Burner’s blast lifts Johnnies over Owls

St. John’s softball opened the 2014 season this weekend with a whopping five games over the course of three days in Boca Raton, Fla. for the Florida Atlantic Kickoff Classic. The Red Storm were blanked by old Big East rival No. 12 Louisville 7-0, but the game of the weekend was the Johnnies’ 3-2 win over host Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

Sophomore pitcher Tori Free allowed just one earned run and struck out seven in a complete game effort in the victory against the Owls. It looked as if she would be the tough-luck loser as the Owls took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, but the Johnnies staged a comeback.

After Florida Atlantic scored an unearned run on a base hit up the middle for insurance, the Red Storm rallied in the bottom of the seventh. Down to her last strike with two outs and two runners on base, Burner blasted a three-run shot to left field to win it for the Johnnies.

“I was looking for an inside pitch because [Paige Pender] was jamming me all night,” Burner said. “She got me to ground out to shortstop my first at-bat and I was really looking for a pitch to hit just to keep the rally going. It felt really good [to come back and win], especially to back up our pitcher after she threw seven innings.”

“It’s good to get out and compete. I think we had a successful weekend,” head coach Amy Kvilhaug said. “I think the important thing is to get experience under our belt, learning what we have to figure out before we get into the bulk of our season, especially in conference play.”

Free took the decision in both Friday games losses, allowing three earned runs in six total innings, striking out nine batters.

The Red Storm took a 6-2 loss to Northern Illinois in the first game on Saturday. Senior first baseman and cleanup hitter Jackie Reed lead the Red Storm offense over the weekend, as she collected six hits in 15 at-bats with 3 RBI including two home runs.

“This team has fought all weekend, so we weren’t moping around,” Kvilhaug said. “We believed that something could happen and we just got to believe in one another. We’ve fought to the end in every game.”

The team will be back in action this weekend for four games at the Arkansas Invitational.