By Joseph Staszewski
St. John’s calling card all season has been its ability to rally late. The Red Storm baseball team did it multiple times in the NCAA tournament. That included its final game—before a second one-run loss ended its season.
“What was unique about this team was we were never out of it and we won a lot of games coming back late,” St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer said.
Fourth-seeded St. John’s tried to do that again in its eventual 4-3 loss to No. 2 Arkansas during the NCAA Regional Final in Stillwater, Okla. last Sunday. The Big East Champions trailed the Razorbacks 3-0 after five innings, but rallied for two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to tie the score at 3-3.
Michael Donadio and Robbie Knightes each drove in runs for the Red Storm. It was the third one-run game of the tournament for St. John’s. Arkansas scored the winning run in the top of the ninth on Joe Serrano’s RBI ground out against SJU closer Thomas Hackimer.
“That’s the type of ball we play,” senior Zach Lauricella said. “We are always down to the wire and we are never out of it. This is probably the most resilient bunch of guys. We never quit.”
SJU starting pitcher Alex Katz, a junior, allowed two runs in five innings of work. Robert Wayman, who batted .438 with five runs scored and two RBI, was named to the all-tournament team along with Knightes and Matt Harris (five RBI)
St. John’s (41-16) reached the regional final by rallying to beat host and top-seed Oklahoma State 2-1 in the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament earlier in the day. Wayman had a game-tying, two-out run single in the bottom of the eighth and Donadio drove in the go head run with a single.
“Clutch, big time clutch,” Blankmeyer said of Wayman and Donadio.
Chris Kalica allowed just one unearned run in a career-high 7 1/3 innings of work in the best pitching performance in a weekend full of then for St. John’s. Hackimer picked up the win in relief. The Red Storm lost their opener 4-3 to Oklahoma State before beating No. 4 Oral Roberts 10-4 in an elimination game behind ace Ryan McCormack.
“It was nice to see a guy like Chris Kalica end his career with that type of effort,” Blankmeyer said. “To see Alex Katz step up and rise to the occasion certainly makes me optimistic for next year.”
The coach and his players have plenty to feel good about from this year as well, including a conference title and 15-game winning streak heading into the NCAA tournament. They just did things a little differently than other top clubs.
“A lot of times when you have a good ball club you are playing most of the time from in front,” Blankmeyer said. “But we played some games where we were down most of the game and came back and won it late.”