Storm splits in tourney

The St. John’s softball team headed down to South Carolina last weekend for the Winthrop Softball Invitational thinking they’d be the only storm in sight.

But Mother Nature thought otherwise, leaving the Red Storm with a split in the rain-shortened tournament.

On Friday, SJU opened up the tournament with a 3-0 victory over heavy-hitting Michigan State (15-7).

Senior Courtney Fitzgerald held the Spartans to just three hits over seven innings pitched en route to picking up her ninth win of the season.

“Fitz came out and pitched well,” St. John’s Head Coach Melody Cope said. “Michigan State is a good hitting team and for her to hold them scoreless was really great.”

Fitzgerald, who was out all of last year due to an injury, has not allowed an earned run during her last 29.1 innings.

“It’s huge for us to have her back and healthy. She’s a great leader on the field and it’s good to have her back,” Cope said.

Freshmen Jessica Marical and Linda Reyes provided the offensive for the Johnnies each going 2 for 3 with an RBI to cap off a three-run fourth inning.

“It’s great to see them hitting. They both came up really big in key situations. Jess came up with a big hit when we needed it,” Cope said. “It’s also huge for us to start getting offense from everyone.”

St. John’s bats were still swinging in the second game of pool play, but it wasn’t enough to beat East Tennessee State.

The Red Storm out hit the Bucs, 6-4, and put several runners into scoring position, but failed to score.

ETSU (10-8) scored a run in the bottom of the third and another in the fifth for the 2-0 win.

Sophomore pitcher Meghan Allman, making her first start of the season, took the loss for SJU, going 2 1/3 innings, giving up one run on one hit.

Cope said she was pleased with the performance of Allman, who remains on a pitch count while she rehabs an elbow injury.

“Going in, we only wanted her to face nine or ten batters,” Cope said. “We’re just trying to get her healthy for Big East play.”

St. John’s, whose record falls to 9-13, was unable to get its scheduled games underway on Saturday and Sunday due to rain.

Cope said that even though the games were canceled, she was still glad they made the trip to South Carolina.

“It’s definitely tough to fly down there and have to sit around the hotel for a couple days,” she said. “But getting a couple games in was good for us. Just being outside is great since we haven’t really been able to practice out on our field yet.”

The Red Storm will be back in action March 22, when they play their first home games of the season by hosting the SJU Tournament at Red Storm Field.