By Five Boro Sports
The plan all along was to go with a freshman pitcher for the third game of a Big East-opening series against Villanova on Sunday. But it just wasn’t the first-year player St. John’s baseball Coach Ed Blankmeyer planned on sending to the mound at Jack Kaiser Stadium.
With Brendan Lobban suffering from a slight cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand, Blankmeyer gave the ball to Kevin Kilpatrick, who, a year ago, was considered one of the top high-school pitchers in the city.
“He throws strikes, that’s the bottom line,” Blankmeyer said when asked why the lefty out of Holy Cross got the nod. “We wanted to go out there with a guy on the third day [of a series] who could throw strikes to basically keep us in it and he did exactly what we wanted him to do.”
Kilpatrick didn’t get a decision, but he pitched well enough in 4 2/3 innings to earn his coach’s trust for another possible call-up as the Red Storm swept Villanova in the three-game series with a 10-3 victory.
“For a freshman called into duty, I think he did a good job,” Blankmeyer said.
Kilpatrick retired 14 of 15 batters, striking out four, but got the ball up in the zone in the fifth inning, leading to trouble.
After two quick outs, Marlon Calbi and Matt Szczur both singled. Joe Rosati was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Dain Hall followed with a two-run single to left field that chased Kilpatrick.
“He throws strikes and I just think there’s going to be more coming out of that arm,” Blankmeyer said. “He fields his position well. But the third time around, when [batters] get a good look at him, he’s got to make better adjustments with some of his pitches. He just has to get that finishing mentality.”
Nick Cenatiempo (1-1) came out of the bullpen to earn the win, allowing one run in 3 1/3 innings of relief.
As for Lobban, who was one of the top pitchers in northern New Jersey last year, Blankmeyer said he was shelved for precautionary reasons.
“It was cut when he was throwing lightly yesterday, so if he went out there and risked it further, who knows?” Blankmeyer said. “He could be two, three weeks behind.”
St. John’s (11-7, 3-0 Big East) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first after just two batters. Following a Brian Kemp triple to right center, Matt Wessinger had an RBI ground-out to put the Red Storm on the board.
The Red Storm tacked on three more runs in the third inning, the first on a bases-loaded passed ball before a two-run single by Wessinger into left field.
After Villanova (10-9, 0-3) scored two runs in the fifth, Matt McFolling’s solo home run in the sixth inning cut the Wildcats’ deficit to 4-3. But the Johnnies exploded for six runs off relievers Kyle Carver and Kyle McMyne as the back-to-back regular season champions swept their opening Big East series.
St. John’s will meet Columbia on Tuesday afternoon at Robertson Field. Former Moore Catholic standout Eddie Medina is the scheduled starter for the Red Storm.