DANVERS, Mass. -– Xaverian took an early lead and never looked back, even if things did seem to get a bit interesting along the way. The Hawks knocked off Catholic Conference foe St. John’s Prep 6-5, after taking a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Senior Austin DeCarr got the start on the mound for Xaverian, and he pulled through stongly -— giving up just two runs on two hits in four innings pitched. He struck out five Prep batters and threw 67 pitches. It was all according to Xaverian coach Gerry Lambert’s plan.
“Early season, I keep a pretty tight rein on the guys," Lambert said. I think he was at 66 or 67, and that is about our target early-season for our starters. As the year wears on, we’re counting on him getting stronger, the weather getting warmer, and eventually he’ll be fully stretched out.
"But I promised myself years ago as a coach, I will not sacrifice June 5 for April 5. He wanted to stay out there, I said no.”
The Hawks (1-1) got off to a quick start, scoring three runs on Prep starting pitcher Dustin Hunt (3.2 IP, 5 K’s, 7 hits, 6 runs) in the top of the first inning. Aaron Drummey started off the run for Xaverian with a base hit, Alex Person was hit by a pitch immediately after. Following a throwing error on a groundball to second base, DeCarr and Jake McLaughlin each chipped in with RBI singles.
“For us to get three in the first inning -— especially [after] they made a mistake, that’s an early-season mistake, and we broke the door through," Lambert said. "A good team takes advantage…we were able to parlay that with a couple of extra hits."
Person came up big once again in the second inning, notching a line drive to center field. AJ King scored off the hit, Drummey was thrown out at the plate, and Person was then thrown out trying to stretch his run to third base. However, the damage was already done -— giving the Hawks a 4-1 lead.
Prep added a run in the bottom of the second, sophomore Keith Leavitt came around to score on a base hit by catcher Paul Crehan. Leavitt (2-4, 2B, 2 runs scored) also helped initiate the Eagles’ rally in the bottom of the sixth—one inning after Andrew Elliot belted a two-run home run for Xaverian that narrowly cleared the fence in right center field.
“He’s been a little out in front," Lambert said. "We talked a little bit about how he has to stay within himself. He obviously has some pop in his bat. If that had only been a double...we’d still be playing right now. We’ll take it, it’s a game of inches -— sometimes you’re on the right side of it.”
Down 6-2 in the bottom of the sixth, senior Nick Bragole drew a leadoff walk for Prep. Five pitches later, Leavitt slammed a ground-rule double down the right field line.
In the next at-bat, designated hitter David Bornstein got on base on an error, scoring Bragole, then Crenan (2-2, BB) and pinch-hitter Natty Cabral each had a pair of RBI singles—bringing the score to 6-5 after six innings.
“We had a tough stretch there, we had a passed ball and an error or two, and they jump on you," Lambert said. "Prep is a very opportunistic baseball team. They always are. When they take the momentum, they take it 100%. They’ve always been like that."
Justin Snyder (2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R) got the job done on the mound in the top of the seventh the Eagles, forcing Drummey and Person to ground out and fly out, respectively, before striking out Elliot on a fastball to bring his team to bat with one last chance to tie the game.
Senior captain Tyler Noe started off the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff walk, stole second on the very next pitch, and advanced to third on a routine ground ball played by the third baseman. This brought up Bragole, Prep’s clean-up hitter, with one out.
Bragole laid down a bunt, but Noe was gunned down via an underhand toss to the plate by Xaverian reliever Worth Walrod. Leavitt flied out in the next at bat to end the game.
“It’s a step in the right direction for us early in the season," Lambert said. "We have a ways to go…so that maybe we only have one mistake rather than three or four -— but at least we didn’t make five, cause that fifth one would have been the one that would have put them over the top. We were able to stop the bleeding there.”