DUNEDIN, Fla.—St. John's went to four regionals in five years before taking a step back in 2009, going 30-22 overall and finishing in fourth place in the Big East. But don't expect the Red Storm to be down for long; coach Ed Blankmeyer is very excited about his team.
Led by a talented group of young players, St. John's jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Minnesota righty Seth Rosin on Friday and held on for a 5-4 win. St. John's brought in one of the Northeast's top recruiting classes last fall, and freshmen factored prominently into the victory against the Golden Gophers. Outfielder Jeremy Baltz got St. John's on the board first with a solo homer to dead center field in the second. The Johnnies padded the lead with three runs in the third, but Minnesota fought back with a pair of runs in the fifth to chase starter Bruce Kern.
So, with runners on second and third and one out, Blankmeyer called upon another of his key freshmen, righthander Matt Carasiti, to put out the fire. After an RBI single, Carasiti induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, then worked three more scoreless innings to stabilize the game. He attacked hitters with an 87-90 mph fastball, a good low-80s slider and an occasional split-finger.
"Carasiti's going to be special," Blankmeyer said. "He was a pretty good draft, probably was a difficult sign, but should have gone much higher. He's got a lot of poise, and he may end up in our rotation. He's a quality kid, mature beyond his years."
Minnesota made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth against closer Ryan Cole, pushing two runs across with two outs. With the tying run at third and the winning run at second, Blankmeyer called upon righthander Daniel Burawa, who transferred to St. John's from Suffolk County CC in 2008 but did not see any action last year. Burawa threw one pitch: a 95 mph fastball to get Kyle Knutson to ground out meekly to second base and end the game.
"We've got some nice young freshmen and some nice young arms," Blankmeyer said. "We've got some arms. It's back; we're back."
Minnesota coach John Anderson, meanwhile, sounded far less optimistic about his own club.
"I think we had three chances with a runner at third and less than two outs, and we didn't score any of them. We've got to do a better job of having better at-bats with guys in scoring position," Anderson said. "We lost some big bats in our lineup with (Matt) Nohelty and (Eric) Decker and (Derek) McCallum, who was an All-American. So the top of your lineup changes. We've got some new people in there, and it's going to take some time. But we've got to get better at-bats with runners in scoring position."
We blogged earlier about Rosin's struggles; Anderson expressed frustration with his ace.
"He didn't have command of the fastball today, and last week he didn't have command of the fastball—he was up in the zone," Anderson said. "I think he was up in the middle too much and was behind in the count some, and he really struggled out there. When he doesn't have fastball command, he's going to struggle. He just didn't throw enough pitcher's strikes today. I thought a lot of his fastball strikes were in the fat part of the strike zone. I thought he was overthrowing a little bit today, he was trying too hard. I thought he was more of a thrower than a pitcher today."
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