BY MICHAEL RANDAZZO
Eternal winter takes another hit today as the crack of the bat—like a siren call announcing spring’s arrival—will be heard in Fort Greene today (Wednesday, March 18) beginning at 3 p.m as the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds faces local baseball power St. John’s Red Storm at LIU Field.
(Note: The game has been postponed to April 7, reportedly due to field issues.)
New head coach Alex Trezza is excited to be on the Blackbirds’ bench for his first-ever home opener, marking a rebirth of sorts after a tumultuous season last year following the sudden departure of Don Maines and his entire staff.
“To be able to play baseball in the greatest city in the world with the Empire State Building in the background, it’s pretty cool,” Trezza said recently. “I see an opportunity for the university to really make strides with the baseball program.”
Today’s opener — the first of 12 home games this season for the Blackbirds — is a homecoming for the Brooklyn-born Trezza, who arrived at LIU last fall following a one-year stint as an assistant at Sacred Heart.
Growing up to Middletown, New York, beginning in 1999 Trezza embarked on a baseball odyssey that led to an All-American career at Stony Brook, being drafted in 2001 by the Detroit Tigers, and 12 seasons in the minor leagues before a series of coaching jobs brought him home.
Today’s game will see the Blackbirds (6-6) face off against St. John’s Red Storm(8-8), led by St. John’s Ed Blankmeyer, the “dean” of New York City baseball coaches.
On the Blackbirds side, there is an experienced roster stocked with offensive talent such as left fielder and leader, sophomore Tommy Jakubowski (.375 batting average after missing all of last season to injury), and sophomore Mark Hernandez, LIU’s everyday first baseman and spot starter (seven RBIs). A 2014 All-NEC second-team selection, Hernandez hits for power, plays defense and gives the Blackbirds quality innings on the mound.
Trezza and Pete Leonello — Blackbirds all-time hits leader, who’s now on staff — also have two seniors: third baseman Bobby Webb was second in the conference in batting last year (.369), earning him second-team All-NEC honors, and center field Jon McAllister, who hit .315 last year.
However, they will have to work on their pitching talent, one bright spot being senior Dustin Carlson who sports a sparkling 1.93 ERA and a 1-1 record in four appearances, all in relief.
Over at St. John’s (8-8), the Red Stormhas won 37 of the 53 meetings between the teams. The Blackbirds have been a respectable 8-10 at home against the Red Storm, but St. John’s has dominated lately, winning 12 of the last 13 contests, with the lone LIU win coming in 2011.
Coach Blankmeyer jus tearned the 650th victory of his career, extending his record as the Johnnies’ winningest coach. Now in his 20th season, Blankmeyer has sent 15 players to the major leagues, including Craig Biggio, elected last year to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
LIU Brooklyn Baseball: LIU Brooklyn vs. St. John’s, Wednesday, March 18, 3 p.m. at LIU Field, Willoughby Street and Ashland Place. Admission is free. For more information contact Greg Fox, LIU Associate Athletics Director, at email@example.com