Ed Blankmeyer, Head Baseball Coach
Andrea Vittoria Rizzi
Bob Guerriero, Head Softball Coach
Yury Gelman, Head Fencing Coach, and Karolina Cieslar
L to R: Torisha LaForce, Kafi Ottley, Skyy Diop, and Leah Anderson
Baseball is a game of numbers, and in his 24 years at the helm of the Red Storm, Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer has put up a long list of impressive numbers himself. However, the one that currently brings him the most pride is 86—the ever-growing number of players signed to professional contracts during his near-quarter century with St. John’s.
“Our baseball alumni are second to none,” said Coach Blankmeyer, whose résumé includes more than 800 career victories, 22 winning seasons, 11 NCAA tournaments, six BIG EAST regular season titles, five BIG EAST tournament crowns, and a record-eight BIG EAST Coach of the Year awards. “They believe in the tradition and culture of the program—and they really care.”
Most notable among those players is Joe Panik, who played under Coach Blankmeyer from 2009–11 and was a first round draft pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2011. Mr. Panik earned a Word Series ring with the Giants in 2014 and has fond memories of his days playing under Coach Blankmeyer and Assistant Coach, Mike Hampton.
“I would not be the ballplayer I am without those guys,” said Mr. Panik, who is now in his sixth season with the team. “You never forget where you come from. I may play in San Francisco, but I will always be a Johnny.”
“Joe is one of those special guys,” said Coach Blankmeyer. “He keeps in contact with me and he always wants to know how the program is doing. He is a great player and a World Series champion, but he is an even better person.”
Coach Blankmeyer has coached several other players who have gone on to play at the major league level, including pitcher Craig Hansen, who was the number 26 pick overall in 2005 and went on to throw for the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Scott Barnes was drafted by the Giants in 2008 and pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays. Pitchers Rob Delaney and Anthony Varvaro both made their Major League Baseball debuts in 2010, pitching for the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners, respectively.
This year, another product of Coach Blankmeyer’s instruction made it to the majors, as outfielder Frank Schwindel, a 2013 draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, was named to the team’s opening day roster.
After a slow start to the season, the Red Storm Baseball team rebounded by winning 11 out of 12 games, which included a perfect record at home at Jack Kaiser Stadium.
Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer, the winningest coach in St. John’s and BIG EAST history, recorded his 800th career victory on March 4 with the team’s 7–5 win over the University of San Diego.
The Red Storm pitching staff includes three players ranked among the top 150 draft eligible prospects in college baseball, according to D1Baseball.com, including Sean Mooney. At press time, Mooney’s career record is 21–5, placing him fifth on the program’s all-time wins list and within striking distance of Frank Viola’s record 26 wins (1979–81).
New Head Coach Bob Guerriero picked up the first head coaching win of his career on February 9, as the Red Storm Softball team defeated 2018 MEAC champions, Bethune-Cookman University.
“It is great to get that first win but it is really more important for the team to get on the board with a win," Coach Guerriero said. “The girls are playing hard and tough and it was good to see their efforts result in a win.”
First baseman Marissa Rizzi got off to a hot start in 2019, leading the BIG EAST in batting average (.448), slugging percentage (.896), on-base percentage (.526), and total bases (60) over the first 23 games of the season. The junior’s performance earned her two BIG EAST Player of the Week awards during that span. She became the fifth player in program history to earn this achievement. No Red Storm player has ever won three in a season.
Senior Madison Morris has also been at the top of her game early in the campaign, posting a 9–5 record with a 3.14 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 104.2 innings of work. She also earned two BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week awards and was named to the weekly honor roll.
History was made in Cleveland, OH, this year as senior Karolina Cieslar brought home St. John’s first-ever gold medal in women’s saber at the 2019 NCAA Fencing Championships.
Despite injuring her knee in her semifinal bout, the senior from Poland was able to play through her injury and earned the top spot on the podium by defeating fencers from Harvard and Penn State.
Fellow senior Katarzyna Lachman, also from Poland, battled her way to a championship match—as well, earning silver as the runner up in women's foil.
Two other members of the St. John’s Fencing team earned spots in the final four, including sophomores Fares Ferjani (men’s saber), and Andrea Vittoria Rizzi (women’s eppe), who finished as semifinalists at this year’s event.
As a team, the Red Storm finished in fifth place at the championships, marking 27 consecutive seasons the team has finished sixth or better at the event.
The Red Storm’s impressive showing came just weeks after three fencers took home gold medals at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. Karolina Cieslar earned her third-straight gold medal at the event, while senior Ben Natanzon and sophomore Ivan Zagoruiko took home gold medals in the men's sabre and epee competitions, respectively.
This season, seven Johnnies earned All-American honors under Head Coach Yury Gelman, including Karolina Cieslar, Katarzyna Lachman, Andrea Vittoria Rizzi, and Fares Ferjani, who claimed First Team All-American honors; while Ben Natanzon was named a Second Team All-American, and Dominique Tannous and Ivan Zagoruiko earned Third Team All-American honors.
The St. John's 4x200-meter relay team secured first-place honors at the 112th running of the New York Road Runners Millrose Games with a record time of 1:38.30. The quartet of first-year student Skyy Diop; sophomore Leah Anderson; junior Destiny Davis; and senior Torisha LaForce outran the old record by nearly a full second.
Destiny captured her first ECAC gold medal in the 200-meter dash at the 2019 IC4A/ECAC Indoor Championships with a time of 24.17 seconds, while Leah Anderson and jumper Ja'Tae Joyner picked up their second BIG EAST Track & Field Athlete of the Week accolades of the season.
Amarys Berry secured a BIG EAST gold medal at this year’s conference championship after a career-best throw of 14.67 meters in the shot put, while Jennifer Odoemene claimed her spot on the BIG EAST podium as well, taking the silver medal with a weight throw distance of 17.85 meters. The senior thrower also took home the BIG EAST Field Athlete of the Week honors after a dominant performance at the Bill Ward Invitational with a career-best weight throw of 18.18 meters.
Mecara Bruce ’18TCB, a defender on the St. John’s Women’s Soccer team, knows how to make an exit. In addition to starting all 19 games in her final season of play, she graduated in December with a 4.0 grade point average, and was named to the 2018 Google Cloud Academic All-America Division I Women's Soccer Second Team. A finance major, she is the first St. John's women's soccer player to garner the accolade since Rachel Daly ’15CPS, who received the distinction following the 2015 season.