By Rob Abruzzese
The St. John’s baseball team competed in its first NCAA Super Regional last year after being crowned the Big East conference’s regular season and tournament champions.
The expectations are a bit different this year after the Red Storm lost four players in the MLB Amateur Draft and are now dealing with a more inexperienced squad, especially in the pitching staff where they have 10 freshman, the third most of any Division I team in the nation.
One of those freshmen, Ryan Horstman, held Cincinnati to no earned runs on just three hits over seven innings during a 7-4 victory that helped the Red Storm take the rubber game of the series at home Saturday afternoon.
“We have a lot of freshman arms and there are going to be some good days and some bad days, some good innings and some bad innings,” Red Storm Coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “Ryan struggled a bit early, but he settled down after the second and put together some good innings for us.”
In the second inning, Horstman was getting hit hard. Fortunately some of the balls were hit right at outfielders, but one barely eluded center fielder Martin Kelly’s outstretched glove for a three-base error. The runner, who scored on a sac fly to give Cincinnati a 1-0 lead, was the only one to score in that frame.
When Horstman came out in the third inning, his demeanor was like a totally different pitcher.
“It was a turning point,” she said. “It got me to refocus and it gave me an idea of how to pitch to them. I’m used to being more of a strikeout pitcher, but the coaches here get on my case for that and try to get me to pitch to contact more.”
The team’s offense struggled early on this season before turning around recently. The bats were awake in this game as the Red Storm (10-15, 2-4) scored in four consecutive innings and broke it open in the fifth inning to establish a 6-1 lead.
Alex Caruso, who went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI, started the fifth off with a single and was driven in by Kelly. Frank Schwindel, who had two hits, a run scored and two RBIs, singled and Sean O’Hare got the big two-run RBI double.
“A big part of why we were struggling was because early on we didn’t get too much time on the field,” Schwindel said. “We were taking BP in the cage, but baseball is a whole different game outside. We just needed to see the ball more.”
Blankmeyer, who is now just 13 wins shy of being the winningest baseball coach in program history, was happy for the win, but still sees a team that has work to do.
“There has been a little improvement,” said Blankmeyer. “We’re still seeing mistakes and we’re not where I expect this team to be just yet. We’re getting there.”