Boston High School: Gerry Lambert

Recap: No. 6 Xaverian 10, Wellesley 5

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Opening day in high school baseball does not hold the same pomp and circumstance as those celebrated by Major League clubs. However, there is a common thread that is shared.

Opening day represents a time when the previous season (good or bad) is forgotten about and the focus now reflects on the present.

For Wellesley and Xaverian, last year's disappointment for not reaching their respective goal has been put to rest. Saturday meant a fresh beginning for both of these programs whom together, believe they have enough talent to carry them deep into the postseason.

For Xaverian, last year's 10-11 finish was viewed a major disappointment after having won the Division 1 state crown the previous season. Likewise, Wellesley had its share of ups and downs a year ago finishing 12-11 followed by an early exit from the Division 2 tournament.

Against Xaverian, the Raiders, early on, displayed the type of offense head coach Rob Kane had hoped for. His team was aggressive at the plate versus Hawks starter Paul Regan, jumping out to a four-run lead. But to Wellesley's dismay, its pitching failed to sustain it as Xaverian bounced back magnificently, scoring three times in the fifth and adding four more in the sixth in rallying for a 10-5 victory.

"Wellesley jumped out on us good early," Hawks head coach Gerry Lambert said. "I thought they swung the bats well, especially in those first two innings."

The Raiders grabbed 5-1 after two frames before Xaverian began to chip away. The momentum swing in this one came in Wellesely's half fifth. On top 5-3, and with a chance to put the Hawks away after putting a pair of runners in scoring position with no out, a communication error saw them run themselves into outs, failing to pad their advantage.

With runners in scoring position and no out, pinch-runner Jack McManus was thrown out at the plate by third baseman Kevin Dolan on Ghiho Ghim's fielder's choice. Brad Marchetti then walked to load the bases. With Davis Wall up at bat, Andrew Lindquist -- who reached on a fielder's choice -- tried to steal home but was easily thrown out by relief pitcher Manny Peguero. The sophomore righty followed that up by getting Wall to bounce out and eliminate the threat.

"We had some miscommunication on the bases that inning," explained Raiders head coach Rob Kane. "If we had gotten the ball in play we would've at least scored one run and perhaps put enough pressure on their defense to maybe score two. We weren't trying to steal home on that play.

"Somebody got the wrong sign. What we were planning to do was steal with our next batter (after Wall) because it was our No. 9 hitter and we wanted to get a little more strategy involved. It's just a mistake that we have to be able to overcome. We have some guys on this team with experience but at times on the bases today we didn't show it."

As is the case most often, Xaverian took the momentum of getting out of fifth inning unscathed to plate with them in the bottom of the frame. Peguero opened by reaching on an error. Junior Nick Sette followed with a walk. Relief pitcher Conor Himstead -- facing Dolan, a known power threat -- made the mistake of leaving a fastball up in the zone, and the junior crushed it over the centerfield fence to give the Hawks their first lead on the afternoon at 6-5.

"We needed a spark and as I came to plate I was just thinking to sit on his fastball," Dolan said. "You usually go up there thinking you want to hit a single and it just goes from there. We know we are going to be a grind it out type of team. We lost a lot of seniors but this year's team has a lot of heart and we're just going to go out and work our butts off. This kind of game shows that we cannot ever give up. We were down early but we kept our heads in it the whole game."

Xaverian's come-to-life offense continued in the sixth. Loading the bases against reliever Jack Dolan, Peguero (2-for-2) ripped a double down the left field line to score a pair. Andrew Elliott, who was hit by a pitch, would score moments later on a throwing error (4 committed on the day by the Raiders) to go up 9-5. Another Wellesley fielding mistake produced the Hawks' 10th run.

The five-run lead proved to more than enough for Peguero, who went four innings allowing just one hit, to work with as he set the Raiders down in order in the seventh to finish things out.

Wellesley's offense was looking good early on. The Raiders scored twice in the first inning thanks to Jack Porter's two-run triple into the right-centerfield gap. Xaverian got a run back in the bottom of the inning. The Hawks loaded the bases before sending a run across the plate off a Wellesley fielding miscue.

The Raiders continued their offensive prowess in their half one inning later. With two runners on, Dolan blooped a single to left for an RBI. Shortly thereafter, Cosimo Ferrante roped an opposite field two-run double to right to make it 5-1.

"That fifth inning by shutting them down was certainly a big momentum swing for us," Lambert said. "Making two plays at the plate, those were big outs. Momentum is a big part of things early in the season and we're still finding our way as a team in terms of who is going to lead the way. For us, it's not always going to be the same guy who leads the way.

"Great teams never have the same couple of guys carry you because it's to hard to play the game day after day at a high level. It's just not that way in baseball. Hopefully now we can build off this win."

D1 South Baseball: Norwood 9, Xaverian 7

June, 1, 2013
NORWOOD, Mass. –- More often than not this year, Norwood has ridden on the shoulders of senior Kenny Michael to lead them to a victory on the mound.

