For the first seven games of the season, everything seemed to be going perfectly fine for the St. John’s baseball team, as they found a way to win their first seven games.
That success, however, did not continue last week. After taking the first game of a three-game set from East Tennessee State on March 5, the team went on a five-game skid and needed 11 innings to pull out a win Sunday over Liberty.
St. John’s started the series against East Tennessee with a 10-2 win, which gave the Red Storm a 7-0 record and their the best start to a season since 1981, when they started 14-0. Bruce Kern picked up the win for the Red Storm, throwing 5.1 innings, striking out four batters and allowing just two runs. Kern got a lot of offensive support from senior Jimmy Parque, who went 4-for-4 with two extra-base hits, and juniors Greg Hopkins and Paul Karmas each finished the day 2-for-4 with threeRBI apiece.
In the next game, St. John’s continued their solid offensive performance with 13 hits and seven runs, but its pitching staff allowed 11 runs in their first loss of the season.
Senior Nick Cenatiempo would last just two innings, giving up five hits, eight earned runs, and three walks as he was charged with his first loss of the season (0-1). Freshman Jeremy Baltz went 3-for-4 with two RBIs while Hopkins went 3-for-4 and Parque went 2-for-4 in the losing effort.
St. John’s dropped the rubber game of its series with East Tennessee, 8-6, in a game where there were five lead changes. Sophomore Joe Panik went 4-for-4 and scored three runs while Baltz went 1-for-4 with three RBI and Parque went 1-for-5 with 2 RBI. Senior Miguel Valcarcel made the start for the Red Storm but lasted just 4.2 innings, giving up four earned runs.
After losing two out of three to East Tennessee, the Red Storm traveled to Chapel Hill to take on No. 12 North Carolina, losing 8-2. The Tar Heels put the Red Storm in an early hole, scoring six runs in the first inning off Red Storm starter Sean Hagan, who was pulled after the first inning.
St. John’s then made the trip to Lynchburg, Va. for a three-game set against Liberty, where they would lose the first two games by a combined score of 25-10. The game’s finale, however, would prove to be the most exciting, as the Red Storm would win an extra-innings thriller by the grace of sophomore Matt Wessinger’s bat.
With the game tied at six in the top of the 11th, freshman Jimmy Brennan, who pinch-ran for fellow freshman Sean O’Hare, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. Wessinger then singled to left to score Brennan and give the Red Storm the go-ahead run. Sophomore Stephen Rivera threw three scoreless innings to pick up the relief win.
The Red Storm take on Fairfield today at 3:00 p.m. in their home opener.