Home sweet home, Johnnies improve to 14-1 at Kaiser

Jack Kaiser Stadium has provided an excellent home-field advantage for the St. John’s baseball team as they improved to 14-1 at home following a huge conference series sweep against Butler. The Red Storm (20-13, 4-2) held the Bulldogs (14-20, 2-4) to just nine runs over the three games this past weekend, and moved into third place in the Big East Conference.

“Lineups starting to flow a bit, other guys got to contribute, after struggling a little bit,” head coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “Some guys got to pick each other up a little bit. We can’t click on all cylinders at all times.”

The trio of James Lomangino, Ryan McCormick and Chris Kalica allowed just three earned runs combined, and the offense scored 18 total runs on 27 hits.

“It’s good. [Butler] took two from Seton Hall last week,” said McCormick. “So that puts us right ahead. Hopefully we continue this.”

Lomangino struck out 10 batters in eight innings, allowing just one run on four hits for his third win. Freshman left fielder Michael Donadio got the go-ahead hit in Friday’s game with a two-run home run in the seventh inning, and St. John’s held on for a 3-1 victory.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Donadio said. “Not trying to get behind in the count. I was just trying to get the guy in from second, trying to do my job.”

Saturday’s affair was a more comfortable 6-1 victory. The Red Storm put together 12 hits. They jumped out 2-0 in the first inning on a two-run single by 1B[A1]  Matt Harris and never looked back, putting the game out of reach in the sixth inning with a three-run rally.

“[I’m] just getting my pitch and being able to put it in play somewhere,” Harris said.

Sunday’s game was more of a nail-biter. St. John’s first jumped out 8-2 in the fourth inning on a grand slam by Bret Dennis and a two-run home run by Harris.

“I try to go out there and be aggressive, ready to play everyday,” Dennis said. “It’s always good to perform when you get that opportunity.”

However, Butler responded in the sixth inning. St. John’s made a few errors and the first two relievers out of the bullpen struggled, walking runs in with the bases loaded, but they managed to hold on to a 9-7 victory to complete the sweep.

“We got to keep getting better,” Blankmeyer said. “We need some more help in the middle of the game, our [pitchers] have got to be more consistent.”

Other than the hiccup in the sixth on Sunday, the St. John’s bullpen was efficient. Joe Kuzia and Thomas Hackimer combined for six scoreless innings and three saves in the series.

“I just go out there and keep it simple,” Kuzia said. “Just go out, pound the strike zone, hopefully they swing at it, get the outs, and my fielders make the plays.”