BROCKTON — Nerves that would rattle the average pitcher appear to have no effect on Jack Connolly.
Bridgewater-Raynham held a one-run advantage with one out in the bottom of the fifth and Connolly’s pickoff attempt to first sailed wide and into right field. St. John’s Prep junior Ed McNamara scampered from first to third on the play as the Eagles placed the tying run 90 feet away for the third time in four innings.
But Connolly appeared unfazed, atoning for his mistake by ringing up the next two Eagles on back-to-back called third strikes, the final of which sent emotion roaring out of the righthanded junior.
“I love the pressure,” Connolly said with a smile. “I live for pressure.”
To those who have watched him develop into a Division 1 college talent, Connolly may have never looked better than he did during his first Super 8 start Saturday afternoon. The Notre Dame commit scattered four hits and notched 11 strikeouts in a complete-game effort for the third-seeded Trojans, who defeated No. 2 St. John’s Prep, 3-1, before an energetic crowd at Campanelli Stadium.
“That’s the best he’s ever pitched,” said B-R assistant coach Glen dePontbriand, who filled in for head coach John Kearney while he attended his daughter’s college graduation. “He was just awesome. I saw a look in his eyes — no way he wanted to come out. I don’t know what Kearney would have done, but we went with him and it worked out.”
Clinging to the 1-0 lead, the Trojans (20-2) padded their lead with runs in the sixth and eighth innings.
A pair of hit batsmen and a walk loaded the bases for B-R with one out in the sixth. On a 1-1 count, senior Connor Sullivan sent a slow-rolling grounder past Eagles ace Justin Snyder (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER), scoring Cam Polson on a fielder’s choice to first.
Two innings later, Andrew Noviello continued his torrid Super 8 hitting — reaching base for the 10th time in as many plate appearances. The junior ripped a Justin Foley offering that one-hopped the wall in right-center field for a double. After advancing on a groundout to third, Noviello scored on a wild pitch.
The Eagles (17-5) cut the deficit to two in the bottom half of the inning when Nick Latham followed Mark Etherington’s triple with a grounder to first to put St. John’s on the board.
Senior Rosario Missiti created more buzz in the Eagles’ dugout to start the ninth, leading off with an eight-pitch walk as Connolly’s pitch count crept north of 120. But catcher Joe Freiday silenced the Prep sideline with a spectacular individual effort.
Missiti was off with the 1-2 pitch to Keith Leavitt — a swinging strike three that came in low. The Virginia Tech-bound catcher was able to corral the low toss and snap a perfect throw to shortstop Kyle Horsman at second to double-up Missiti.
The Trojans put up the first run early as the second pitch of the game plunked Tyler Carey. The senior advanced to second on a putout and came racing home after a single by Noviello was fumbled in left field.