But on a night where Michael, by his own admission, struggled with his accuracy at times, his teammates helped pick him up, giving the Mustangs a 9-7 victory over defending Division 1 state champion Xaverian.

Michael, a future college player at Division 2 Southern New Hampshire, pitched six innings, giving up six earned runs. Joe Rydzewski, who picked up the win, got the ball in the top of the seventh and was lights-out for the rest of the game, giving up just two hits in the last three innings to hold off a Xaverian squad looking to make one last charge.

“We knew we needed three [outs], and we knew Joe fit in the second slot," Norwood coach Kevin Igoe said. "He’s a horse, we’ve developed the off speed—his change-up and his curve. The energy from him is great. He’s a great ballplayer."

Michael also had high praises for his teammate.

"I didn’t have my stuff tonight," Michael said. "For him to come in and do that, especially for a junior, it take a lot of 'you know what' -— a lot of it. For him to come out and do that, I’m happy for him, I’m happy for our team. That was just a great win."

Rourke Flynn hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first to give the Mustangs an early 2-0 lead, but that lead was short lived. Xaverian starting pitcher Alex Person, also a Southern New Hampshire University commit, hit a two-run homer of his own to lift the Hawks to a 3-2 lead in the third. In the fifth, following a leadoff double by Person, the Hawks plated two more runs to extend the lead to 7-2 going into the bottom of the fifth.

Person appeared to be cruising through another inning, but Anthony Perriello’s hustle on a two-out infield single extended an inning that both teams’ coaches agreed was the potential turning point in the game. Michael came up next and hit a two-run homer to help ignite some energy into his team and home crowd.

“That hustle play by Perriello is huge," Igoe said. "If he dogs it down the line Kenny never gets up."

Xaverian coach Gerry Lambert seconded Igoe’s comments.

“I thought he was going to be safe anyways, we had it ruled as an infield hit," Lambert said. "The kid beat it out though, and Michael hits the home run—that’s a huge play, even though at the time we still had a three run lead. If we can get out of that inning with a zero, I think the rest of the game momentum-wise is different. But that’s a championship-caliber team executing when they absolutely had to have it.”

Anthony Delmonaco, who got the start at DH and scored two runs of his own, hit a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh to give the Mustangs their first lead since the third inning. He later came around to score on a sacrifice to bring the lead to 9-7.

Rydzewski slammed the door shut from there.

“We put [Delmonaco] in there and he got two big hits," Igoe said. "He’s been that way all year long -- he’s a great athlete and a composed hitter. He doesn’t get flustered, it’s a great matchup when he goes up against a kid like Person."

Lambert said he was impressed by Norwood’s intensity and willingness to fight back late in the game and take the lead for good.

“We had them on the ropes in the fourth and fifth innings, and they fought us," Lambert said. "They got back off the mat and got on top, re-established momentum and they took it from us. That’s why they won the game: they had the mental toughness to handle that punch in the mouth and bounce back from the adversity and be able to get through."

Michael smirked when asked about how much it means to beat the defending state champion twice in five days—mentioning that the only team they would want to beat more than Xaverian is archrival Walpole.

“They’re a good team, they always show up in the playoffs, and they came out and played us hard--but we fought back," Michael said. "Like we always do, we always fight back in the end—we never give up.”

Recap: No. 1 St. John's Prep 7, No. 10 Xaverian 3

May, 1, 2013
WESTWOOD, Mass. -- As St. John's Prep ace Brandon Bingel spoke to reporters after the Eagles' 7-3 victory over Xaverian, an assistant coach tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Don't worry Mr. Catholic [Conference] MVP, I've got your bag.”

The senior righty picked up the win for Prep (12-1), and also scored a run and had an RBI on the afternoon. Bingel said the Eagles were looking for a little revenge –- Xaverian (5-7) beat Prep 6-5 on April 4 for its only loss of the season.

“I think we woke up a little. Last time, it was one of our first games, and they kind of out-powered us,” Bingel said. “We came out today, and we were ready. We wanted revenge on them since they were our only loss, so we came ready.”

The Eagles didn't waste any time getting after Xaverian starter Worth Walrod. Prep senior Nick Bragole hit a first-inning home run to left field during the second at-bat of the afternoon. Paul Crehan, one of the Eagles' most-feared hitters, hit a two-run single in the third.

Despite going to the bullpen early in the fourth inning, Xaverian pitchers gave up a run an inning for the rest of the game.

“That's a pretty relentless attack, and they got it done today,” said Xaverian head coach Gerry Lambert. “We did a good job minimizing, but they just kept coming at us, and that's a sign of a really good team that's playing really well. They're both of those things. They're a really good team, and they're playing really well.”

The Hawks scored three runs off Bingel in the bottom of the sixth, capped off by a Ricky Smith two-run home run, but they were unable to carry the momentum. Prep reliever Jack Burke came in with two outs and retired four straight Xaverian batters with three groundouts and a strikeout.

