By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As the LIU Brooklyn baseball team was getting ready for its home opener this Saturday, the Blackbirds were in Queens on Wednesday to take on the St. John’s Red Storm, and it looked like they had some trouble adjusting to the cold weather after their early-season road trip to Texas and Florida.
The Blackbirds committed four errors in the first three innings that cost them seven runs as they went on to lose to the Red Storm 8-5 at Jack Kaiser Stadium in Queens on Wednesday. It was a game they could have won without those errors.
“Sometimes we lose our focus out in the field which we did today,” said interim coach John Suarez. “We gave them four unearned runs. That's the kind of game that if we play good defense we can win. The games that we win, we've played good defense.”
The Blackbirds started off their year with a trip to Texas that started off with four losses in a row followed by three wins. After that they went to Florida where they beat Yale, Northwestern and North Dakota State before coming back up north where they were greeted by temperatures in the upper 30s, rain and heavy wind.
“We talk about one of our major themes this year is focusing, focusing on every pitch, focusing on everything we do,” Suarez said. “When it's cold out, you have to turn that up another level. You have to concentrate on what you are doing and not the cold. It's cold for both teams.”
Nick Freijomil, a freshman from Franklinville, N.J., started and pitched 5.1 innings as he allowed eight runs, four earned, on nine hits and three walks. Suarez thought he did a solid job though considering all of the extra outs he had to make on account of the sloppy fielding.
“I like the way that Nick was throwing the ball,” Suarez said. “When you have to get extra outs like that, it tends to take you out of your rhythm and makes it harder to pitch. Again, it brings us back to our theme of that guys have to focus. The infielders need to make plays and the pitchers need to move past it when they make mistakes.”
The Blackbirds got one run in the sixth when John Ziznewski hit a sac fly that scored Pete Leonello. They trailed 8-1 headed into the ninth when they finally strung some hits together.
Ziznewski got them started that inning when he reached on an error by St. John's shortstop Robert Wayman. he came around to score when Bobby Webb singled him in. Kevin Needham followed that up with another RBI-single and Kyle DeMarco and Leonello each had bases loaded walks to force in another pair of runners. Unfortunately, Jon McAllister grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the threat.
“I liked the way we hung in there, we had the winning run at the plate in the top of the ninth and we've proven that we can come back,” Suarez said.
The Blackbirds, who were picked to finish fourth in the Northeast Conference in a coaches poll, are now 6-8-1 overall this season. They will take the field at LIU Brooklyn for the first time this Saturday, when they host the New York Institute of Technology on Saturday in the first of six games that will take them through the end of March.
“I like the team,” Suarez said. “I think we have some pretty good hitting and some pretty good pitching. Our defense is the one area that we need to bear down on.”