DANVERS, Mass. -– St. John’s Prep’s offense was quiet for five innings, but St. John’s Shrewsbury (8-3) starter P.J. Browne couldn’t hold the Eagles’ deep lineup back the third time through the order.
Despite being down 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Eagles got late game heroics from their offense – including a home run by Teddy Mcnamara and a two-run walk-off home run by Nick Latham in the bottom of the ninth to give Prep a 6-4 victory.
After a game where Prep’s offense had scored in spurts, Latham came up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with Ryan Spurr (2-4, 2 runs) on second. Latham then took the game into his own hands, belting a 1-1 fastball over the center field fence –- a “no-doubter” from the time it left the bat.
“We had a man on second, I was just going for a line drive base hit up the middle. That’s the approach I’ve had with pretty much every home run I’ve ever hit. It started as a line drive swing, I ended up getting a good piece of it,” Latham said, “I knew it right away that it was gone, I was just excited to help the team get a win.”
The victory proved a lot for the young Eagles (9-1), a team who had little experience returning in their bullpen this season. Prep starter Justin Snyder allowed four runs, two earned, before Eagles’ coach Dan Letarte went to junior lefty Frank Soucy out of the bullpen in extra innings. Junior Dan Trulli came in late, also allowing no runs, to seal pick up the victory for St. John’s Prep.
“We brought in Frank and we knew he’d do a good job," Letarte said. "Trulli, who hasn’t really pitched in awhile, is a groundball out pitcher and he got us a nice groundball out. Give Trulli a lot of credit, and Frank, to put them in a situation like that."
Trulli came in following a disappointing eighth inning at the plate for St. John’s Prep. After loading the bases with no outs, the Pioneers retired three consecutive Prep batters to get out of the jam – leaving the Eagles wondering if they had possibly blown the only opportunity they might get to win the game. Immediately after Sawyer Billings grounded out for the third out, Letarte had some advice for the team –- Trulli in particular.
“We said just throw it down the middle, let’s go. Go play defense and win," Letarted said. "We wanted a one minute inning, and if they hit it out, then they hit it out. In those situations the momentum always swings to the other team. We had bases loaded no outs, I was pretty much telling the kids that’s when the momentum changes in any sport."
Trulli must have been listening. He went out and threw a four pitch inning against the Pioneers’ third, fourth, and fifth hitters Scott Manea, Browne, and Joey Evangelista.
“Once we got that 1-2-3 we knew we were going to come back in here and win the game,” Latham said. “We knew that was coming.”
Super 8 implications: After outstanding play so far this season, including an undefeated slate thus far in Catholic Conference play, St. John’s Prep has put themselves in a good position at making an early case for the Super 8, their only loss coming to No. 3 Peabody in their season-opener.
The Pioneers play three more games against teams outside of Central Mass. this year, against BC High, New Bedford, and Xaverian, so Letarte and his team knew that the Eagles would have a target on their back coming into this game given the importance for both teams’ strength of schedule. After victories over some of the state’s top teams, Letarte still admits that he thinks about Prep’s standing in the Super 8 “all the time.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it," Letarte said. "I tell the kids every day to not think about it, but it’s all I’m thinking about. For the first year, to prove you’re one of the best eight teams in the state, that means a lot. We know we’re going to see them again if both teams to make it. It’s nice when you play teams like this and games like this.”