“He's been really good all year. I think he's only allowed one baserunner in eight or nine innings,” said Prep head coach Pat Yanchus.

High and Dry: Xaverian had a number of chances to cut into Prep's lead, but time and time again left runners on base. During the bottom of the fifth inning, Adam Chochrek was on first, and Smith was on second with no outs. Bingel proceeded to strike out both Tyler Wolfe and Aidan Desrosiers before forcing Connor Longley to groundout to second.

A similar situation happened in the third, but Aaron Drummey hit into a double play to end the inning.

“One of the things we are fighting right now is that we're having a tough time getting a big hit in a big spot. Sometimes you go through that as a team, and rarely is that only a one-game thing,” Lambert said.

Prep's skipper praised Bingel for working his way out of a number of jams.

“He usually settles down, and I think he did today,” he said. “During a few innings they had guys on first and second with no outs, and almost always that's at least a run. He worked out of a couple of them.”

Back to Front: Bingel had a tough outing during Prep's 6-5 win over B.C. High on April 24, giving up three runs on three singles and a couple of infield errors during the first inning. Since then he's been trying to lead with his off-speed pitches before dishing out a fastball.

“I started to pitch backwards earlier,” he said. “Against B.C. High I was throwing too many fastballs early, and they capitalized. Early in the game (against Xaverian), I threw more sliders –- more backdoor sliders -– and kind of surprised them with my fastball more.”

When Bingel gave up the two-run home run to Smith in the sixth, he got away from pitching backwards and left a 1-0 fastball up at the letters. He indicated that he still wants to use the fastball when there are men on base.

“I wasn't going to throw a slider because they had a lot of baserunners, so I wanted to pound the zone as much as I could, and he capitalized on it,” he said.

Best in Show: While Prep is the No. 1 team in the state and currently sits alone atop the Catholic Conference, Lambert isn't ready to say they're far and away the best team. Right now, he thinks little separates Prep from B.C. High, who Xaverian lost to, 3-1, on Monday.

“(Prep) is a better athletic team, top to bottom. That doesn't mean that they're the best team, but they put a lot of pressure on you,” he said. “It looked like they had seven guys on their team that can run the bases, and that's a lot for a high school team. I think you have to give them the edge by a whisker.”

Keeping them Grounded: While Prep may have a closer in Dustin Hunt, Burke may be one of the more reliable relief pitchers on the roster. The senior has allowed only one baserunner this season and consistently keeps the ball low in the strike zone to draw grounders.

“Whenever I get in, I just go and throw my pitches. We have a lot of pitchers, so whenever you can get in you just need to do your job,” Burke said. “I used my fastball and curveball and tried to mix it up as much as I can. I try to keep the ball low – that always helps. I was just hitting my spots, and the fielders were doing the rest.”

Bingel likes having Burke as a late-inning guy. He said it takes some pressure off when he leaves the game.

“I'm pumped when Jack comes in. His ball moves so much that all they do is hit ground balls,” he said.

Recap: No. 6 Newton North 8, No. 11 Xaverian 4

April, 18, 2013

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- While Brendan Ryan might prefer skating around an ice rink to running on a baseball field, there was no one who had a bigger hand in ensuring the No. 6 New ton North baseball team remained unbeaten when they bested host and No. 11 Xaverian, 8-4, on Thursday morning.

“The kicker is, he’s a hockey player,” said North coach Joe Siciliano. “He’s tough and hard-nosed, and he wants to be out there. When they went up 4-2, a lot of kids would be looking over at the sidelines expecting to be out. This kid, if I walked out there, he’d have thrown the ball at me. He just did a great job today.”

Ryan (3-0) tossed his third complete game in as many starts, striking out five and scattering eight hits while surrendering three earn runs against a team that has historically had his number.

“Every game is significant, but this one is just a little sweeter,” Ryan said. “I pitched against them the last couple of years and they’ve teed off against me. This year, I didn’t get down on myself when they started hitting the ball early.”

Ryan was as good at the plate as he was on the mound for the Tigers (6-0).

He went 1-for-2 in the win, blasting a solo homer to left to lead off the second inning to get Newton North’s offense going. In the sixth inning, he walked and scored a run, pull the Tigers within one run. And in the seventh, he put them ahead for good with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.

“Quality teams are made of quality players,” said Xaverian coach Gerry Lambert. “That’s one of coach Sicilliano’s central guys this year. I’m sure he’s thrilled to have him. He’ll be a big problem for his opponents in games he starts the rest year and into the tournament as well.”

After Ryan’s solo shot, Kevin Alexy drew a walk, stole second and eventually scored on a single by Johnny Little, giving the Tigers a 2-0 advantage heading to the bottom of the second.

Xaverian (3-4) quickly cut into that lead when Aidan Desrosiers unloaded a solo homer of his own to center field.

Adam Chochrek singled, coming around to score on an Aaron Drummey (2-for-3, walk) base hit. Xaverian starting pitcher Austin DeCarr (2-for-2, walk) gave the Hawks a lead when he delivered a pop-up down the right field line that fell for a double. From there though, Ryan locked in on the mound, allowing just two more hits and one unearned run the rest of the way.

