DANVERS — The loss, a 7-4 quarterfinal defeat to Newton North, the 22nd seed in the Division 1 North tournament, resonated all summer with every player at St. John’s Prep.
When they reunited in August, in the hallways and the weight room at St. John’s Prep, the players focused on one game: an opening day matchup against Catholic Conference rival, and defending Division 1 state champion, Xaverian Brothers.
When the opener finally arrived, the sizzle turned to fizzle, particularly for the 13 Prep seniors.
Xaverian seized a 3-0 cushion in the first inning, capitalizing on a hit batter and a throwing error, and then survived a later rally from Prep for a 6-5 win.
“After the first loss — obviously it’s our senior year, our first opening day — you know it’s tough,” recalled Prep second baseman Tommy Buonopane , a senior captain.
“We all were so excited for that one day starting from August and it hurt losing that first game.
But it also kept us in check. After that first game, we never wanted to feel that feeling again, and we haven’t.”
Since that humbling opener, the Eagles have not endured that feeling again, ripping off 16 straight wins (through Wednesday’s 13-0 mercy-rule victory over visiting Everett), including a 7-3 triumph at Xaverian.
In short, the Eagles have taken flights, thanks in large part to an high-octane attack.
Since that loss on April 4th, the Prep has an eye-popping +101 run differential — with an average victory margin of 6.6 runs per game.
As a team, the Eagles are hitting at a .330 clip, while sporting a 0.985 OPS.
During the streak, they have beaten foes twice by 13 runs, and are 5-0 in games decided by two runs or less — highlighted by a walk-off, extra-inning 3-2 win on Monday over Boston College High, in which senior first baseman David Bornstein hit a moonshot that clinched the Catholic Conference title.
Despite the offensive juggernaut the Eagles appear to have, coach Pat Yanchus says offense is his biggest concern.
“The hitting has come and gone, we’ve had some games where we didn’t hit well, but we’ve managed to win those with pitching and defense,” said Yanchus.
“The biggest key has been pitchers not walking people, throwing strikes, quality pitching and starts, and getting ahead of batters. The defense has been great all year.”
The stats back it up.
In Wednesday’s romp over Everett, pitchers Justin Snyder and Jack Krasovec allowed just two base runners on two hits (one of which could have been scored a fielder’s choice) in their 4½ innings of work.
Seven Eagle pitchers have combined to allow only 22 earned runs all season. Opposing batters are hitting .160 against the Prep; in 119 innings the Eagles have surrendered only 25 walks, good for a stellar 1.46 WHIP. They’ve also struck out 149 batters — led by senior captain Brandon Bingel’s 53 punchouts in 38⅔ innings pitched — good for a team average of 8.8 K’s per seven innings pitched.
Everything is clicking.
Buonopane has been “a great leadoff guy,” according to Yanchus, with a .347 batting average and an even better 1.101 OPS to go along with 16 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases. Catcher Paul Crehan , a senior who couldn’t crack the field last spring, is batting .386 and has been a “big reason for our pitching success” with his defense behind the plate.
And the Eagles are playing with a little added motivation.
Former Eagle Pete Frates , who graduated from St. John’s in 2003 and went on to captain the baseball team at Boston College, is struggling with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Frates attends nearly every home game, and is always on the field to give a pregame speech.
The players pitched in and bought him a jersey — “a cool jersey that looks like a retro Houston Astros’s jersey with the stripes and everything,” according to Buonopane, that has his name and a patch that says “Strikeout ALS.”
“He pumps us up and says ‘play every game like it’s your last,’ ” said third baseman Tyler Noe, also a senior captain.
“He tells us ‘You never know when your last game is going to be. You have to leave it all out on the field.’ We take that to heart, especially coming from him.”
With that mentality in mind, the captains came up with a team motto: “One Way,” which Bingel describes as meaning “always play to win, never get down on each other, never get down on yourself, stay up for the team, and play that one way and you’ll be successful day in and day out.”
Adds Noe, “We play for meaning. We play for Pete. We’ve got to stay together, stay ‘one way’ and we’re going to do some good things.”
have 3-0 week
After suffering just its second loss of the season, 6-1 to Beverly, the Peabody baseball team has bounced back with a 3-0 week.
Although the glaring issue in the Beverly defeat was offense — which coach Mark Bettencourt called “the biggest hurdle” his club needs to overcome — the Tanners managed to escape on pitching and defense again as they won two 1-run games over Everett (3-2) and Lynn English (4-3).
They followed up with a 5-2 victory over Salem, highlighted by a strong pitching performance from junior Brandon Butcher , that clinched the NEC North Title for the Tanners.
Goddu comes back,
Everett loses four
Georgetown freshman Mike Goddu has made a remarkable recovery. On May 2 against Masconomet Regional, Goddu was struck in the face with a fastball that broke two bones in his left cheek. Just nine days later, with his eye still appearing swollen shut, Goddu returned to the lineup wearing a protective facemask and went 3 for 4 against Triton. . . . After going 9-1 to start the season, Everett High has stumbled, losing four of its last five to drop to 10-5 overall.Pat Bradley can be reached at email@example.com.