Sunday, June 3, 2018

Four Run Fifth Puts Finishing Touches on St. John's Prep's Super Eight Resume

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

DANVERS, Mass. – There was but one thing on St. Peter-Marian’s minds.

The only item on St. Peter-Marian's agenda Saturday afternoon was attaining a victory. One, which might convince the Super 8 committee to bring them on board once the seedings are announced on Sunday.  

But, as usual, the task at hand was a fierce challenge. Facing St. John's Prep, a notable stalwart in the Super 8 sweepstakes, and a likely participant again this year, the Guardians knew the margin for error needed to be minuscule. 

Staying close early, the Guardians (15-6) were unable to contain the Eagles in the latter stages as St. John’s Prep (16-5) erupted for four runs in their half of the fifth inning and en route to a 6-3 victory over St. Peter-Marian at Pete Frates Diamond. 

"I thought we pitched well and we got some very good defensive play," said Eagles coach Dan Letarte. "But that team battled. They are a good hitting team and just missed a few pitches that probably would've left the field. They are one of the best teams we've played all year and should be heavily considered for a Super 8 berth.”

After an insecure week in which the Prep struggled despite picking up wins over St. Mary's of Lynn, Swampscott and Hamilton-Wenham, it fell victim in its previous outing to Billerica. The Eagles responded, however, versus the Guardians as they banged out eight hits and came through with some timely at-bats with runners on base. 

Eagles’ Senior Jake Sanderson performed brilliantly during his 4 1/3 innings on the mound as he limited SPM to no runs on just two hits, striking out seven and issuing just one walk. 

Facing Guardians' freshman phenom Luke Delongchamp, who entered with a 4-0 record and 0.94 ERA, SJP managed to strike for a pair of runs after three innings. In the opening frame, the Eagles loaded the bases on a Tyler MacGregor single, an Alex Lane double and an intentional walk to Mike Yarin. Delongchamp then proceeded to walk Jacob Bolger to make it 1-0. Delongchamp (4 IP, 7 hits, 1 K, 1 walk) settled down thereafter as he got Jack Cairns to bounce into an inning-ending double play. 

After stranding a pair of runners in the next frame, SJP added to its lead in the third. Lane, who finished 3-for-4 at the plate, smacked his second double to lead things off. Yarin followed with a ground double over the first base bag, sending Lane to the plate for the Eagles' second run. 

"Obviously they are a good team so we knew we had to come out and play our best," Lane said. "In our last four games we hadn't played too well. We were able to squeak out some wins in some of those games. But I think the loss to Billerica (on Thursday) really woke us up.”

Sanderson, meanwhile, was having little difficulty with the Guardians' lineup.  In the fifth, the Prep received some insurance. Lane opened with a line single to left, marking an end to Delongchamp's afternoon. 

Sophomore Frank Hernandez was brought in and immediately served up a wild pitch moving Lane into scoring position. A walk to Yarin was followed by Bolger's bunt single to juice the bases.  Cairns next grounded a ball to shortstop tha led to an errant throw, bringing home both Lane and Yarin to put the Eagles ahead, 4-0. 

A Rich Williams' ground out platef Bolger before Andrew Dembowski laid down a squeeze bunt that brought Cairns across for SJP's sixth tally. With its offense dead silent against Sanderson, things started to change in the bottom of frame. Delongchamp opened with a walk but Sanderson got Matt Dumphy to fly out. Adhering to a pitch count, Letarte opted to pull Sanderson in favor of Kevin Dewing.

"Jake was on a pitch count of 40 today," noted Letarte. "He pitched very well and got on top of a lot of their batters. With the tournament possibly starting on Wednesday, we don't want to go long with any of our pitchers. So that changes a few things for us. But I thought all of our pitchers performed well.”

After fanning Cody Smith, Dewing, a left-hander, offered up a single to Dan Malm to keep the inning going. Hernandez then worked a 3-2 count before blasting a hanging curve deep into right field for a two-run triple. A few moments later, Hernandez sprinted home on a wild pitch to suddenly pull the Guardians within 6-3. 

"I was proud in the way our kids showed some fight," SPM coach Ed Riley said. "They could've cashed it in being down by six but they didn't. Frank came up with that huge hit for us. There is no doubt that Prep is the best team we have played this year.”

In the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, Sean Letarte and Garrett Siegel came on in relief to shut the door on SPM's comeback hopes, as they combined to allow no hits. Now the focus turns to what the committee thinks about the Guardians' chances of either earning a Super 8 bid or be sent to the Division 1 Central Mass. tournament.

"I honestly feel that we have a team that can compete with any team in the state," said Riley. "As far as the Super 8 goes, that is out of my control. If they did put us in, I believe that we would make a good showing and compete. Would we love to be in the Super 8? Absolutely. We are a team that has won 15 or more games the last five years playing a Division 1 schedule.”

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