 14th-16th.
If the Johnnies hope to finish the season in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, they’ll have to rack up wins fast and early. With a lot of uncertainty in the pitching staff, the Big East is more open than it has been in the past.
Being one of last year’s four participants in the Big East tournament, they’ll face the other three in their last three Conference series of the year. The opponents will also come increasing in difficulty as the Seton Hall Pirates are the 3rd last series, Xavier Musketeers, second to last, and Creighton Bluejays the final series of the year.
A repeat as regular season champs is definitely possible for the Johnnies, but the team has their eyes on a Big East tournament win and an NCAA appearance this season.