The Red Storm baseball team won all three games during their series this weekend defeating Big East rival Pittsburgh (18-8, 2-4) at The Ballpark at St. John’s.
The wins also marked the Johnnies (12-12, 3-0) first Big East series sweep since defeating Pittsburgh back in 1999.
“Every Big East game you play is important” St. John’s Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “You don’t want to be looking back saying you should have had that one because that may be the game that puts you in the Big East Tournament.”
The biggest reason for the Johnnies’ success was their pitching staff, which received quality starts from Joe Reid, Anthony Varvaro and Jim Wladyka, who all earned wins.
On Saturday afternoon, Reid and Varvaro combined to give up two earned runs in the Red Storm’s 4-1 and 7-1 victories in a doubleheader. Wladyka gave up only one earned run in Monday’s 8-3 win.
On Monday, Wladyka had the most dominating start of the series.
He pitched six and two-third innings, surrendered only five hits, with one earned run, and struck out a career-high eight.
At one point Wladyka retired 15 of 16 Pittsburgh batters on his way to his first win.
While Reid was not as dominating, he was certainly as effective.
Though Reid did have his troubles, he was able to get out of jams unscathed in the fourth and fifth innings. He struck out Stuart Rykaceski to end the fourth and Chris Wilmoth to cut the Pittsburgh rally short in the fifth.
Reid finished the day pitching sixth and one-third innings, yielding eight hits, one earned run and striking out nine.
“I throw better later on in games usually. I get a chance to get loose and get a feel for the game,” said Reid when asked about putting down the Panthers rallies.
Freshman Anthony Varvaro said “he was just trying to follow up a great performance by Joe (Reid),” in the nightcap of the doubleheader. Varvaro did that and more giving up just five hits, one earned run and striking out eight over six innings.
Blankmeyer was more than pleased with the performance of his starters. “They all pitched very well and I’m happy with it. You have to pitch like that to be successful in our league. That’s the bottom line.”
All three pitchers were helped by the Red Storm bats, which took advantage of every opportunity given them.
In the first game of the doubleheader, Drew Jackson’s line-drive, bases loaded single to right centerfield in the fifth cleared the bases and gave the Johnnies a 3-1 advantage.
The Storm added an insurance run in the sixth when Pittsburgh’s catcher sailed a throw into centerfield, allowing Steve Mimms to score from second.
The SJU hit barrage did not stop there, as Greg Thompson connected on an RBI single in the third which sparked a three-run inning in Saturday’s nightcap.
That was all Varvaro would need.
On Monday, Thompson went 2 for 4 with a two RBI, a double and a home run over the right centerfield wall, which was part of a three-run third.
Mike Rozema and Derek Sullivan each had two hits, a run and an RBI.
The Red Storm returns to action at home Friday at noon when they take on Connecticut in a doubleheader followed by a pair of games against Notre Dame starting at 11 a.m. Sunday.