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Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 25 St. John's

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2017 Record: 42-13 (13-5 in Big East); reached regional. Final ranking: NR. Coach (Record at school): Ed Blankmeyer (758-460-4, 22 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: None.

The good news: St. John’s is coming off its best season since John Franco and Frank Viola were on the team, more than 35 years ago. While the Red Storm was an older team last year, they return many key pieces, especially on the mound. Righthander Sean Mooney emerged last season from a talented group of freshman pitchers and took over as St. John’s ace, earning All-Freshman honors and an invitation to USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team along the way. Classmates Gavin Hollowell and Gavin LaSorsa were excellent as relievers and could return to their roles in the bullpen, but also add to St. John’s rotation depth, which also includes senior Kevin Magee and ultra-talented, but inconsistent, sophomore Jeff Belge. Offensively, St. John’s welcomes back a core of outfielders Anthony Brocato and Jamie Galazin, second baseman Josh Shaw and John Valente, who will move from first base to third base this season. All are seniors except Shaw, a junior, ensuring the Red Storm will again have strong veteran presence.

The bad news: While the bulk of its lineup is back, St. John’s must replace shortstop Jesse Berardi, catcher Troy Dixon and outfielder Michael Donadio, three of its best players last season. The Red Storm has experienced options at all three positions, but with all three players posting an OPS north of .900 last season, it won’t be easy to replace them. Luke Stampfl joins St. John’s as a grad transfer from Fordham and could provide the answer at shortstop. Senior Robert Boselli and junior Wyatt Mascarella, a junior college transfer, will compete at catcher, while sophomore Michael Antico is one of several options in the outfield. The pitching staff is more settled, but will be without lefthander Nick Mondak, perhaps the most talented of St. John’s outstanding group of sophomore pitchers, as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.

Returner to know: Josh Shaw, 2B: With the Red Storm infield undergoing significant transition, Shaw should be the group’s anchor. The 2016 Big East Conference freshman of the year was St. John’s lone regular not to hit at least .300 last year. He will be counted on to help offset the lineup’s losses and keep St. John’s solid defensively. He is also the team’s top prospect in this year’s draft and will be closely watched by area scouts.

Path to Omaha: St. John’s, like all Northern teams, will be road tested. A year ago, the Red Storm started the year 10-0, helping it to build its RPI and tournament resume. It will be difficult for St. John’s to repeat that start to the season, but this year’s team is deeper on the mound and has the veteran experience needed to thrive under pressure. If its sophomore pitchers can build off their freshman success, St. John’s has the pieces to be a postseason dark horse.

Andre-Nnebe

2017 Coastal Plain League Top Prospects

Andre Nnebe’s raw tools are off-the-charts and immediately apparent.

2018 lineup:

C Wyatt Mascarella, Jr. Transfer – McHenry County (Ill.) JC
1B Matt Woods, Jr. Transfer – Rowan (N.J.) JC
2B Josh Shaw, Jr. .288/.350/.384 | 219 AB | 2 HR | 33 RBI
3B John Valente, R-Sr. .375/.437/.464 | 224 AB | 2 HR | 35 RBI
SS Luke Stampfl, Sr. Transfer – Fordham
LF Mike Antico, So. .288/.479/.442 | 52 AB | 1 HR | 12 RBI
CF Jamie Galazin, Sr. .319/.378/.446 | 204 AB | 2 HR | 34 RBI
RF Anthony Brocato, Sr. .317/.400/.550 | 180 AB | 8 HR | 47 RBI
DH Robert Boselli, Sr. .238/.389/.476 | 42 AB | 3 HR | 9 RBI
RHP Sean Mooney, So. 8-2, 1.71 ERA | 100 IP | 88 SO | 0 SV
LHP Kevin Magee, Sr. 4-1, 2.45 ERA | 40 IP | 40 SO | 0 SV
LHP Jeff Belge, So. 3-3, 5.36 ERA | 49 IP | 47 SO | 0 SV
RP Gavin Hollowell, So. 2-1, 1.65 ERA | 33 IP | 37 SO | 3 SV
RP Joe LaSorsa, So. 7-1, 2.34 ERA | 50 IP | 39 SO | 1 SV

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