St. John’s Preview

Image from
Ezteams.com

St. John’s
February 22, 2009 1pm
Red McEwen Field (USF Campus)
Tampa, Fla.
Home Team: St. John’s
Probable Pitchers: Eric Katzman (LHP, 0-0) vs Nick Luis (LHP, 0-0)
Michigan Record vs Opponent: 3-3
Last Series/Game: Michigan 12 – St. John’s 17, March 2005

I want to preface this with a little something: the St. John’s Baseball page is by far the worst for information. Here I am working up a preview just weeks before the season, and the sports information department has done nothing further than updating the schedule for the teams. Up until Thursday, the site also had a Windows Media Player on auto start on every page. Was it ever annoying to have Coach Kim Barnes Arico start an interview every 20 seconds. Luckily, the Red Storm installed a new video player as of Friday… after I stopped needing their website. Along with this update, it appears they have actually put some information on the team up… the DAY BEFORE THE SEASON STARTS. This team was the BigEast Champion last year, and this is as excited as they get?

So onto baseball. St. John’s is the first of three 2008 tournament team Michigan will face in the next few weeks. St. John’s has been a beacon for northern schools lately, posting three straight 40 wins seasons (generally good enough to qualify any team for the NCAA tourney). Last year, St. John’s received the lone at-large bid given to northern mid-majors with a 41-14 record (20-7 in BigEast). They won the regular season BigEast title but slipped in the conference tournament, leading to Louisville taking the BigEast automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. This year the Red Storm are predicted to finish quite a bit lower (4th in the BigEast Coaches’ Preseason Poll), but they do return seven offensive starters, two members of the starting rotation, and a majority of their bullpen.

Stars

Carlos Del Rosario
Image from
RedStorm.com

St. John’s returns this year with quite the offense, returning 5 of their top 6 hitters from last season. Carlos Del Rosario will be the big bat in the middle of the lineup to keep your eye on. Last year he batted .347 with a team high .563 slugging percentage as a All Big East First Team left fielder. Del Rosario lead the team in runs scored with 38.

Del Rosario was the second highest batting average on the team, right after returning junior center fielder Brian Kemp (.360). Kemp is also a threat on the base paths. He has lead the team in steals in each of the last two seasons. Last year he had 16 steals in 21 chances. Kemp is one of those pesky batters that hardly ever strikes out and tends to get hit by pitches. He was hit 12 times last year accounting for half his total walks.

The next big returner is senior catcher Danny Benedetti, who last year batted .342 with 14 doubles. That is damn good for a catcher in any league. When behind the plate, Benedetti isn’t all that strong. Last year runners stole 19 bases and were only caught 18 times. His pass ball numbers aren’t overwhelming, 5 over the whole season. If we get on base, expect him to be tested, especially if we face a right handed pitcher (more about this later).

The Red Storm’s leading RBI producer (45 on the year) returns this season in 1B/OF Paul Karmas. As a freshman last year, he tied for the most at-bats on the team (218), lead the team in total hits (68), and doubles (17). He’s thought to be sticking to just first base this year.

Sophomore Greg Hopkins also returns to take over third base (he also spent time at first base and DH). Last year, Hopkins posted a .304 batting average with 12 doubles and 5 home runs (highest of any returning starter). I fully expect these five players to make up the first 5 batters in the lineup.

Other Position Players

Gino Matias will be the returning starter at second base. The senior is a small second basemen at a listed 5’7″, which likely means even less. Despite his limited strike zone, his walk to strike out ratio is 11:31. That’s a lot of strike outs for a little guy. His batting average was only .280 last year, but he was second on the team with 42 runs scored. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bat lead off or in the 9-hole as someone to set the table for the big bats at the top of the order. Matias does tend to try to steal more than most others on the team. Last year he was 9 for 14.

Junior Tim Morris, left handed first baseman and outfielder will be working to solidify himself in the lineup last year after being used sparingly. In 40 games, Morris made 25 starts. His .283 batting average wasn’t much to write home about, but he did have 3 home runs, 3 triples, and 6 doubles on the year. With a full season’s worth of at-bats, he could have some much more impressive numbers. What kept him out of the starting line up last year was his walks to strike out ratio, 4:35. That’s just unacceptable unless you’re Sammy Sosa.

Shortstop is a black hole currently. Junior Mike Martinez may have a shot, but there are two freshman, Matt Wessinger and Joe Pannick, who may be given a shot too. The two freshman have a size advantage on Martinez, but there isn’t much out there to indicate who will take over the position.

As for DH, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Karmas or Morris take this spot opening room in the outfield for sophomore Scott Ferrara. Ferrara had limited use last year, but he does appear positioned to be a big contributor next season. The other option would be junior backup catcher Joe Witkowski. This would provide slightly more consistency between games as Benedetti will definitely DH in games he does not start.

Pitching

This will be short and sweet. The Red Storm lost all 4 of their primary starters and their closer. Woo Rebuilding Year!

Miguel Valcarcel, Image
from
RedStormSports.com

St. John’s does return a total of 10 starts (by 3 players) from last year, 8 of which were by Senior Jason Cole. Cole was 3-1 last year with a 4.72 ERA. He held the second highest opponent batting average on the team at .271.

The highest opponent batting average was .309, by Senior righthander Rich Armento. Armento had one start last year, but it was out of desperation due to lack of arms available. Armento had a team worst 7.66 ERA last season in just 22.1 innings pitched.

The wild card for the Red Storm is Puerto Rican pitcher Miguel Valcarcel. The righty was 0-0 over 36.1 innings last year including one start. His 3.44 ERA is tops among returners. There has been some talk of him becoming the team’s ace this year, but that has been just speculation as far as I can tell. He had started quite a bit as a freshman, 2 years ago, with some success.

Michigan will be facing lefty Nick Luisi. Luisi is a redshirt senior who hasn’t pitched in over a year for St. John’s due to some major surgery on his arm. Luisi is one of the two team captains this year for the Red Storm, but we don’t really know what to expect out of him. For his career, Luisi is 5-3 witha 3.36 ERA over 21 appearances (7 starts). I’d try to get more information on him, but St. John’s website is horrible for information. The last update on his player profile is 2005.

Semi-Relevant Reading:
Challenge Overview (RedStormSports.com, don’t click on the weekly release, it’s the release from last year’s NCAA regional)

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