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St. John’s baseball back home and back in winning form

The Johnnies ended their non-conference skid with a sweep of Sacred Heart

Wendell Cruz

This week will be a testament to the depth of St. John’s with five games in six days.

A week filled with local foes has gone well, with a 9-7 win over Hofstra (rescheduled from March 9th) at Kaiser Stadium on Tuesday and a 6-4 win over Wagner on Wednesday. The Red Storm had to come from behind in the 8th inning for the win over Hofstra, and fended off an 8th inning surge from the Wagner Seahawks the next day.

On just two days’ rest, this weekend’s series is a three-game set against Quinnipiac University that has historically been favorable for the Johnnies. The Johnnies are 4-1 all-time against the Bobcats but the two sides haven’t faced off since 2006 in Queens.

The Johnnies’ rotation is something to keep an eye on as Joe Joe Rodriguez, who has traditionally been a bullpen piece, emerged for a start last weekend in a week featuring only four games.

While possible, an undefeated week would be promising for the Johnnies with the potential to double their wins on the season in a short span and creep closer to .500 before conference play.

Recapping last week

St. John’s Baseball stayed home last week with a desperate need for wins if they planned on turning their season around before Big East play. Last Tuesday’s foe in LIU and the weekend’s guest in Sacred Heart seemed to favor the Johnnies all week.

Last week’s happenings are below:

St. John’s 2 | LIU 4

W: Neuweiler (2-0) L: Adams (0-3) S: Torres (3)

Last week began with some miscues as the Johnnies. The Red Storm lost to LIU, and per tradition this season, the Johnnies got on the scoreboard first. Unlike other early leads, this once came from CF Jackson Tucker, batting leadoff. Tucker took a pitch over the leftfield wall to give his team a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning. After squandering the lead in the next frame, DH Austin Machado hit a runner in on a fielder’s choice and put the Johnnies up 2-1 after four innings.

St. John’s tendency to slump offensively later in games followed them into this week. Still, the Johnnies recorded four of their six hits after the 4th inning, but surrendered runners as a pair of those hits were singles followed by failed steal attempts of 2nd base.

Jackson and C Colin Wetterau, both run-scorers for the Johnnies, each collected a pair of hits on the day where other teammates combined for just two more.

Four pitchers threw for the Johnnies on Tuesday, starting with Brandon Backman. Backman took the team three innings in and gave up only two hits while striking out three and walking none. Ben Adams took the reigns from Backman and in 1.1 innings was charged with the first three LIU runs after conceding four hits and two walks. Chuck Sanzio followed Adams with 2.2 innings and conceded LIU’s final run on a pair of walks and hits while striking out four. Jude Zern and Joe Joe Rodriguez ended the game with an inning each of scoreless ball to keep the Johnnies afloat.

Game 1: St. John’s 15 | Sacred Heart 4

W: Adams (1-2) L: Jeter (0-4)

For the first time all season, the Johnnies brought the heat in non-conference play. All-around successful performances at the plate, in the field, and on the mound guided the Johnnies to the end.

All nine Johnnies with plate appearances reached base with two reaching twice, two reaching three times and SS Kevin Michaels and RF Carlos Hidalgo (betting 5th and 6th respectively) reaching on four hits each. Each of the first six Johnnies in the batting order recorded an RBI with Michaels adding six RBI to his six hits, including two solo home runs.

Runs in five of eight innings at the plate, including a six-run 6th inning showed the consistency and volume the Johnnies have previously been capable of and what may be to come.

On the other side of the ball, Ian Murphy took the mound to start the game for the Johnnies. Murphy’s outing was his best of the young season with four innings pitched and two earned runs charged against him. Following a solo home run given up one out into the game, Murphy retired eleven of the next twelve batters through four innings.

Ben Adams pitched 3.2 innings in relief following a second home run and walk given up by Murphy in the 5th. Adams’ effort included just one earned run and was enough to set him up for the win, making him the first Johnny to win a game on the mound not named Dylan Johnson.

Tim Cunningham pitched the final four outs to end the game and wiggled his way out of three hits conceded at the end of the 8th and through the 9th innings.

Game 2: St. John’s 15 | Sacred Heart 5

W: Mascio (1-0) L: LaMay (0-3) S: Sanzio

Despite some nail-biting in the first four innings, the Johnnies used another six run inning and a statistically similar effort to game one to dismantle the Pioneers.

Eight of 11 Johnnies with a plate appearance reached base twice in the 15-run effort on Saturday. 3B Tate Ballestero recorded a game and career high four hits to continue his hot start to the season, giving him 24 in 19 games.

While Ballestero hit 3rd in the lineup, most of the St. John’s team success came from the bottom of the lineup with the 6-9 hitters going 9-for-18 at the plate, scoring nine runs, and collecting 5 RBI.

On the mound, Dylan Johnson, the Johnnies’ winningest pitcher this season, pitched below his standards as the starter. Johnson’s day ended after four innings with five runs conceded on seven hits and three walks. Johnson’s outing would have likely cost him a loss had it come earlier in the season, nonetheless, his record remails perfect at 2-0 as a true freshman.

Joe Mascio, the game’s winning pitcher, recorded all three outs of the 5th inning scoreless, maneuvering around two hits and a walk conceded. Chuck Sanzio ended the game for the Johnnies with four innings of scoreless ball, also giving up a pair of hits and a walk.

Game 3: St. John’s 13 | Sacred Heart 6

W: Zern (1-0) L: MacDonnell (0-1)

12 runs in four of the games final five innings propelled the Johnnies to a win on Sunday, a series sweep, and extending the team’s win streak over the Pioneers to seven.

The St. John’s offense seemed to lag in the series’ final match as the Pioneers were able to creep to within a run after the top of the 6th inning. The Johnnies pulled away with three runs in the bottom of the 6th and 7th innings to stay on top for good.

The finale featured more diversity in offensive production with all 11 batters reaching base and nine recording a hit. SS Kevin Michaels showed up once more in the week to lead the team with five hits while no one else had more than two. Michaels’ day featured another five RBI and three runs scored of his own including a 2-run homer in the 6th inning.

1B Nick Cirelli and 3B Tate Ballestero each had a pair of hits including mid-game solo home runs from each batter to round out the infield’s hyper productive day at the plate.

After taking the first two games against the Pioneers off, Joe Joe Rodriguez took an opportunity to start into the fifth inning. Rodriguez’s start was sublime through four innings allowing just one run. In the fifth inning, Rodriguez retired two of the first three Pioneers before conceding another run and being pulled with the bases loaded.

Jude Zern took the reigns out of the bullpen and gave up a double scoring all three of Rodriguez’s base runners before ending the 5th with a strikeout. Zern gave up three more hits and a run in the process of finishing the 6th inning on the mound.

Vinny Bianchi and Oliver McCarthy each pitched an inning of near-perfect ball with a Bianchi walk being the only baserunner conceded by the duo. Jake Alfaro struck out a pair in the 9th and Tim Cunningham recorded the final out of the series for St. John’s.