Newton North retook the lead in the sixth inning when Phil Biancuso belted a double that scored Ryan -– who had walked to lead-off the inning. A throwing error sent Biancuso to third before he scored on a passed ball.

Chochrek led off the sixth by reaching on an error. After advancing to second base on a sacrifice bunt, he scored on a single into right by Drummey.

Newton North took advantage of some command issues Xaverian relief pitchers experience to put the game away in the seventh. A Ben Porter walk, Alex Joyce single and Michael Courtney walk loaded the bases with no outs, setting up Ryan’s go-ahead sacrifice fly. With two outs in the inning, Biancuso crushed a ball deep to right center, one-hopping the fence. Biancuso hit third with ease and turned for home, scoring when Xaverian’s catcher dropped the ball while applying a tag.

Ryan sent the Hawks down in order in the seventh, striking out the final two hitters of the game.

“When you play a quality opponent and you don’t make pitches and don’t make all the plays you can make, they’re going to beat you,” said Lambert. They’re just going to keep coming. That was Newton today.”

Recap: Xaverian 6, St. John's Prep 5

April, 5, 2013

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.”

Final spring podcast with Xaverian's Gerry Lambert

June, 22, 2012
Our final podcast of the spring season is posted, which you can find by CLICKING HERE.

Gerry Lambert, head coach of the Division 1 baseball state champion Xaverian Hawks, joins us to talk about his team's run to the program's second such championship in the last decade. We also discuss South Hadley's unprecedented run to a state title despite finishing with a losing record, as well as the softball and lacrosse championships.

D1 EMass Final: Xaverian 3, Lowell 2

June, 13, 2012

BROCKTON, Mass. -– Simply put, this was a scary situation for Xaverian lefty Mark Stefaniak to launch himself into. Or to be more polite, one that demanded gumption.

Clinging to a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning, under the lights at Campanelli Stadium, and with the meat of one of the state’s most feared lineups coming up, the senior came in to relieve Fairfield-bound lefty Tim Duggan. He promptly let Lowell load the bases up with no outs.

Stefaniak could have cracked after fielding Derek Reed’s bunt wildly with a bad relay to first to load the bases. And you couldn’t blame him if his heart skipped a beat when cleanup hitter Chad Gens, one of the state’s most feared deep-ball hitters, launched a 2-1 fastball over the left field fence -– but about 10 feet into foul territory.

Instead, Stefaniak went fastball again -– “I just thought hey, two strikes for me,” he later explained. Gens dunked the ball to third base, and the 5-2 putout at home was made cleanly. And then, an unreal sequence of events unraveled.

Matt Tulley popped up a fly ball to Xaverian second baseman Chris Hoyt. With the infield fly rule in play, Hoyt intentionally bobbled the pop-fly into the shallow infield grass, freezing pinch-runner Ricky Rosado at third with a quick throw to home.

Only, Hoyt’s throw sailed about 30 feet above catcher Andrew Elliott (unintentionally, of course), so Rosado gunned it for home after a split-second hesitation. First baseman Mike LaVita was there to cover, however, and Elliott fired from the backstop to make the 4-2-3 inning-ending double play.

And like that, the best threat of the night from Lowell (20-5) had been nullified. Six outs later, Xaverian (17-8) wrapped up its second Division 1 Eastern Mass. title in three years with a 3-2 win.

“We were all extremely fired up after that,” Hoyt said. “It was really, I thought, the momentum changer for them and for us. We were talking up real loud. It just changed the game, that whole entire play.”

Xaverian head coach Gerry Lambert commended his players for not giving up on the play.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “You always hope that the guys have the presence of mind to realize something like that’s happening. Even as a coach who’s into the game and yelling all the time, I don’t have the time to communicate that. Guys just have to be able to react.

“You can’t practice that play right there, that situation. I’m proud of Mike, Andrew Elliott for getting back to the ball, Chris Hoyt for being able to initiate the play, and it just barely worked out in our favor. We’ll take it. It wasn’t executed picture-perfect, but we just did enough to get it done.”

Hoyt sends ‘em home: Years from now, Xaverian faithful are probably going to remember Hoyt’s throw to home more than they are the two-run single the inning prior that put the Hawks ahead for good. But it’s no less important.

With two outs, and runners on first and second, pinch-hitter Aaron Drummey got hit by a pitch from Cam Latta to load up the bases. Hoyt then shot a 1-0 dribbler through the left side of the infield, just out of reach of the outstretched arms of Gens, to score LaVita and Aidan Desrosiers. Wolfe was caught in a rundown trying to take an extra base during the sequence, but the runs came across before he was tagged out.

Hoyt finished the evening 3 for 5, with 2 RBI, a run and three stolen bases.

