CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—St. John’s is off to its best beginning since 1981, when the pitching duo of John Franco and Frank Viola led the Red Storm to a 14-0 start.
The Red Storm are not quite there yet, but moved to 8-0 by beating No. 13 North Carolina 5-4 on Wednesday.
“This is a nice start, but a start is a start. You’ve got to be consistent,” St. John’s head coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “You’re going to have some good games and some good series, and you’re going to have some tough series so you’ve got to be able to bounce back. We just keep taking a step forward.”
Wednesday’s victory does mark a step forward. Blankmeyer noted the importance of quality wins in building a postseason resume. The Red Storm will face quality opponents in the Big East and the upcoming LeClair Classic, but they won’t have another opportunity to take on a power conference opponent during the season.
“It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish, but if you’re thinking down the line about being a tournament club, you want quality wins,” Blankmeyer said. “And in the Northeast sometimes you get left out because you don’t have enough quality wins. So it’s important to play good competition and you’ve got to get some wins out of it.”
North Carolina certainly proved to be a quality opponent on Wednesday. The Tar Heels broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the third, scoring one run on a wild pitch and another on a single from Cody Roberts.
Sophomore righthander Cole Aker gave North Carolina four strong innings before handing the ball to low-slot righty Josh Gay, who turned in two scoreless, hitless innings of his own. But in the seventh inning, reliever Rodney Hutchison walked the leadoff batter, then allowed a two-run home run to Red Storm junior Jesse Berardi.
Following Berardi’s blast, senior Michael Donadio hit a home run of his own in the eighth, a missile over the trees beyond the wall in right center field. Donadio’s home run ended up sealing the victory, thanks largely to a lights-out performance by freshman lefthander Joe LaSorsa.
LaSorsa, who tossed three perfect innings and struck out four, was one of three freshman the Red Storm utilized on the mound, following Jeff Belge and Sean Mooney. The 6-foot-5 LaSorsa showed the ability to locate his breaking ball and changeup for strikes, and had good angle on his upper 80s fastball.
Blankmeyer has a number of promising underclassmen in the rotation to team up with a veteran group of players in the lineup, as chronicled by Teddy Cahill earlier this week.
The Red Storm’s impressive showing in Chapel Hill is just another rung on the ladder, though. Blankmeyer’s squad is focused the next task at hand.
“These are New York guys; they forget things like tomorrow,” Blankmeyer said. “We’ll enjoy this one. We’ll get a workout in and we’ll prepare for a good Appalachian State team for Friday.”