By Joseph Staszewski
Ryan McCormick wasn’t going to be told “No.” Too much was at stake.
The ace pitcher never gave his St. John’s University coaches a chance to do so. He picked up his glove and sprinted to the bullpen once Creighton tied the score with five runs in the seventh inning of the Big East title baseball title game.
“I was running down,” McCormick said. “They really couldn’t stop me.”
Neither have opposing teams of late.
The big right-hander threw 101 pitches in a complete-game, two-hitter to beat Creighton the day before, retiring the last 19 batters he faced. In the start before that, the junior tossed the first complete game shutout of his career, with nine strikeouts, to clinch the Big East regular season crown against Xavier.
“Right now I feel like I am the best I’ve been in my whole career,” McCormack said.
That is why, despite St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer’s soul-searching and reservations about putting McCormick in the game, he was really left with no choice. You needed to go to the big guy to bring you home with the first save of his college career.
“It says a lot about a guy to come up to you and say I want this for my teammates,” Blankmeyer said. “I think that goes above and beyond.”
The bullpen was struggling and Creighton, down three runs in the ninth, had runners on second and third with no outs. The Red Storm wanted no part of pushing the double-elimination tournament to its final game. McCormack, who hasn’t been asked to close since high school, allowed two runs to score, but got a double play and a ground out to ensure the one-run win.
“As soon as I saw him I knew the coaches knew what they were doing,” Alex Caruso said “As soon as he got the double play, I knew it was over.”
McCormick told pitching coach Corey Muscara he was available for a few batters if needed. He simply wanted the ball if needed. It’s what you want to see from your ace and Big East Pitcher of the Year. He wouldn’t be your guy if he didn’t.
“I held him as along as I could,” Blankmeyer said. “With a three-run lead I thought we could get it done. He called back, ‘I want the ball’
He has done wonders with it this season. McCormick has been stellar all season and has only gotten better as the year went on. He is 10-1 and hasn’t lost since his first start of the year, in St. John’s first game of the season against Georgia Tech on Feb. 13. McCormick has a 2.81 ERA to go along with 70 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 86.1 innings of work. Teams are hitting just .226 against him
“Right now I am just locked in,” McCormick said. “Pitching is just getting fun. It’s not getting like a job.”
Even so, McCormick has done his all this season and St. John’s hopes that will continue into the NCAA tournament. The formula has been simple. Just give him the ball and let him go to work.