“He’s the guy we want,” Lambert said of Hoyt’s two-run single. “I remember when he stepped up with the bases loaded, I thought, you know, if I had to pick anybody on the team…that’s the guy. For him to come up the way he did, he’s done it for me for three years, and he did it again today. Obviously, that was an enormous single -- not his hardest-hit ball, but we’ll take it.”

Just Short: The Red Raiders came into this contest having completed one of the most impressive defensive runs in recent memory of the Division 1 tournament. Capped with two superb starts from Tulley, a Virginia Tech signee, the Raiders allowed just two runs in four games.

But on the flip side, they scored just 10 runs in the North sectional, with five of them coming in their semifinal win over Malden.

“The pitching, I couldn’t have been happier with,” head coach Danny Graham said. “Defense was good. It’s just, it would have been a little nice…I said, and my coaches agreed, at some point offense is going to have to win a game for us. Your luck’s going to run out.”

Recap: No. 2 St. John's (S) 4, No. 6 Xaverian 2

April, 26, 2012
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Following yesterday’s 4-2 non-divisional loss to St. John’s of Shrewsbury, Xaverian coach Gerry Lambert stood on the top step of the dugout at Pioneer Field and emphasized to his team that this is not the time to push the panic button.

At least not yet anyway.

The Hawks dropped to 5-5 and, with 10 games remaining on the schedule, need to find at least five more wins to secure a spot in next month’s postseason tournament. But the road does not get any easier. Over the next two weeks, Xaverian faces St. John’s Prep, Malden Catholic, Brockton, Catholic Memorial, Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) and BC High -- all of whom have winning records.

“We knew going into our season given, the competition level of our schedule, that we don’t have a lot of room for error,” said Lambert. “Today we played OK, but St. John’s played better.”

Indeed. The Pioneers (8-1) were the better team in the early going. Hawks’ pitcher Mike LaVita ran into problems from the outset, unable to locate his pitches effectivley. When he did, St. John’s took full-advantage.

In the Pioneer first, leadoff batter Tom Petry started things by roping a single to left. LaVita retired the next two hitters before surrending a home run to No. 4 batter Owen Shea to straightaway center field that put St. John's in front 2-0.

“One guy who has really stepped up for us this year has been Owen,” said Pioneers coach Charlie Eppinger, whose team suffered its first loss 24 hours earlier against New Bedford. “That was his first home run. He’s not really our clean up hitter but he just happens to hit fourth in our lineup. But he certainly looked like a clean up hitter today with that shot he hit. He was ahead 1-0 in the count and took a really good swing on that pitch. That was big because you don’t want to squander an opportunity to score like that.”

LaVita, a senior lefty, ran into more trouble the following frame. Anthony Perry opened with a walk and was sacrificed to second. One out later, Petry, who went 0-for-5 against New Bedford, grounded a hard single down the left field line to plate Perry. Jimmy Smith next laid down a well-placed bunt single which allowed Petry to reach third. Moments later, Smith stole second but Hawks’ second baseman Chris Hoyt, fearing a double steal was in order, attempted to cut off the throw from catcher James Serra. However, Hoyt was unable to field the throw cleanly as the ball skipped off his glove and rolled to the left side of the mound which, in turn, allowed Petry to trot home with the Pioneers' fourth run.

“I tried to relax more up at the plate today," said Petry, a junior who finished 2-for-3 at the plate. “I was a little tense (on Wednesday) and today I just tried to not do to much other than put the ball in play. We’ve been getting ahead early in games and then we sort of become laid back a bit towards the end of games. Thankfully it didn’t hurt us to much today in the end."

While St. John's was able to stake its pitcher Ben White to an early lead, the junior righty did his part by maintaining it. White, the son of former Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots offensive lineman Bob White, was holding Xaverian in check with near pinpoint accuracy. Making only his second start, White had allowed just three hits through the first five innings.

Not to be overlooked was the work of Hawks reliever Mark Stefaniak. The senior took over for LaVita to start the third and held the Pioneers scoreless the rest of the way on only one hit.

In the sixth, the Hawks started to figure out White a bit as they were able to climb back into this tilt. After setting down the first two batters with ease, White surrendered a double by Alex Person. Senior Tim Duggan then followed by launcing an 0-2 fastball deep over the right field fence cutting the deficit to 4-2. But that would be all the offense Xaverian could muster as White finished his complete-game gem, having allowed just five hits while striking out 11.

“Their pitcher certainly deserved to get everything he got,” Lambert said. “He kept us off-balance throughout the game. He wasn’t overpowering us but was mixing and matching his pitches well. We really had a hard time picking up his change up out of his hand.”

Recap: No. 4 BC High 6, No. 6 Xaverian 5

April, 25, 2012
BOSTON — Justin Silvestro admittedly hasn’t been swinging the bat the way he would like in the early part of this season for BC High.

This just might snap him out of his funk.

The senior first basemen collected four hits and came through with a walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth inning to soar the Eagles (8-1) over Xaverian with a 6-5 victory in a big Catholic Conference tilt.

