Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Three Run Fourth Lifts St. John's Prep Past Malden Catholic

By John McGuirk (@PatsFan1313)

Danvers, Mass. – Monday's Catholic Conference showdown between Malden Catholic and St. John's Prep would prove to be a daunting task for both clubs. 

With each team coming off opening day shutout defeats, neither was looking to extend its losing streak to two games. After getting down early, the Eagles managed to put up enough offense late to rally past the Lancers, 5-3, on Pete Frates Diamond at Brother Linus, C.F.X. Athletic Commons.

After being stymied over the first three frames, and trailing 1-0, St. John's Prep (1-1) finally got to Malden Catholic starter Nick Iannuzzi in the fourth which changed the complexion of this contest. 

The Eagles loaded the bases against the senior right-hander before junior Alex Lane roped an inside fastball to left for a ground-rule double which scored a pair of runs to give the Eagles the lead for good. That was immediately followed by a Zeke O'Connell sacrifice fly that put St. John's Prep in front 3-1.

"(Iannuzzi) was good as he got us during the first time through the line up," said Lane. "But the second time through, I came up with the bases loaded and no out and was able to turn on an inside fastball. It felt really good."

Eagles starting pitcher Sean Letarte, after surrendering a run in the opening frame, settled in nicely. The UMass-Lowell commit held the Lancers (0-2) in check with a mix of fastballs and curves before exiting after four innings. Letarte allowed just two hits while fanning three. 

"We had some good at-bats and some timely hits today," Eagles coach Dan Letarte said. "I also thought we got some decent pitching and our kids came to play. I thought Sean did a pretty good job. He was able to keep the ball down against them. When he gets ahead, the curve ball really seems to work well for him. I told our kids after the game that we need to scratch and claw each and every day and try to find ways to win. That is the type of team we have. I'm just happy the kids were able to get this win today."

Malden Catholic, who lost to Xaverian 14-0 in its opener, plated a run in its initial inning thanks to a couple of base hits from Joe Ward and Chris Peguero followed by a Ian Libby RBI ground out. 

With Iannuzzi holding down the fort over the first three frames, you had to wonder if the Eagles bats would ever awake. Last week, St. John's Prep began its season with a 1-0 defeat against Catholic Memorial.

Finally, in the the fourth, the Eagles offense came to life. Andrew Dembowski opened by being hit by a pitch. Jacob Bolger reached on an infield single and Tyler MacGregor's routine fly to left was dropped by Kyle Holmes to load the bases. 

Lane, a junior committed to Bryant University, then ripped an 0-1 pitch deep to left that bounced over the fence. 

With runners now on second and third, O'Connell came through with a deep fly out to left, scoring MacGregor with the Eagles' third run.

Relief pitcher Garrett Siegel was called upon to begin the fifth for St. John's Prep. The righty proved moderately effective going 2 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and two runs. 

Clinging to their two run advantage, the Eagles were able snare some breathing room in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, MacGregor doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. 

After a walk to Lane, O'Connell singled to left scoring MacGregor. Joe Muzio followed with another single to load the bases and put an end to Iannuzzi's day. Iannuzzi surrendered six hits and struck out two. 

Peguero was summoned from his shortstop position to try and get Malden Catholic out of the jam. However, the sophomore unleashed a wild pitch which scored pinch-runner Harrison Fiscus to make it 5-1. Peguero managed to escape further damage by striking out the next two batters.

"I thought Nick probably deserved a little better today," said Lancers' coach Pat Driscoll. "But Prep made more plays than us. Nick was on top of most of the hitters and he really battled. I think he showed today why he is one of the better pitchers out there."

To the Lancers' credit, they did not go down quietly. 

In the top half of the seventh, pinch-hitter Dan Marshall led off with a single and advanced to second on a ground out. 

After being balked to third, the junior sprinted home on Vincent Coppola's grounder that resulted in a throwing error by MacGregor at third base which moved Coppola to second. 

Siegel K'd Ward for the second out, but the senior could not finishing things off as he issued a run scoring single to Adam Braid, cutting St. John's Prep's advantage to two runs.

"I was proud of our guys for battling right to the end," Driscoll said. "They made Prep work for it. The biggest thing in this conference is that you need to do the little things every single inning in order to be effective." 

With the tying run coming to the plate, Dan Letarte had no choice but to turn to his closer Matt Relihan to stop the bleeding.

 The senior did just that, striking out Peguero to seal the victory.

"This was a good team win," said Lane. "Sean pitched lights out, Garrett pitched lights out and Matt came in at the end to shut it down. We have really good balance within our line up and a lot of depth in our pitching. Everyone here just trusts one another."

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