LIU Brooklyn baseball starts off homestand with 6-3 loss to St. John’s
The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds on Tuesday kicked off a stretch of games — during which they will play 10 of their next 11 at home in Brooklyn — with a 6-3 loss to St. John’s. It was a close game; they led 3-1 early, but slowly gave up the lead to the Queens powerhouse.
“It was a quality game all around,” said first baseman Mark Hernandez. “A couple of big hits here and there could have put us over the top. St. John’s is a quality opponent. We just have to find a way to win games late.”
Hernandez put LIU Brooklyn up 3-1 in the third inning when he drove in Dom Paiotti, Tommy Jakubowski and Melvin Rios with a bases-loaded double to deep center. St. John’s successfully chipped away at that lead against reliever Evan Flood as it scored one in the fourth, another in the fifth and finally took the lead in the seventh.
The Blackbirds are now 7-14 against non-conference opponents this season. They’re not happy about the poor record, but new head coach Alex Trezza said it’s all part of the process of improving, heading into Northeast Conference games.
“I like the way we’re playing, but we’re making too many mistakes to roll off 5, 6, 7 or 10 wins in a row, but we’ll get there when we need to,” Trezza said. “The more we play the better we’re going to get. The [non-conference] games are important because we learn to play as a team and get to try guys in different spots, but now we have to focus on the conference, and I think we’re in a good spot right now.”
The Blackbirds started their NEC schedule last weekend when they played a pair of doubleheaders in Staten Island against Wagner. They split that series 2-2 — not an ideal result, but one they’ll settle for, considering they were on the road against a tough opponent.
“Any time you can split a series, you always want to win, but a split is not a bad thing,” Jakubowski said. “Wagner is always a good team at the top of the NEC.”
It’s been an adjustment for LIU Brooklyn this season. The Blackbirds lost two of their best players from last year’s team; shortstop John Ziznewski was drafted by the Chicago White Sox and center fielder Pete Leonello graduated. They are also on their third coach in the past three years, so finding leadership and a team identity has been a process.
“It’s impossible to replace a Pete Leonello or a John Ziznewski, but these new coaches and new captains have done a great job,” Jakubowski said. “We don’t look to just one guy to lead. We’re a big team, and we all play a role.”
Jakubowski, a sophomore left fielder, has emerged as a leader early as he has led the team with a .383 average and 10 extra-base hits in 23 games. Trezza also tabbed shortstop Charles Misiano, a Xaverian product, Hernandez and Jon McAllister as players who have emerged as early team leaders.
“We’re trying to change the culture a little bit,” Trezza said. “These guys are doing a great job, but it’s going to take time. We’re playing good baseball, but we haven’t peaked yet. We’re getting there slowly but surely. There is still plenty of conference play to go.”
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