Monday, June 5, 2017

Your Do-or-Die Monday Super 8 Preview

The two-time defending Super 8 champion Braintree Wamps face elimination today.   Photo by Brendan C. Hall for ESPN Boston.
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

For the second time in the four-year history of the MIAA Division 1A Super Eight tournament, the top four seeds won their opening round games and advanced to the winners bracket.

Number one seed St. John’s (Shrewsbury) squeaked past eighth seeded Belmont 3-1, while four seed BC High knocked off two-time defending champion and fifth seeded Braintree. On the other side of the bracket, two seeded St. John’s Prep dominated seventh seeded Newton North, 18-3, and three seed Central Catholic took care of business against sixth seeded Xaverian, 11-2.

The tournament continued on Sunday with St. John’s (Shrewsbury) topping BC High and St. John’s Prep besting Central Catholic in the winners bracket. Both St. John's squads are off to the semifinals, while BC High and Central Catholic are now one game away from elimination.

But today the one-loss bracket begins with Newton North and Xaverian going head-to-head, and Braintree playing Belmont. In each of those contests, one team will see its Super 8 dreams end. Here's how we see do-or-die Monday shaking out.

No. 7 Newton North vs. No. 6 Xaverian

Probable Starting Pitchers: James Hodgson, RHP – Newton North; Owen Langan, RHP – Xaverian
3 pm, Campanelli Stadium

Newton North and Xaverian will play in an elimination game for the second time in three years when the two faceoff on Monday afternoon. Both teams suffered big losses in the opening round of the tournament, but have their number two starters ready to go in this win or go home game. James Hodgson is expected to get the start for the Tigers and the right-hander shined in his last outing in the final game of the regular season.

Hodgson went 7.1 innings against BC High, surrendering one earned run on five hits, while walking only one and fanning six. He features a sinking fastball to go with a spinning breaking ball, and finds great success in generating groundball outs when he keeps the ball below the belt.

Owen Langan is expected to take the ball in attempt keep the Hawks' season alive. Langan emerged as one of the top starters in the Catholic Conference this season, through consistent command with his fastball that ranges the low to mid 80s.

The right-hander faced the Tigers earlier in the year and went five innings, giving up just one earned run in a 3-2 Hawks extra-inning win. Look for both teams to play some small ball to try and gain the early edge ,but this will all be about whether Newton North, mired in an offensive slump, can score consistently.

Feld’s Pick: Xaverian, 2-1

No. 8 Belmont vs. No. 5 Braintree

Probable Starting Pitchers: Max Meier, RHP – Belmont; Kyle Gray, RHP – Braintree
6:30 pm, Campanelli Stadium

Both of these two lower seeded teams proved to be more than up to the challenge in their opening round matchups, but now must try to stave off elimination. The two-time defending champions will not have an easy road if they hope to continue on, as they are likely to face Belmont’s hard throwing right hander Max Maier.

Maier came on in relief against St. John’s (Shrewsbury) and threw two shutout innings, displaying his four-seam fastball that he gets hitters to chase with two strikes, to go with his big curveball. Behind the dish, Cal Christifori continued to be a force offensively, collecting a pair of hits, including an RBI double.

The Wamps are putting the ball in the hands of Kyle Gray in hopes of keeping their dreams of a third straight Super Eight title alive. Gray has been consistent for Braintree this season and last appeared in the Wamps' final regular season game against Hingham. Alex Kennedy has proven he is one of the top hitters in Massachusetts, while Justin Files, Kevin O’Brien, and Brennan Quigley create a solid 2-3-4 in the lineup.

Still, I see Belmont being able to scrape by barely offensively, and do just enough to become the first Division 2 team to win a game in the Super Eight.

Feld’s Pick: Belmont, 3-2

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