SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Prior to yesterday’s non-league tilt against St. John’s Shrewsbury, Pat Yanchus, the longtime helmsman of the St. John’s Prep baseball program, noted that much of this season’s success has been due in part to the Eagles’ solid defensive play.
After watching his team commit four errors, all of which played a huge role in his club’s 4-3 loss at Pioneer Field, Yanchus may want to re-track those statements.
The Eagles were generous on the defensive side. In turn, it also soured a solid performance by junior righty Dustin Hunt, who allowed just three hits and struck out seven in a complete game effort. All of St. John’s runs were unearned.
“We’ve been playing great defense all year, but today we made some key errors, three in one inning, which was the game,” said Yanchus, his team now standing at 11-3. “Dustin pitched great. That’s the best he’s pitched for us this season. He had all three of his pitches (fastball, curve and change up) working for him. It was a non-league game today so we’re still in good position but you still would like to win these games and not give them away like we did today.”
In the bottom of the third, the Pioneers struck for three runs on just one hit but capitalized on three Eagle miscues.
With two on and two out, Nick Sieber grounded a ball off of third baseman Tyler Noe’s glove which plated Mike Sullivan, who walked. After Hunt issued a base on balls to Owen Shea, Eagles catcher David Maher tried to pick off Shea at first but his throw bounced away from first baseman Nick Bragole allowing Tom Petry, who singled, to score St. John’s second run. The play continued as a throw to nail Sieber sprinting to third sailed into left field allowing the senior to come around and cross the plate.
“In a couple of ways we stole this game, but we’re not going to give it back,” said Pioneers coach Charlie Eppinger, his team improving to 10-2. “Anytime you beat St. John’s Prep it’s certainly a good victory. We ran the bases well and took advantage in what they gave us.”
St. John’s starter Ben White was doing a yeoman-like job keeping the Eagle bats silent over the first three frames. But in the fourth, the Prep offense finally awoke. Anthony Capuano walked and Brandon Bingel followed with a single. After a wild pitch advanced both runners, Capuano trotted home with the Eagles’ first run on a pass ball.
White (5.2 IP, 2 hits, 9 K's, 109 pitches) set down St. John’s Prep in order the following frame, but ran into trouble in the sixth. With his pitch count rising, the junior righthander loaded the bases by plunking Bragole, serving up a single to Andrew Donahue and walking Keith Leavitt. A meeting on the mound did little to sooth White as he then walked to Maher to force in Bragole to make it a 3-2 game.
Pioneer ace Mike Badjo was then called to the mound in place of White to try and get St. John’s out of this mess. The senior did just that, striking out Rory Garrison and keeping the Pioneers’ slim lead in tact.
“My arm felt the best it has felt all year,” said Badjo. “Ben threw a great game for us but got into a little trouble late. I just wanted to come in and help him out. Starting a game in nice because you get your mind set before the game. But coming in relief is nice as well because you come into a pressure situation and that’s what you live for. As a reliever you really don’t have time to think, you just go out there and throw.”
The Pioneers, who defeated the Eagles 4-2 back on April 13th, added a much-needed insurance run in their half of the sixth, on yet again, another St. John’s Prep error. In the frame, Shea reached base on a one out walk. Scott Manea followed with a line single to right putting runners on the corners. With Tanner Johnson running for Manea, Eppinger called for a steal. Maher’s throw to second was high, tipping off the glove of Bingel, the Eagles’ shortstop, and sending Shea home with St. John's fourth run.
St. John’s Prep's attempt of a comeback fell one run shy in the final inning. Badjo struckout the first two batters he faced but Capuano worked him for a walk. The senior moved to third following a steal and wild pitch. He came home after Petry, the Pioneer shortstop, failed to handle Bingel’s hard grounder cleanly. However the damage was miniscule as Badjo was able to retire Bragole to end the contest and preserve the victory.