The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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St. John’s Handed First Home Loss of the Season

The Johnnies’ late-game comeback was snuffed out in a high-scoring duel.
Torch Photo / Isabella Cautero

The St. John’s Baseball team’s undefeated home record was broken in an 11-9 loss to the Columbia Lions on April 16 at Kaiser Stadium. 

Helmed by head coach Mike Hampton, the Johnnies entered this game 23-7-1— the hottest start the program has had since the 40-win team in 2018. Beginning the season with a 9-5 win over the nationally-ranked No. 2 ranked Florida Gators, the team hasn’t looked back since this statement victory. 

Junior infielder Luke Orbon stressed the importance of the early season win for the team. 

“I mean, the first game of the season was definitely big and helped us get where we are now,” he told The Torch. “After beating Florida we knew we could compete with anyone.” 

Impressive play from sophomore stars like catcher Jimmy Keenan and pitcher Mario Pesca has been a massive part of the team’s success so far. More impact play from upperclassmen leaders like Orbon and junior outfielder Jackson Tucker has also made a difference for the Red Storm. 

That difference showed most in the team’s 13-game win streak starting with a 14-1 victory over Iona, including a huge 19-3 triumph over Rider. The Johnnies’ pitching staff allowed less than two runs to opponents in seven different games during this stretch. 

Against Columbia, Hampton deployed freshman pitcher Jacob Ruiz to make his debut as a one-inning opener for the matchup. In his first NCAA appearance, Ruiz pitched a scoreless inning after walking the first batter.

After both teams were left scoreless in the first inning, the Johnnies were the first to strike with an explosive four-run inning in the bottom of the second, including a massive two RBI base hit for graduate student infielder Marty Higgins. 

The Red Storm did not hold onto this lead for long as Columbia clapped back with a five-run inning in the top of the third. This offensive outburst was capped by a two-run home run by junior infielder Anton Lazits.

Through three innings, the Lions held a 5-4 lead over the Johnnies. Columbia scored these runs off of four hits and five walks, while St. John’s had two hits and five walks.

Columbia added another run in the top of the fifth but the bats of Red Storm senior outfielder Garrett Scavelli and Jimmy Keenan tied it with RBI base hits. 

The tide of the game continued to shift as two-way junior Griffin Palfrey gave the Lions back the lead with an infield hit in the sixth. Craftiness and small ball quickly gave St. John’s a chance as redshirt senior infielder Anthony Brienza bunted a single and stole second base. Redshirt senior outfielder Ben Beauchamp then brought Brienza home with an RBI double to left field. 

The Johnnies took the lead with Marty Higgins’ third RBI of the night, a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Beauchamp. 

At the end of six innings, St. John’s one-run lead was fueled by six hits and six walks, while Columbia had nine hits and seven walks up to this point.

The Lions then scored an emphatic four runs in the eighth inning thanks to two RBI triples from Palfrey. The Johnnies’ ninth-inning rally was capped off with one run, as Columbia’s James Vaughn pitched two straight outs to win the game. 

The game finished 11-9 in Columbia’s favor with sophomore pitcher Martin Zheng earning his first win of the season for the Lions. Columbia had 14 base hits and eight walks, the Johnnies offense put up similar numbers with nine hits and six walks.

Following the matchup, Tucker put the loss into perspective. 

“We’ve been on the road but there’s no excuses, just didn’t get the job done. Columbia played a good game, we could’ve done more to win but just fell short. But we’re onto Butler on Friday.” Tucker told The Torch the day after the loss. 

The team will stay at Jack Kaiser Stadium for a three-game series against Butler starting April 19. 

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About the Contributor
James Williams
James Williams, Asst. Sports Editor
James is a sophomore journalism student serving his first year as Assistant Sports Editor. Outside of writing for The Torch, James can be found rooting for every Philadelphia sports team, watching a wide variety of shows and movies or listening to his favorite artists Beach House and Bob Dylan while on runs. James can be reached at [email protected]
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