Silvestro flew out to center in his first at-bat to end the first, but in his final four at-bats he went: single, double, single, single, with two RBI.

“I’ve been pulling out on the ball and trying to over swing a little bit,” said Silvestro. “This is a game that can really test staying down on the ball and not dipping your back shoulder and trying to hit everything out of the park. It’s about hitting line drives and I think this will help me.”

Silvestro showed off his new swing thought to perfection in his final at-bat with the sun slowly fading and Game 7 inching ever closer. With Chuck Connors on second with one out in the ninth, Silvestro lined a 1-1 pitch into right-center on a rope to easily score his teammate for the victory.

“He started me off with a fastball high and I over swung because I was trying to end the game,” said Silvestro. “He came back with a curveball (on the next pitch) and after that I knew a fastball was coming. I just tried to get a base hit and hit it hard.”

The Eagles have a 3-4-5 combination as dangerous as anyone in the area — with Bobby Melly, Connors and Silvestro — and Norm Walsh is happy to see that trio starting to get into a nice flow offensively.

“Silvestro is starting to come around, because he was struggling at the beginning of the year,” said Walsh. “It was really good to see. He’s been working hard the last week or so to make some changes in his swing, and it’s starting to pay off.

Connors Gets Redemption: The Eagles were a couple of inches from coming into this game with an undefeated mark, but Connors was robbed on a hard-hit ball up the middle by Lincoln-Sudbury’s Dylan DeFlorio last time out.

Connors, the Eagles' four-hole hitter came through this time with an RBI single in the seventh inning to make sure this game would go to extras. Connors was 4-for-5 with three singles and a double. He scored three runs, including the game-winner.

“He’s been really swinging the bat,” said Walsh. “His average doesn’t reflect it, but he’s been hitting the ball hard consistently.”

Play For The One-Run Game: Gerry Lambert has been in so many tightly contested Catholic Conference games that he knew every run could be crucial.

In the bottom of the third with a 3-1 lead the Hawks (5-4) took a chance with a man on third.

Mike LaVita was caught in no-mans land on an attempted suicide squeeze after Tyler Campo couldn’t get wood on the ball, and LaVita was tagged out in a pickle to erase the threat.

“I’m a broken record and it’s true, these (Catholic Conference) games are nip-and-tuck games,” said Lambert. “That’s what they are. They always are. Every single run is going to matter, whether it’s a close play at first or a close pitch, or a play we almost execute. It comes down to a lot of those close plays.

Recap: No. 7 Xaverian 4, No. 15 L-S 2

April, 12, 2012
SUDBURY, Mass. — Pitching depth can mean the difference between a good team and a team that could potentially make a run at a state title when the weather gets a little bit, make that a lot warmer, in June.

Xaverian has two horses at the top of the rotation in Tim Duggan and Austin DeCarr, and now they can add Alex Person to that depth that coaches love to have at their disposal.

Person struck out seven and only allowed three runs (two earned) in a complete game, four-hitter as he controlled the Lincoln-Sudbury lineup in the Hawks 4-3 victory on Thursday at frigid Feeley Field.

“To have depth not only allows you as a coach to manage things in terms of quantity of pitches, but it also allows your team to be confident with many different guys out there,” said Xaverian head coach Gerry Lambert. “That’s big. Your team’s confidence comes from feeling like they are ready to make a play, and that starts with the pitcher.”

Duggan and DeCarr probably get most of the limelight when Xaverian is talked about, however Person showed that he was able to handle an afternoon that was clearly not ideal for baseball against a team that will be in the hunt in Div. 1. He showed off good command of both his fastball and his breaking pitch as he only gave up two hits in the first five innings of the game on 59 pitches.

“I got into a rhythm and I just hit my spots,” said Person. “I wasn’t overpowering anybody. I was just hitting the outside corner.”

Person’s defense started to let him down a little bit in the final two innings and the Warriors did get the tying run to second base after Matt Cahill stole second base with Jack Harris at the plate. Person got Harris to fly out to right to end the game and move the Hawks record over. 500 to 3-2.

Let Him Go: There is a balance, according to Lambert, in the early season when it comes to protecting his starters from overworking themselves. In the first week he likes to keep his pitchers in the 60's in terms of pitches throw and build up through there.

Person was working his way around miscues from his fielders in the sixth that Lambert trusted him to get the final outs of the game on a very cold afternoon. Lambert discussed his philosophy with keeping Person in the game, which ultimately turned out to be the right call.

“They squared it up a lot more frequently and he lost two to three m.p.h off his fastball, but I also thought he was commanding the ball still,” said Lambert. “It’s a tough balance. I am not a guy who is looking to really overextend people early in the season and wind up having a problem in May and especially June.”

Searching For A Few Good Arms: It seems like Kirk Fredericks has always had a stud pitcher to turn to in big games over the past couple of seasons. This year, the Warriors head coach is looking for that next No. 1.

