SEASON PREVIEW PART II: Positional Breakdown

Matt Harris batted .290 last season with six home runs and 47 RBI.
Feb. 6, 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.

Positional Breakdown
"We have our entire lineup returning, but we've added some very good newcomers and they will be given their opportunities to challenge," said head coach Ed Blankmeyer. "It is going to take some time to figure out the lineup that works best because of our depth, but all of the pieces are there."

St. John's returns 11 position players, including 10 that started at least 31 games last season. The squad returns 100.0 percent (20-of-20) of its home runs, 96.0 percent (338-of-352) of its runs scored and 95.6 percent (524-of-548) of its hits from a season ago. The offense also returns 95.1 percent (294-of-309) of its RBI and 92.6 percent (75-of-81) of its doubles.

"There's a good balance of lefty and righty bats so we'll be afforded the opportunity to run out some different looks," Blankmeyer added. "We've got some speed, we've got some power and we've got a lot of guys that work counts."

Catching
Following a strong debut season at the Division I level, redshirt junior Tyler Sanchez returns as the starter behind the dish. Sanchez appeared in 46 games, including 43 starts, and threw out 20-of-52 base stealers (38.5 percent). The backstop batted .246 with nine doubles, one home run and 18 RBI to go with a .350 on-base percentage.

Sophomore Troy Dixon [see designated hitter] will handle backup duty as he did last season when he made 11 starts at catcher and threw out 5-of-15 base stealers (33.3 percent). Dixon batted .284 with five doubles and 16 RBI to go with a .409 on-base percentage in 40 games, including 33 starts.

 

 

Freshman Anthony Fava, a Westchester/Putnam All-Star and an All-Section 1 selection at Lakeland, rounds out the depth at the position.

First Base
Senior Matt Harris made 53 starts in his Division I debut last season and returns as the starter at first base. The slugging lefty ranked tied for second in the league with six home runs, tied for third with 47 RBI and tied for fourth with 43 runs scored. Harris batted .290 and led the team in both multi-hit games (20) and multi-RBI games (16).

Senior utility-man Bret Dennis [see third base, shortstop] batted .346 last season and led the league with a .439 average in league games en route to garnering second team All-BIG EAST honors. Dennis started games at shortstop (15), second base (6) and designated hitter (10) last season, but has been preparing in the offseason to back up at first base.

Freshmen Mark Venice and David Moyer, both two-way players, add to the options at first base. Venice [see center field, pitching breakdown] garnered all-state honors as a senior and was a three-time All-Essex County choice at Seton Hall Prep. Moyer [see pitching breakdown], meanwhile, was a four-time All-West Jersey selection and a three-time All-NJAC Freedom Division selection at Kittatinny Regional.

Second Base
There will be a tough competition for the job at second base, but junior Ty Blankmeyer opens the season with the edge after a strong fall. Blankmeyer batted .213 with a .360 on-base percentage in 37 games overall last season, but posted a .270 average and a .413 on-base percentage in 13 games as a starter.

Senior Robert Wayman [see third base] made 41-of-52 total starts last season at second base and batted .276 overall with seven doubles, one triple and 27 RBI. Wayman ranked second in the BIG EAST with 34 walks and also finished third in the conference with 46 runs scored, while adding a team-high 10 stolen bases.

Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 40th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, freshman Jesse Berardi [see shortstop, designated hitter] adds a lefty bat to the competition. The Long Island Player of the Year as a senior at Commack, Berardi was a two-time all-state selection, a two-time all-county honoree and a two-time League 1 MVP.

Third Base
A Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, sophomore Robbie Knightes was a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American, a second team ABCA All-Northeast Region honoree and a second team All-BIG EAST choice as a rookie. Knightes ranked eighth in the nation and won the BIG EAST batting title with a .399 batting average, while also posting a .458 on-base percentage.

Dennis [see first base, shortstop] and Wayman [see second base] are joined by redshirt freshman John Valente as options at third. Valente [see pitching breakdown], a two-way player, was a two-time All-Section 1 honoree and a two-time Westchester/Putnam All-Star at New Rochelle.

Shortstop
Senior Jarred Mederos ranked third in the league with a .362 batting average a season ago and returns as the starter. Mederos made 42 starts and collected eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 34 RBI a season ago. The shortstop posted a .403 on-base percentage and totaled 15 multi-hit games to go with nine multi-RBI games.

Berardi [see second base] and Dennis [see first base, third base] are also options on the depth chart at shortstop.

Left Field
Sophomore Michael Donadio, a unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, capped a breakout debut season with Freshman All-America honors. The second team ABCA All-Northeast Region choice, first team All-BIG EAST honoree and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year batted .328 with seven doubles, four triples, five home runs, 45 RBI and a league-leading 50 runs scored. The outfielder ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in triples (T-2nd), on-base percentage (4th), walks (4th), home runs (T-5th), RBI (5th), slugging percentage (5th) and batting average (9th).

Freshman Aidan McDermott [see designated hitter] will be the backup in left field. A two-time first team All-Middlesex County selection at South Plainfield, McDermott was also a two-time first team all-area honoree and a two-time All-Greater Middlesex Conference selection.

Center Field
A Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, junior Alex Caruso returns as the starter in center field after earning second team All-BIG EAST honors last season. Caruso drew a league-high 35 walks, reached base safely in 47-of-52 games played and ranked third in the league with a .446 on-base percentage. The outfielder ranked 10th in the league with a .326 batting average.

Freshman Jamie Galazin, who earned Athlete of the Year and Senior Athlete of the Year honors at Notre Dame (N.J.) as a senior, backs up in center, while Venice [see first base, pitching breakdown] could also see time at the position.

Right Field
A Preseason All-BIG EAST honoree, senior Zach Lauricella [see designated hitter] returns as the starter in right field. The two-time All-BIG EAST selection was the lone Red Storm player to start all 55 games a season ago and batted .296 with a team-high 14 doubles to go with three triples, four home runs and 39 RBI. Lauricella posted a .407 on-base percentage, while adding 18 multi-hit games and 10 multi-RBI games.

Freshman Anthony Brocato [see designated hitter] has the offensive potential to challenge for time in right field. A two-time Louisville Slugger High School All-American and a two-time all-state honoree out of Rutgers Prep, Brocato was named the Star-Ledger New Jersey Player of the Year as a senior.

Designated Hitter
With the lineup flexibility created by the positional depth on the squad, the role of the designated hitter will likely be "by committee." Dixon [see catcher] led the team with 22 DH starts a season ago and is the lead candidate as the season begins. Brocato [see right field], Berardi [see second base, shortstop], Lauricella [see right field], McDermott [see left field] and Moyer [see first base, pitching breakdown] are other options based on matchups and lineup needs.

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