St. John’s Prep has reached the Super 8 baseball tournament the last two seasons. Both times the Eagles ran into Bay State Conference power Braintree in a winner-take-all championship game, and both times the Wamps walked away with the Division 1A title.
This season, with a host of upperclassmen and some talented underclassmen, the Eagles are poised to make another run at the ultimate prize, with one goal on their mind: finish.
“We are hungry,” said Prep coach Dan Letarte. “We have been there before and haven’t really been able to close. Our team goal is trying to get better every day and get back to the Super 8.”
The Eagles, who went 20-8 last season, will again find themselves battling in the Catholic Conference. The Prep will also play Lincoln-Sudbury (April 17), Walpole (April 22), Newton North (May 19), and Central Mass. powers St. Peter-Marian (May 22) and St. John’s of Shrewsbury (May 15, May 26), all teams with Super 8 aspirations.
“Facing these tough opponents and a lot of tough pitching can help us get better and hopefully put us in a good position,” said Letarte.
The Prep will look to a loaded lineup led by junior Mike Yarin and seniors Andrew Selima and Frank DiOrio.
Yarin hit .309 last season with 2 home runs and 23 RBIs. The UConn commit went 5 for 5 with a two-run homer and four RBIs to chase rival BC High out of the Super 8. In Monday’s season opener, Yarin went deep in a 3-0 win over Catholic Memorial.
Selima is a 6-foot-2-inch lefthanded-hitting first baseman who is committed to play at Holy Cross. He drilled four home runs last season while posting a .303 average. He hit a homer against Malden Catholic on Wednesday that traveled more than 400 feet.
DiOrio, the right fielder, will bat third in the lineup most games behind Yarin. The righthanded-hitting UMass commit provided 2 homers, 20 RBIs, and a .333 average last season.
Senior shortstop Chris Francoeur, who is committed to play golf at Rhode Island, had just one error in 28 games in 2016. Francoeur’s bat, though, will also be a factor in the leadoff spot as he batted .363 with 3 homers and 17 RBIs last season.
“I feel like that as a senior, and all the other seniors, it’s our job to carry the team and be a role model,” said Selima. “But to see the underclassmen step up is an amazing feeling. We just need to go out there every day and be ourselves.”
Pitching might be the biggest question mark for Prep this season after graduating four from the staff. But seniors Casey Bussone and Zach Begin have started off the campaign strong.
The righthanded Bussone pitched 6⅓ scoreless innings while striking out nine against CM. The righthanded Begin had similar success against Malden Catholic, fanning eight over five frames with no earned runs. Junior righthander Jack Sanderson is also part of a strong rotation.
“I am extremely happy with the way [these pitchers] have progressed so far,” said Letarte.
St. John’s Prep will once again find itself in the middle of the Catholic Conference race while looking for redemption.
“I hope to find ourselves right back in it,” said Letarte. “The offseasons are always tough when you are thinking about what could have been.”
Also contending for the state title should be Braintree and BC High. The Wamps (19-6 in 2016) are gunning for a three-peat with senior Jack Andrews, who is slotted as their shortstop and No. 2 starter. At BC High (17-6), junior ace Mike Vasil, a University of Virginia commit, leads a strong pitching staff.
Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.