Monday, April 3, 2017

St. John's Prep Opens Season with Win over Rival Catholic Memorial

Catholic Memorial got beautiful weather for opening day, but it was all St. John's Prep from the first pitch.
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

WEST ROXBURY, Mass. - St. John’s Prep’s Mike Yarin needs no introduction, but on Monday he provided quite the opening act.

Behind Yarin’s first inning two-run home run, and six and a third innings of shutout baseball from starter Casey Bussone (6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K), the Eagles knocked off Catholic Memorial, 3-0, for an opening day Catholic Conference win on Monday afternoon at Catholic Memorial High School.

Bussone was magnificent throughout the entire contest, using a lethal fastball-curveball combination to keep the Knights hitters at bay.

The visiting Eagles’ offense, meanwhile, jumped on Knights’ starter Colin McGrath right out of the gate. Chris Francouer led off the top of the first by knocking a 1-2 hanging curveball into the left center field gap for a double.

McGrath (5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K) proceeded to fall behind the Eagles two hitter, Yarin, 2-1. Hoping to fool Yarin while behind in the count, McGrath spun in a changeup. Unfortunately for the Knights hurler, the changeup was left out over the plate and up in the zone where Yarin could handle it. The UConn commit stayed back and belted a two-run blast over the fence in right to give St. John’s Prep a 2-0 edge.

Yarin said it did not even feel good coming off the bat.

“(McGrath) just a hung a changeup and I was able to take advantage,” said Yarin. “To be quite honest, I did not even think I hit the ball that well and, depending on the field, that is a fly ball, so I won’t get too high on myself, but it got the job done.”

Those were the only runs that Bussone would need. The Eagles’ starter surrendered a pair of two out singles in the bottom of the first to Josh Petrucci and J.P. Kelley, but from that point forward was simply dominant.

Between the end of the first and until Trent Cooley was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Bussone retired 14 of 15 batters that he faced.

The senior was at his best in the middle innings, striking out the side in the bottom half of the fourth and fifth innings. Over the course of the three batters Bussone faced in the fifth, he threw 10 pitches, nine of which were strikes.

After Bussone went through the first time through the order throwing his fastball for strikes, he switched things around for his final four frames, often tossing home a get-me-over curveball to begin the at bat.

In all, the right-hander threw 92 pitches, 66 of which were strikes.

St. John’s Prep coach Dan Letarte said Bussone gave all you can ask for in an opening day start.

“For the first game, not walking a batter and having that type of command is terrific,” said Letarte. “All around just a very impressive start by Casey (Bussone).”

McGrath for his part settled down nicely after Yarin’s two-run blast to start the game. The sophomore ace used his slider to make up for at times a lack of fastball command. While the top of the Eagles’ order had success for most of the afternoon, McGrath was able to keep his team in the game by holding St. John’s Prep’s four through nine hitters hitless to go with eight strikeouts.

St. John’s Prep added a third run in the top of the sixth courtesy of a Knight’s defensive miscue. Dan Frey began the inning with a walk, and Malcolm Mitchell followed up by dropping down a beautiful bunt. Knight’s catcher J.P. Olson picked up the bunt but his throw to first base went a little bit high and down the right field line, allowing Frey to go first to third. Moments later, Zeke O’Connell knocked home Frey, courtesy of a 6-4-3 double play ball to put the Prep up 3-0.

“We struggled to put the ball in play in the late innings,” said Letarte of his team’s offense. “We need some more timely hits out of our guys, in the bottom of the order especially.”

Bussone began the seventh inning looking for the complete game shutout but gave up a leadoff single to James Moccio. One batter later, Letarte lifted Bussone for left-hander Dan Regan, who came in and retired the only two batters he faced for the save.

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