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Red Storm surging, face Creighton in big match-up

The Johnnies have been playing very well so far in the month of April, and will look to continue their hot streak heading into the season's biggest series, against Creighton.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The St. John's Baseball season has taken a very similar path to last season. Like last year, the team seems to have overcome its early season struggles and has been surging of late. The Johnnies won 4 of their 6 contests in the past week as they continue their ascent to the top of the Big East.

Last week, the Red Storm began play against an improved Columbia squad before matching up with conference foe Seton Hall for a 3-game series over the weekend. The team then played weekday games against both Albany and Princeton.

Recap: vs Columbia (L)

St. John's sent starter Kevin Magee to the mound for their afternoon tilt at home against Columbia and the lefty struggled right out of the gate. Magee lasted just just 2 outs into the 3rd inning, giving up 3 runs before getting the hook in favor of junior Joey Graziano. The right-handed Graziano didn't fair much better as he allowed 2 runs over 2.2 innings of work, leaving the Red Storm in a 5-1 hole.

The Johnnies responded by scoring 3 runs in the next 2 frames, making it a one-run ball game heading into the 8th inning. Despite a valiant effort, St. John's failed to complete the comeback and ultimately fell to the Lions 5-4.

The Red Storm were led on offense by the bat of Michael Donadio. The sophomore outfielder went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.

On the mound, the Johnnies settled down after Graziano was lifted. The final four Red Storm relievers combined for 3.2 scoreless innings, a positive sign moving forward and a driving force in Wednesday's near comeback.

Recap: vs Seton Hall (Series win, 2-1)

In game one of this Big East showdown the Johnnies struck first taking a 5-1 victory from the Pirates on Friday.

The Red Storm was powered by yet another stellar performance from JUCO transfer Cody Stashak. The junior tossed 6.0 innings allowing just one run on 4 hits while striking out 5 batters along the way. The right-hander improved to 5-3 on the year and lowered his ERA to an impressive 3.04.

The Johnnies hitters didn't have a particularly big inning as their 5 runs were scored across 5 different innings. Notably, OF Alex Caruso went 3-for-3 on the day as he set the table from the top of the lineup. Interestingly, C Tyler Sanchez, who homered once all of last season but began the year with long-balls in each of the first two games, finally put an end to his 25-game homerless streak with a 5th inning blast.

In the second game of the series, St. John's offense came through again as the team took the game, 7-4.

Starter Ryan McCormick pitched 5.1 solid innings for the Red Storm, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, giving the Johnnies a chance to hold on to their 5th Big East win of the season.

In the St. John's batter's box, it was all about sophomore Troy Dixon as the DH set a new career high by driving in 5 runs. Dixon was a man on fire on Saturday as he hit his first career home run to go along with two runs scored as he finished just a double away from the cycle.

In the series finale, Seton Hall was able to get revenge as they routed St. John's 19-4.

It was a tough day for the St. John's pitching staff and it began with starter Chris Kalica who surrendered 5 runs in just 3.1 innings of work. The Johnnies bullpen did not fair much better as redshirt freshman John Valente was the only one of St. John's 8 pitchers on the day who did not allow a run to score.

Offensively, Donadio again provided a spark going 2-for-5 with a run scored. However, the deficit was just too large to overcome as the Johnnies had no choice but to move on and set their sights on their next match-up against Albany.

Recap: St. John's at Albany (W)

St. John's hit the road for the first time in a week on Tuesday as they went north to meet SUNY Albany for an afternoon battle. The Johnnies bounced back from their defeat at the hands of Seton Hall and walked away with their 6th straight win on the road, 8-5.

Junior Alex Katz pitched well for the Red Storm as he allowed just 2 earned runs over the course of 5.2 innings. The bullpen had a successful day as well, allowing one unearned run over 3.1 innings while striking out 6 Great Danes.

The lineup had a productive day as well, as sophomore Troy Dixon powered the lineup yet again. Dixon got the start behind the plate for St. John's and proceeded to go 3-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI. Dixon's recent hot streak has seen him improve his batting average to .299 and make a case for himself as the Red Storm's primary catcher.

Recap: vs Princeton (W)

The Johnnies returned to Jack Kaiser Stadium yesterday for a match-up with the Princeton Tigers which they took decisively, 9-1.

The Red Storm sent 8 pitchers to the mound and they combined to throw 9 innings of 1 run, 3 hit ball, as Princeton failed to record a hit or walk after the 4th inning.

St. John's had it going on offense as well. It was a team effort as 4 players drove in at least a run, 3 of which had multiple RBIs on the day. The biggest contributor was 1B Matt Harris who swung the bat well and ended up going 2-for-4 with a run scored and 2 RBIs on the day.

Coming up

St. John's will take its hot play into this weekend as they are now 14-4 over their last 18 contests after a 6-8 start to the season.

The Johnnies will square off with the Creighton Blue Jays during a 3-game set starting tomorrow night in Omaha, Nebraska. Creighton has been off to a great start thus far as their record stands at 20-10 and their 5-1 record in Big East play puts them in a virtual tie with St. John's atop the conference. The Blue Jays are coming off a tough 7-6 loss at the hands of their rival and the #23 team in the nation, Nebraska. Both teams will have a lot to play for this weekend and it should make for heck of a series between the top dogs of the Big East.

Following the Creighton series the Red Storm will head home for games against local rivals Marist and Manhattan, next Tuesday and Wednesday. Both of these MAAC opponents have struggled all season as Marist stands at 9-17-1, while Manhattan is just 9-23 so far this year.

However, it would foolish to overlook these teams as they currently represent the perfect situation for a trap game -the Red Storm will be coming off of a big series with Creighton and will be looking ahead to another Big East series against Villanova.

If the Johnnies come to play, then they should be able to head into next weekend's series on a high note as they are clearly more talented then their upcoming weekday opponents.