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

Baseball sweeps home opener

Sometimes, the wins just aren’t enough.

Despite capping off a four-win season-opening home stand with a 12-5 drubbing of Fairfield, the St. John’s baseball team is still on the perpetual road to improvement. With Big East play just around the corner, head coach Ed Blankmeyer is looking for the consistency to compete successfully in a challenging conference.

“Offensively, the guys are getting their hits, but it seems sometimes we’re not clicking on all cylinders,” Blankmeyer said. “Base running has been inconsistent, defensively we make key errors and our pitching is young and inexperienced. It’s going to take a little time to get
things going.”

The win over Fairfield marked the sixth win in a row for the Red Storm (8-6) after being swept out of the BYU series last week. When the team officially opened Jack Kaiser Stadium for the 2009 season this past weekend, the theme was, again, pitching.

Pitching captain and senior leader Nick Luisi took the ball in the home opener against Albany on Friday and junior righty Bruce Kern got the call on Saturday against Fairfield. Combined, the two hurlers surrendered eight walks and nine hits in 10.1 innings.

The Storm escaped with 8-6 and 3-2 wins, but costly errors and some ninth-inning walks cost them the luxury of comfort in the latter innings. Blankmeyer is continually searching for the right formula to construct his pitching staff, but it seems with time, the roles will fill
themselves.

“I think we’re getting close in that regard,” the 14th-year coach said. “It’s about performance. We had a problem with leadoff walks; now we have a problem with two-out walks. The timing of it is hard for the young guys to pitch out of. We just need to perform a little bit better.”

When Albany and Fairfield returned to The Jack on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively, the offense made sure there would not be any more close games, which couldn’t have made the starters any happier. St. John’s pounded out 40 hits in the two games; the win over Fairfield and a 14-7 decision over Albany.

Tuesday’s starter, freshman Eddie Medina, picked up his second win of the season despite giving up 10 hits and five runs, one of which was earned thanks to some two-out errors.

“It’s easy to be on the mound when your team scores seven runs in an inning,” said Medina, the benefactor of the third inning offensive outburst on Tuesday. “They’re just constantly hitting. They work hard every day and they’re behind me on the field. When I’m in the dugout, they go out there and get me the run support. That was big today.”

One hitter he can particularly appreciate is sophomore third baseman Greg Hopkins, who went 7-17 with eight RBIs during the home stand and a three-run homerun on Friday. with Albany and gave St. John’s its
winning runs.

The hitters in this lineup, one through nine, realize the strain on the team’s young pitchers to perform. For Hopkins, this is all the more reason to perform at the plate.

“I think we’re a good enough hitting team,” Hopkins said. “Last year, we were fortunate to have a pitching staff that was dominant. These guys are working hard and I think they’ll be alright. We try to do anything to take a little off their backs.”

With spring weather and conference battles approaching quickly, there is not much time to work out those final kinks. But returning home to Jack Kaiser Stadium can be that little edge the team needs to prevail, especially for the youngsters.

“To get on the mound as a freshman in front of the home crowd, the blood starts pumping and I get amped up,” Medina said. “It feels good out there. We’ve been here working hard all year. It’s the aroma when you walk on to the field, the “We Are St. John’s”; it’s the whole feel you get here.”

Indeed, there was celebration on the field after a largely successful home stand, but expect focus to be immediately narrowed in the coming days before a hot Villanova team visits Queens for a three-game set this weekend.

“It’s good for the guys to get some wins and it’s good to jump on our opponents,” Blankmeyer said. “It improves the morale and it gives some guys a chance. Winning is good, don’t get me wrong, but we’re trying to get better because as the competition level increases, it’s going to become more difficult.”

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