By Joseph Staszewski
St. John’s couldn’t add the program’s first softball NCAA tournament win to its historic season.
The weekend wasn’t considered a failure, however, as the Red Storm more than held its own against some of the best programs in the country. In the regionals played in Tucson, Ariz., last weekend, they fell 4-2 to host No. 16 Arizona in the opener and saw New Mexico State pull away for a 9-6 victory, Arizona. It ended a year that saw SJU win its first ever Big East title.
“Of course we would like to win, but we are happy with how we competed,” senior catcher Erin Burner said. “We showed them that we do belong here and that we will be here again.”
St. John’s (28-19) played flawless defense against Arizona, but saw one of the nation’s best lineups blast three home runs in the game. The Red Storm led New Mexico State 2-0 in the first inning, thanks to a two-run single by Yvonne Rericha. A solo homer by senior Erin Burner tied the score at 3-3 in the third and Hannah Anderson’s fourth inning RBI triple gave SJU a 4-3 advantage.
New Mexico pulled away from there, with four unearned runs in the fifth and two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Red Storm senior MacKenna Neuroth launched a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh to cap the scoring.
“Our kids came out and played like they have been there before,” St. John’s coach Amy Kvilhaug said.
While the Red Storm didn’t add to its team accolades, Burner added a few pieces of history to her career. The Big East Player of the Year’s home run against New Mexico State was the 43rd of career and pushed her past Kacee Cox (2008-12) as the program’s all-time leader. It was also her 49th RBI of the year, a program record as well. Burner is already St. John’s all-time leader in batting average.
None of this surprises Kvilhaug.
“I’ve seen this kind of potential in her from the minute I started watching her as a high school junior or senior,” she said.
A taste of the next level of success already has St. John’s returning players thinking about repeating as Big East champions and trying to add an NCAA tournament victory to their resume next season. SJU loses four seniors, but returns four freshmen that gained invaluable experience.
“We were talking about it even before we left the field,” Burner said. “Just saying how next year is going to be better.”
But this season was not too shabby either, and none of it can be taken away from the seniors who were a major part of St. John’s gradual climb to a Big East championship.
“We are so proud of the team and everything we’ve done this year,” Burner said. “It’s awesome to end our four years here doing that.”