Monday, May 29, 2017

Super 8 Selection Recap and Analysis

By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

FRANKLIN, Mass. — Every year Super Eight selection Monday comes and goes and with it remains a bevy of teams in awe that they managed to slip into the field while others are left in shock that they missed out.

In less than hour, this year’s committee nominated 11 teams for the eight spots, with Lynn Classical being the only one of the 11 voted down right away. Three teams, St. John’s Shrewsbury, St. John’s Prep and Central Catholic, were unanimous votes meaning they automatically were entered as part of the Division 1A tournament. Seven others, meanwhile, received at least five of the nine votes – BC High, Braintree, Andover, Methuen, Xaverian, Newton North, and Belmont - which meant they were to be reconsidered for the final five spots.

When all was said and done, here is how the Super Eight field shook out:

1. St. John’s Shrewsbury
2. St. John’s Prep
3.    Central Catholic
4. BC High
5. Braintree
6. Xaverian
7. Newton North
8. Belmont

The field leaves with it a number of storylines, but there are three clearly that standout.

Strength of Schedule Reigns Supreme

Once again the committee made it clear that one of the most important factors in determining who is deserving of a spot in the Super Eight tournament is strength of schedule. That was no more evident than with the selections of Braintree, BC High, Newton North, and Xaverian. All four of those teams had at least six losses on the docket, and the Eagles and Tigers each finished the regular season with eight. 

BC High for their part played eight games against teams who were nominated, while Newton North participated in five contests against teams who made the field.

Eagles coach Norm Walsh said there was no question that his team’s schedule was the reason for its top four spot.

“When you look at the teams who got in or who was even considered we played most of those teams,” said Walsh. “We played the two St. John’s teams, we played Braintree, Xaverian, Newton North. We played Lexington who was red hot at the end of the year, Lincoln-Sudbury who won their league, and Acton-Boxboro who finished second in their league. I think we proved that we belonged there.”

Newton North coach Joe Siciliano said he hopes his young team benefits from the regular season losses they experienced against solid opponents. 

We go out and play a very tough schedule,” said Siciliano. “The kids have learned a lot from some of the losses and hopefully we will be able to compete in the tournament."

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for the Merrimack Valley

The evening was somewhat bittersweet for the Merrimack Valley Conference. On the one end they saw their three-year drought of not having a team qualify for the field come to an end with the unanimous vote of Central Catholic. There was the fact, however, that both Methuen and Andover were shut out in the second round of voting even though a fair amount of spectators felt as though that at least one would join the Raiders in the Super Eight.

Even more incredible was the fact that both Methuen and Andover received eight votes during the first round of voting, only to receive none when it came time for the reconsideration portion of the process. 

One may point to the two team’s strength of schedule especially with regards to their non-league games. Methuen was praised by Division 1A Tournament Director Don Fredericks for winning 17 games and coming away with two victories down the stretch but in the end it turned out not to be enough. 

The Rangers and Golden Warriors were turn aside in favor of Catholic Conference power Xaverian, Bay State Conference champion Newton North, and Division 2 standout Belmont. 

Tournament founder Kirk Fredericks said its up to the conference to break the trend.

“If you are in the Merrimack Valley and you want to break the (Catholic Conference and Bay State) bias, then go out and beef up your non league games,” said Fredericks. “The Bay State and Catholic Conference play a one day tournament with four games every year go out and create something like that. The Bay State League is shifting their league schedule next year so they will have more openings and the Catholics are always willing to play.”

Relatively Familiar Faces 

This year’s field welcomes Middlesex League Liberty champion Belmont as well as the aforementioned Raiders of Central Catholic.

The Marauders, who became the second Division 2 team to be selected into the field, certainly bring plenty of firepower to the tournament. Left-handed ace Nate Espelin leads the talented squad, while Max Meier is a solid number two starter. Behind the dish Belmont has arguably the top catcher in Massachusetts in Yale commit Cal Cristofori.

For the most part, however, the field was a simple “welcome back” to past entrants. 

Newton North, Braintree, and St. John’s Prep are all making their fourth straight appearance while for BC High, Xaverian, and St. John’s Shrewsbury are experiencing their third time in the dance.

St. John’s Prep coach Dan Letarte said it’s just an honor to be recognized by the committee.

“Its awesome to be able to play against the top teams in the state in an elite tournament like the Super Eight,” said Letarte. “I thought we had a great regular season considering we lost our second baseman in Mike (Yarin) due to injury and are playing well at the right time.”

The Super Eight tournament will begin on Wednesday with all games at 4pm at the higher seed’s host venue.

The matchups:

No. 8 Belmont at No. 1 St. John’s Shrewsbury
No. 7 Newton North at No. 2 St. John’s Prep
No. 6 Xaverian at No. 3 Central Catholic (At Tewksbury High School)
No. 5 Braintree at No. 4 BC High

1 comment :

Unknown said...

Sounds like recycled arguments won the day without checking to see if they actually applied this year. Andover (and Methuen) played and beat just as many if not more top opponents as any of the other round 2 teams. To state that strength of schedule was a factor, when it is easily proven not to be, is disappointing.