Pitching, timely offense spark St. John’s on the road

Krystal Pugas homer gave St. Johns an extra-innings lead on April 23. (Photo: St. Johns/Athletic Communications).

Krystal Puga’s homer gave St. John’s an extra-innings lead on April 23. (Photo: St. John’s/Athletic Communications).

Troy Mauriello, Co-Sports Editor

The St. John’s softball team picked up some much-needed momentum on the road over the weekend. The Red Storm (23-19) took two of three games on the road in Chicago against the conference-leading DePaul Blue Demons, improving their conference record to an even 7-7 on the year.

The series began on April 23 when the Red Storm and Blue Demons squared off for a Saturday doubleheader. In the series opener, the story was the Johnnies inability to put together any offensive threat against DePaul starter Morgan Maize.

St. John’s put up just four hits total in the game as Maize worked a complete-game shutout to lead DePaul to a 3-0 series-opening win in game one. All of the Blue Demons runs came from the long ball on the afternoon, as a Nicole Phil homer in the second put DePaul up 1-0, and a two-run shot from Naomi Tellez in the fourth made it 3-0.

That ended up being all of the run support that Maize would need on the day, as she stymied a normally potent St. John’s offense. Center fielder Brittany Garcia went 2-for- 3 as the only Red Storm player to record multiple hits. St. John’s starter Grace Kramer was the hard-luck loser in game one, as she allowed just those three runs on four DePaul hits while striking out five.

But the Red Storm would get its revenge with an extra-innings win in game two. With the game tied up at two in the top of the eighth, St. John’s put together a six-run rally in the inning to pull ahead and eventually prevail for an 8-2 win.

The rally came mostly off Maize, as St. John’s finally was able to get to her after the game one defeat. The rally began when first baseman Krystal Puga launched a solo shot to lead off the inning.

Third baseman Christina Melendez then followed that up with a two-run homer of her own two batters later to extend the St. John’s lead to 5-2. The Johnnies continued their momentum as they loaded the bases before RBI’s from right fielder Yvonne Rericha, short stop Monique Landini and Garcia completed the six-run rally.

Kramer started her second straight game and worked three innings, however the story of game two was an untouchable relief effort from McKenzie Murray. The sophomore allowed just two hits and struck out six in five innings of relief work to pick up the win.

In the rubber game on April 24, Murray again subdued the Blue Demon offense to lead St. John’s to a 3-1 victory. She tossed a complete-game four-hitter, allowing just one earned run to hand the Red Storm a series win.

The Johnnies offense on the day came exclusively from the long ball. Designated hitter Savannah Warren broke a scoreless tie in the fourth with a two-run shot, while pinch-hitter Carly Williams extended the lead with a clutch homer in the seventh.

The two wins over the weekend now have the Red Storm’s conference record at 7-7, one half game behind fourth-place Creighton. The top four teams in the conference will make the Big East Tournament next month as St. John’s looks to defend last year’s title.

They’ll return home this weekend for a three-game tilt with Creighton at Red Storm Field.