Fredericks and the Warriors nearly pieced together a victory with five different pitchers in the loss. No pitcher tossed more than two innings, but that was more to the fact that the pitchers were young and inexeperienced rather than inability to string together a handful of outs.

“It’s just a matter of that’s what we have,” said Fredericks. “We have a bunch of young guys who don’t have any experience. They aren’t very strong and we are trying to find out who is going to throw strikes and who can throw pitches like what (Xaverian) has.”

Alex Weiland looked like a promising sophomore pitcher for the Warriors. He struck out four in his two innings and only allowed two runners to reach base on a single by Chris Hoyt (3-for-3) and a walk. Both times Weiland got out of the inning without surrendering a run.

Brendan Kelly, another sophomore pitcher, pitched out of trouble in the seventh after letting the first two guys reach without letting a Hawk cross home plate to keep the game within reach.

“If those two can do that, then we will be competitive,” said Fredericks. “That would be a huge plus.”

Disciplined Franklin takes D1 South by surprise

June, 15, 2011

BRAINTREE, Mass. -- The scouting report on talented Xaverian sophomore Austin DeCarr, clocked as fast as 91 miles per hour this spring, demands detail. So with the 6-foot-2 fireball of a reliever coming on in the seventh to preserve a lead in this Division 1 South final at Braintree High, and confusing the Franklin bats with his curve, head coach Dave Niro told his Panthers to sit and challenge the singular pitch that has begun the prose from scouts.

With a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, Sam Skidmore heeded the advice. With one out and no runners on in the bottom of the ninth, he sat until the sixth pitch, where he got his desired look -- a high, 3-2 two-seam fastball clocked at 87 miles per hour -- and cranked one of those shots that looked destined for the trees behind the left-centerfield fence as soon as it left the bat.

The Franklin dugout immediately emptied into a frenzy, Skidmore was mobbed and then pig-piled as he crossed home plate, and this most unheralded -- not to mention surprising -- run lives another day. The Panthers (16-8) left with a 6-5 win over the Hawks (15-10) to take the Division 1 South title and advance to Wednesday night's state semifinal against North champion Lincoln-Sudbury.

"These guys never give up," Niro said, as chants of "Skid the Kid!" echoed in the background. "When we first put this team together, we were saying, you know, 'I don't even think we're going to win 10 games this year'. But these guys never quit. They started out 2-3, but man, we won some games and put some things together."

Few, if any, could have seen this coming. The Panthers came into the tournament a No. 9 seed at 12-8, but having lost four of six (including a 5-2 decision to tomorrow night's opponent). And at that, they were considered maybe the fourth or fifth best team in their own league, behind fellow D1 South contenders North Attleborough and Mansfield, and D2 state title favorite Oliver Ames -- all three of which, by the way, making first-round exits this postseason.

Even less, perhaps, can pinpoint the "when" on this sudden jolt. But the consensus is clear on the "what" -- plate discipline.

The same team that plated 15 runs in the first three innings of June 8th's semifinal win over BC High was the same team that struggled to connect for three or four hits just a month earlier. This afternoon, the Panthers got nine hits off the Xaverian staff, and drew an additional six walks.

"Every day at practice, we work on situational hitting," Niro said. "That's what we did, we did a lot of hitting with these guys, and they never quit. They want to practice every day, they don't want to stop, just come in every day and hit, get a great run."

Said Franklin hitting coach Steve Lerner, "They're doing the things we've been trying to tell them lately. They've been keeping their shoulder in, they're going the opposite way if it's outside. They're just on a roll. It's awesome. It's fun."

Against the Hawks' defense, the Panthers were aggressive on the base paths, making the most of their appereances, highlighted by Reed Turgeon. The junior went 3 for 3 -- all for singles, and each time following up by stealing second base. The rally was also aided by Jon Skaza's two-run single in the fifth, followed by a walk dawn by Tim Garvey in the seventh that scored Tyler Buck to make it 5-5.

But at the crux of it all today was Skidmore, the No. 5 hitter, who was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts (both looking) before pelting out the 370-foot shot that won't be forgotten around Oak Street for quite some time.

"The second I hit it, I knew it was gone. It's a great feeling," Skidmore said of his shot. "It was unbelievable. Best feeling I've ever had."

This spring season of baseball has been the year of the unusual, and perhaps there was no better statement on the hill for Franklin than junior Bobby Chaiton. The 5-foot-10 righty worked the Xaverian bats with his sharp curve and unorthodox, Okajima-like delivery, a three-quarter arm slot that sometimes left him looking straight down at the ground when released.

In seven innings of work, he allowed five hits and four runs over seven innings, while his Xaverian counterpart Nick Ahearn allowed four runs and seven hits before giving way to DeCarr in the seventh. Senior Kevin Garry came on to relieve Chaiton in the eighth, just his fourth appearance of the season, and didn't allow a runner past second base.

"Against Walpole (in the quarterfinals), he did a heck of a job," Niro said of Garry. "We brought him in today, and he did another outstanding job for us. He's a great kid, and I'm so happy for him."

