On Friday afternoon, following a two-hour practice, the St. Sebastian’s baseball teamwas not ready to leave the field.
The Arrows kept on working.
Instead of parting ways, the players headed to the batting tunnels — a collection of seven seniors, eight juniors, two sophomores, and a freshman tuning up the country music, a staple of the team’s practice ritual — and swung the bats.
“If we didn’t shut down practice, these kids wouldn’t go until the sun went down,” said St. Seb’s coach Richard Connolly. “I have to force them to go home. We break down practice and I say, ‘Alright time to go home, time to get dinner.’ And after I get to my car, they’re out there hitting [batting practice]. It’s awesome, really cool to see.”
The team’s commitment to practice has been lucrative for the Independent School League leader.
At 14-2 and 11-1 in the ISL, the Arrows are on the cusp of defending their ISL crownfrom 2017, which was the program’s first since 2007. Before that, the last crown was 1996.
The Arrows have leaned on their veterans.
A pair of seniors, shortstop Brian Craven, of Needham, and catcher Landon Dombrowski (Brookline), son of Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski, have furnished the run support and defense that has been coupled by strong pitching from junior ace Billy Seidl (Wellesley) and sophomore Matt Joyce (Braintree).
Craven, a team captain who is hitting .375 with seven RBIs, credits consistent pitching for the Arrows’ success.
“We’re coming up on the last week [the season finale is Monday against Thayer],” said Craven, who is headed to the University of Richmond in the fall.
“So far, it’s been relying heavily on our two starting pitchers in [Seidl] and Matt Joyce. We work off that foundation every game because we know they’re going to bring their best.”
In a pitching-oriented league, games are scheduled for Wednesdays and Friday/Saturday.
“The teams with two strong pitchers are in a very good spot in the ISL,” said Craven. “Most teams are going to have one [who’s] a serious college prospect, and that’s usually their Saturday guy. It’s pitching first.”
A Duke recruit, Seidl posts a 6-0 record with a 0.68 earned run average in 41⅓ innings, with 54 strikeouts and nine walks over that span.
The righthander overpowers hitters with his accurate fastball, which clocks in between 87 and 90 miles per hour, while mixing in a nifty slider.
“I attack with the fastball,” said Seidl. “That’s a big part of my game. This year, working off my two-seamer. My slider has been working well for me. Kind of that 1-2 punch there. That’s what’s been helping me the best.”
Joyce has a 3-1 record through 30⅓ innings with a 1.38 ERA and 27 strikeouts.
“He’s a crafty guy. He’s got five or six different pitches,” Seidl said of Joyce. “He’s got a knuckleball, throws curveball, slider, changeup, fastball. You don’t know what you’re going to get.”
In his second season as the starting catcher, the Wake Forest-bound Dombrowski said Seidl and Joyce have been amazing.
“We’re really deep,” he said. “Even if they have a rough outing, they all feel comfortable and it’s just a really easy job for me.”
On April 18, Dombrowksi and the Arrows played at his father’s home office, taking on Belmont Hill at Fenway Park. The Arrows pulled out a thrilling walkoff win, thanks to Seidl’s stellar pitching and an RBI single from Tim Noone.
“It was awesome, probably the highlight of my baseball career,” said Dombrowski.
“It was magical. Walking off at Fenway and just all the pastime. [Seidl] kept us in that game. He pitched amazing.
“We always have a shot because of our pitching.”
■ Franklin is making a strong case to be the first Hockomock League squad to receive a Super 8 bid. The seventh-ranked Panthers (12-4) bounced back from a loss against Taunton on Wednesday with a key nonleague victory over Catholic Memorial on Thursday before falling to Mansfield, 10-3, on Monday.
Success starts the mound with a four-man rotation. Fairfield-bound righthander Jake Noviello is the ace, followed by Bryan Woelfel , lefty Jason Ulrickson , and James Leofanti . The latter tossed a no-hitter against Milford in his first start of the season while the 6-foot-5 Noviello has three shutouts.
“It always starts with pitching,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown . “If you’re going to have success you got to have guys on the hill that will give you a chance each game. I feel like we have a really solid rotation and have four guys that can start for us and do a good job.”
Along with the victory over CM, the Panthers own important wins against Mansfield, Oliver Ames, and Walpole.
“I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t a desire to play in the Super 8 tournament,” Brown said.
“Any team that’s competitive wants to play in the biggest stage. At the end of the season, the dust will settle and hopefully we’ve challenged ourselves with our schedule and performed well and we’ll take whatever our state is at that point.”
■ Walpole (10-4) was not on the initial Super 8 “Watch List” on May 4th. But the Rebels won eight straight before losing to Wellesley, 6-2, on Monday. The Rebels thrive on stellar pitching, leaning on a potent 1-2 punch in junior Cam Schlittler and Matt Donato .
Schlittler has racked up three double-digit strikeout games and Donato has four complete games. As a staff, the Rebels have allowed three runs or less in nine games. Walpole has a key matchup against Braintree Tuesday (weather permitting) before taking on Silver Lake and Brookline.
■ It was a quite a 24-hour period for Austin Prep last week. The second-ranked Cougars (10-1) received a combined no-hitter from Denis Taylor and Enzo Galetta in a 15-0 win over Arlington Catholic on Sunday before UMass-Lowell bound left hander Cam Seguin no-hit Cardinal Spellman the next day.
Players of the Week:
Jacob Bolger, St. John’s Prep — Batting out of the leadoff spot, the senior captain helped the third-ranked Eagles (9-4) dispatch Peabody, 14-0, on Thursday afternoon when he launched a pair of two-run homers.
Peter Cohen, North Attleborough — In Wednesday’s 4-2 Hockomock League victory over Sharon, the senior tossed 5⅓ scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit, while striking out eight for the Red Rocketeers (10-1). On Friday, he launched a grand slam in a 11-2 drubbing of Foxborough.
Charlie Coon, Duxbury — On Monday, the sophomore delivered at the plate with a 3 for 4 showing and two RBIs in a win over Plymouth South before no-hitting Quincy on Wednesday in a 14-0 shortened victory.
Brendan Ferrell, Plymouth North — The 5-foot-11 inch southpaw tossed a complete game with 10 strikeouts in a 3-1 Patriot League win over Hingham on Wednesday. On Friday, in a 7-0 victory over Quincy, Ferrell went 2 for 3 with three RBIs to pace the sixth-ranked Eagles (11-2)
Games to Watch
Tuesday, Walpole at Braintree, 3:45 p.m. — The top two teams in the Bay State Conference seek a statement victory for the Super 8 selection committee. The Rebels (10-3) go for the season sweep after defeating Braintree, 5-3, last Friday.
Wednesday, Andover at Central Catholic, 3:30 p.m. — The first two scheduled meetings between the Merrimack Valley Conference rivals were postponed. They’ll finally square off in this midweek showdown.
Thursday, Reading at Lexington, 4:15 p.m. — First place in the Middlesex League Liberty Division will be on the line in a matchup with Super 8 implications. The 19th-ranked Rockets (8-2) knocked off Lexington, 3-2, in the first meeting of the season on May 1st.
Saturday, Masconomet at Beverly, 11 a.m. —
Monday, Peabody at Austin Prep, 4 p.m. —