SEASON PREVIEW PART I: Pitching Breakdown|
Feb. 5, 2015
QUEENS, N.Y. - Expectations are high for St. John's in 2015 as the Red Storm returns 22 letterwinners from a squad that finished 35-20 a season ago and finished one game out of first place in the BIG EAST standings.
Bolstered by a league-leading six Preseason All-BIG EAST selections, St. John's was voted to finish first in the annual BIG EAST Preseason Poll for the first time since 2012. The Red Storm also earned a No. 29 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll.
"As far as the rotation goes, we have some roles up for grabs," said head coach Ed Blankmeyer. "We know what we're sending out that first weekend, but guys will have to prove themselves because there will be challengers."
A unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, junior Ryan McCormick earned second team All-BIG EAST honors a season ago and will anchor the weekend rotation as the No. 1 starter. The righty went 7-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 14 appearances, including 13 starts. McCormick ranked tied for fourth in the league in victories and ranked fifth with 59 strikeouts.
Junior Cody Stashak, a transfer out of Cumberland County College, had a strong fall and will open the season as the No. 2 starter. A third team NJCAA Division III All-American as a sophomore, Stashak went a combined 16-5 with one save and a 2.92 ERA in two seasons with the Dukes. The righty tossed two no-hitters and worked seven complete games, while striking out 130 batters in 129.1 innings.
Redshirt junior Joey Christopher will transition from reliever to the role of No. 3 starter this season. The 6-4, 230-pound righty made 16 appearances last season, including one start, and went 2-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 22.0 innings of work.
Freshman lefty Kevin Magee opens the season as the top midweek starter, but could quickly challenge for an increased role. A third team all-state selection and The Record's Pitcher of the Year as a senior at Pompton Lakes, Magee was a three-time All-Passaic County selection and a three-time first team All-Colonial Division honoree.
Junior Alex Katz gives the Red Storm a second southpaw in the rotation. Katz totaled 16 appearances last season, including nine starts, and finished 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 42.0 innings of action.
Freshman Mitch Cavanagh will be looked upon as another starting option. The Tri-Valley League West Rookie of the Year as a freshman at Oneida, the righty capped his career with both all-state and Tri-Valley League Player of the Year honors.
"Our strength this season in terms of pitching is obviously our bullpen," added Blankmeyer. "We have some experienced arms and enough options to be able to mix and match through the middle innings as needed in order to build the bridge to [Joe] Kuzia and [Thomas] Hackimer at the end of games."
After going from reliever to midweek starter to weekend starter last season, senior Chris Kalica will work the middle innings and be an option for long relief. In 19 appearances, nine starts, the righty went 6-3 with a 3.94 ERA and 37 strikeouts to go with just 17 walks in 59.1 innings.
A junior transfer out of Western Oklahoma State College, Kevin Torres is another strike-thrower that will see action as a middle reliever. The righty earned first team NJCAA All-Region II honors as a freshman and went a combined 9-1 with a 3.04 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 94.2 innings of work in two seasons with the Pioneers.
Another middle reliever, redshirt junior Shawn Heide made his collegiate-debut last season and finished with 18 appearances. The righty posted a 3-0 record and struck out 20 batters in 21.2 innings on the mound. Freshman Tyler Bauman gives the Red Storm a left-handed option in the middle innings. The Florida native and four-year letterwinner at Jensen Beach tossed a no-hitter as a freshman in his first-career start.
Three two-way players are also in the mix in the middle innings. Redshirt freshman righty John Valente was a two-time All-Section 1 honoree and a two-time Westchester/Putnam All-Star at New Rochelle. A 6-5 righty, freshman David Moyer was a four-time All-West Jersey selection and a three-time All-NJAC Freedom Division selection at Kittatinny Regional. A freshman righty out of Seton Hall Prep, Mark Venice garnered all-state honors as a senior and was a three-time All-Essex County choice.
Juniors Matt Clancy and Joey Graziano will work the late innings and will complete the bridge to backend of the bullpen. Clancy made 24 appearances last season, third-most among Red Storm relievers, and went 3-3 with a 5.11 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24.2 innings. The lefty had a 3.12 ERA in eight BIG EAST appearances. Graziano opened last season in the rotation and made seven starts before returning to the bullpen. While going 2-3 with a 6.06 ERA in 35.2 innings overall, the righty went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 16.2 innings of work in 11 relief appearances.
Senior Joe Kuzia, a unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, and junior Thomas Hackimer combine to give the Red Storm a strong 1-2 punch to close out games. A first team ABCA All-Northeast Region selection and a first team All-BIG EAST choice, Kuzia recorded a league-high 13 saves and went 0-2 with a 0.97 ERA in 37.0 innings of work. In 28 appearances, the righty worked 24 scoreless outings and allowed just a .179 opponent average in his first season at the Division I level. Hackimer, meanwhile, made 30 appearances a season ago and finished 3-0 with five saves and a 4.26 ERA. The sidearm righty has made 61 appearances in two seasons and has totaled 13 saves, while allowing just seven extra-base hits in 54.2 innings of work.