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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Johnnies struggle to find their young pitching staff’s identity against Cincinnati

A new shift in team philosophy is never a simple transition for any college baseball team.

Last year, the St. John’s baseball team relied mainly on its depth of talented pitching staff, which led it to its second consecutive Big East regular-season title as well as, for five of them, the MLB First Year Player Draft. The Red Storm’s offense gave them just enough run support to
be successful.

This year, the Red Storm had to rebuild its pitching staff with a core of newcomers, led by freshmen Kevin Kilpatrick, Stephen Rivera, and Eddie Medina – three pitchers who head coach Ed Blankmeyer relied heavily upon in the Red Storm’s weekend series
against Cincinnati.

“When they make some mistakes, they pay the price,” Blankmeyer said. “They’re learning
as they go.”

Kilpatrick started Sunday’s finale at Jack Kaiser Stadium and lasted just 3.2 innings in Sunday’s 9-4 loss after a hard ground ball from Bearcats third baseman Mike Spina ricocheted off his left knee.

“I didn’t feel the initial hit because of the adrenaline, but when coach came out I started to feel it,” Kilpatrick said. “It went away when I threw a couple pitches.”

Kilpatrick allowed six earned runs on nine hits, something that has become a common theme for the greater majority of the St. John’s pitching staff this year. Rivera entered the game in the fourth and allowed the Bearcats to tack on three more runs.
“If we don’t pitch better, we’re going to be in trouble,” Blankmeyer said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to
figure it out.”

While pitching has been the biggest head-scratcher for the Red Storm, their offense has kept the team afloat for most of the season. Blankmeyer, however, is still waiting for a complete effort.

“These guys have been swinging the bats, and now we’ve got to pitch it,” Blankmeyer said. “We’ve got to put ourselves in the situation where, if we’re not swinging the bats, we can still win the ballgame.”

The Red Storm’s offense was stifled Sunday by Cincinnati starter Michael Hill, who didn’t allow a run until the seventh inning.

“He changed speeds and hit the first-pitch fastball,” Blankmeyer said. “He threw a lot of strikes early, and had a couple different breaking balls. He threw strikes with all his pitches and we didn’t get to him until the end and it was too late.”

St. John’s broke out the lumber before a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The Red Storm hit five home runs, including two from freshman shortstop Joe Panik en route to a 16-8 win. Panik went 2-for-6 with six RBI.

“I got some pitches I could handle in the right spots,” Panik said. “They scored a few runs the inning before [the first home run] and I was just trying to drive some runs in and get it back.”

Medina relieved starter Nick Luisi on Friday after the left-hander allowed six earned runs in 4.2 innings. The freshman struggled to be the stopper, allowing five earned runs in 4.1 innings, as the Red Storm lost 11-8 in a wild slugfest that saw two three-run innings by both teams.

St. John’s first baseman Tim Morris hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning off of Cincinnati’s Tyler Smith. Cincinnati catcher Jimmy Jacquot homered off Luisi in the second.

St. John’s still has Big East conference dates with Connecticut, Seton Hall, Louisville and Notre Dame.

Louisville was picked to win the conference before the season started by Big East head coaches, and just two years ago reached Omaha, Neb. for the latter rounds of the College World Series.

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