Junior college transfer Stashak emerges for St. John’s

Brandon Mauk, Assistant Sports Editor

St. John’s baseball has gotten off to a slow start to the 2015 season, as they sit at 5-7 after playing against tough competition. Thankfully, their long road trip will come to a close this week and they will return to the New York area for the next month.

Still favored to win the Big East, the Red Storm will need to work on their pitching, as they’ve been outscored by a total of 28 runs and their staff sits at a 6.32 ERA. But to be fair, they’ve faced tougher programs like Georgia Tech, Oregon and East Carolina.

There is still plenty of time left in the season to get things right with the schedule beginning to ease up. The Johnnies have enough hitting, and they have hurlers that can provide stability. Junior college transfer Cody Stashak, for one, has already made an impact and has emerged as one of the team’s most important players.

“I just go out, work hard, try and help the team win everyday,” he said. “My job is to pitch, so I go out and pitch.”

Stashak previously pitched at Cumberland County College in Vineland, N.J., where he helped the Dukes finish as runner-ups in the 2014 Junior College Division III World. He went 16-5 in 21 starts, struck out 130 batters in 129.1 innings and finished with a 2.92 ERA. He also batted .359 in 104 games last season. Stashak decided to transfer to St. John’s afterwards.

“Cody was pitching and playing in the field when we were looking at him, so we knew we were getting a good athlete,” said St. John’s head coach Ed Blankmeyer. “We wanted him to pitch for us and we saw a competitor with a nice loose arm and command of his fastball.”

But Stashak had to make a choice. He excelled as both a pitcher and a hitter, but he had to pick one to move forward with in his baseball career.

“[My coaches] told me if I wanted to go to the next level, I’d have a better opportunity being a pitcher,” Stashak said. “So I decided to pitch, focus more on that.”

It has definitely panned out so far. Through his first four starts in Division I action, he’s pitched to a 3.22 ERA with just four walks in 22.2 innings pitched. In his first start, he allowed just one run in 7.1 innings against Kennessaw State who were No. 19 at the time. He then threw six shutout innings against UNC Greensboro. He also allowed just two runs at No. 8 Oregon.

“Cody came in and won a job in our rotation and he gives our staff a boost,” said Blankmeyer. “He’s a strike-thrower. He’s competitive. He has command on the mound. Those are all key ingredients that we look for in pitchers.”

Stashak credits his coaches and teammates for helping him make the transition to this stingier Division I competition. The offense has averaged 4.5 runs per game and the coaches have worked with Stashak to improve on his mechanics every day.

“It’s a higher level of play,” said Blankmeyer. “You’re facing higher-caliber hitters and the game is faster. The key is to not try to do too much.”

With the schedule starting to get lighter as the Red Storm gets set to play games at home for the first time all season, Stashak will be one of the guys anchoring a pitching staff that is still a work in progress. But he and the rest of the team have the potential to dominate the Big East.