Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Your MIAA Baseball Super 8 Final Preview

St. John's Prep rolls into its third consecutive Super 8 final, but the Eagles will have to defeat top-seeded St. John's (Shrewsbury) to win the title.
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

The Division 1A "Super Eight" tournament began back on May 31st, with each of the eight teams starting a journey that they hoped would end in a dog pile at Campanelli Stadium.

That eight-team field has winnowed to two, as St. John’s (Shrewsbury) and St. John’s Prep will face off in the Super Eight final on Wednesday night.

St. John’s (Shrewsbury), the season-long favorite to win the title, has won their first three games in the tournament. In the first round the Pioneers squeaked past eighth seeded Belmont, 3-1, before defeating BC High and St. John’s Prep to reach the final.

It will be the Pioneers' first state final appearance since facing BC High in the 2009 Division 1 State Final.

St. John’s Prep, meanwhile, won their first two games over Newton North and Central Catholic, before faltering in the Super Eight semifinals. The Eagles quickly recovered though, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat BC High, 9-7, in an elimination game to reach the finals.

The appearance in the finals is the third consecutive such trip for the Prep. The Eagles certainly hope this one goes far better than the last two where in each case they won the first game of the series in dominating fashion only to fall in game two.

Standing as the lone undefeated team, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) holds a significant advantage. St. John’s Prep will not only have to beat the Pioneers on Wednesday night, but beat them a second time in a potential game two that would be played on Thursday night in order to claim the title for themselves.

Here is how we expect Wednesday’s Super Eight Final to unfold.

No. 2 St. John’s Prep vs. No. 1 St. John’s (Shrewsbury)

Probable Starting Pitchers: Jake Sanderson, RHP – St. John’s Prep; Matt Stansky, RHP – St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Date/Time/Location: June 14th, 7pm, Campanelli Stadium

Over the course of the last two Super Eight tournaments, St. John’s Prep has followed the same 2-2-2-2-1 pitching formula, and Wednesday night is expected to be no different. Jake Sanderson is the Prep’s probable starting pitcher, as he has been on the bump to begin each of the Prep’s first four Super Eight games. Sanderson will likely be followed by some combination of Casey Bussone, Max Gieg, Zach Begin, Dan Regan and Matt Relihan.

While Bussone began the tournament as the Prep’s closer, he came on in relief in the top of the second in St. John’s Prep’s semifinal game against BC High, earning a key strikeout to get the Prep out of a jam.

Gieg, meanwhile, has had an impressive showing for only a sophomore. The tall right-hander has come in and gotten key outs during the middle innings for the Eagles over their last three tournament games.

For St. John’s (Shrewsbury), the ball is expected to be in the hands of senior right-hander Matt Stansky.

Stansky has made one start so far in the Super Eight, tossing 4.2 innings of one-run ball against BC High in the quarterfinals. A Bryant commit, Stansky features a fastball that hovers around the mid-80s to go with a breaking ball. When at his best, Stansky is able to establish the inner half with his fastball early in the game, before dominating the outer third as the game progresses.

The pressure in this game figures to be all on the St. John’s Prep offense. The Pioneers have proven to be able to score in a variety of ways so far this tournament, and have seen each of the Prep arms a bevy of times so far this season. Additionally, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) has had the upper hand from a defensive standpoint so far this tournament. The Pioneers have made just a single error in their three Super Eight games, while the Prep committed six alone in their most recent matchup with BC High.

While we expect this game to be back-and-forth throughout the early innings, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) seems poised to bust out late in the game facing arms that will be all too familiar to them.

Look for Nick McDonald to come in late to slam the door, and deliver the Pioneers their first Super Eight championship.

Feld’s Pick: St. John’s (Shrewsbury), 8-3

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