Xaverian head coach Gerry Lambert commended the Panther bats for the way they battled.

"Sometimes they put a swing on one. I mean, they're a good team, too," he said. "And they're on a roll right now, they've won a lot of games in a row. They had a couple of big hits with two outs early in the game, that kept this game close, and then the swat there at the end."


What's a championship celebration without a water dunk? We managed to catch Niro in the middle of the act, as his team ambushed him with a ceremonial water jug.

Here he is, pre-dunk:

And, post-dunk:

Prep bats come alive in win over Xaverian

May, 6, 2011

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Between the wooden bats and overall depth of quality pitching, it's uncommon to see a high-scoring baseball affair in the Catholic Conference.

Yet that's exactly what went down today at Xaverian High, as visiting No. 3 St. John's Prep plated seven runs in the first two innings to down their archrivals going away, 12-6, to improve to 11-2 overall and take sole possession of first place in the Catholic Conference at 5-1.

No. 9 Xaverian fell to 8-5, 2-3 in the Catholic Conference.

Right away, the Eagles sat back in the batter's box and preyed on missed opportunities by Xaverian lefty starter Tim Duggan. They didn't wait long, as Anthony Capuano and Tyler Coppola both walked to start the game. On the fourth at bat, Pat Connaughton (2 for 3, 2 RBI, solo HR, 2 BB) drove a 2-2 fastball up the middle to score Capuano from second base. Coppola and Connaughton were sent home on a hit batsmen and walk, respectively, for a 3-0 lead after one inning.

The next trip up, Coppola smashed a three-run shot over the wall in centerfield for a 6-0 lead, retiring Duggan for the day and bringing in senior Mike Uradnik for long relief. His first batter, the Notre Dame-bound Connaughton, proceeded to sent a 2-0 fastball far over the fence in left-center for a solo homer and 7-0 lead.

"I was looking for my one pitch, and he threw me the pitch," Connaughton said. "I was just trying to look for a line drive, and that's usually the way it happens on home runs. You just look for a line drive, and if it's your pitch, and you're dialed in on it, then next thing you know it took off."

Said Prep head coach Pat Yanchus, "Back to back, that got us sparked. It's always good to jump out to a lead, get your pitcher (Dillon Gonzalez) comfortable.

The Hawks closed the gap to 8-5 in the bottom of the fourth, when Matt Rubino touched home after Mike Muir tried to run out a grounder back to the mound. But the Eagles responded in resounding fashion, scoring four more runs -- including three in the seventh off RBI's from Justin Paluso and Gonzalez.

"That was huge," Prep head coach Pat Yanchus said of the first two innings. "They battle back, though. At 8-5, that's anyone's game, so I was happy to see Ryan come in and throw strikes, creating ground balls."

Xaverian head coach Gerry Lambert came away less than pleased with the way his team played at the bookends of the game -- "we became very flat mentally in the late innings, and that's the thing I'm most frustrated about," he said -- but satisfied with how they rallied to cut the lead to three in the fifth.

"We talk about having good at bats," Lambert said. "We talk about not worrying about the score and just putting together a good at bat, and I think in the middle innings with that....but we have to be able to sustain the right way to play mentally for all seven innings. It wasn't that we were mentally unsharp in the first inning, it was that we were physically unsharp. But late in the game, we got very ragged on the bases, [and] offensively, and we gave them [the Eagles] extra chances."

Web Gem at the hot corner

Connaughton impressed major league scouts again last Tuesday when he hit 93 miles per hour on the radar gun, in the Eagles' 7-4 loss to St. John's of Shrewsbury. But not to be overlooked is his play in the field, explicated by a heads-up play at third base where he dove and threw it to first base from his knees in time to get the baserunner out.

"I knew when I had to dive for that ball, freshman year I made a throw from my knees, so I knew I could do it," Connaughton said. "I figured to save time, I'd just get down on my knees and throw from there."

Perry lifts SJS to upset over Xaverian

April, 25, 2011

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Dan Light will get the glory for his game-winning sacrifice fly in the top of the 11th inning in St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s 2-1 win over Xaverian (6-2) on a cold, damp Monday night. But the Pioneers (6-1) wouldn’t be celebrating without the left arm of Anthony Perry.

Perry, the Pioneers’ junior hurler, gave up six hits, struck out one and gave up three walks as he battled through nine innings in less than ideal baseball conditions.

The command wasn’t there for Perry when starting taking his warmup tosses. He left several fastballs high and outside of the zone during his pregame warmup, but maybe it was a way to bait the Hawks’ hitters into thinking that he wasn’t going to be an affective pitcher on the dreary day.

Because there he was, some three hours later, ending a bases loaded threat in the bottom of the ninth inning with a painted fastball on the outside corner to keep the Pioneers alive long enough to allow Light to come through in the clutch.

“(Perry) has no fear whatsoever,” said Pioneers head coach Charlie Eppinger. “He gets himself in trouble and he’s going to work out of it. He’s got great poise on the mound and he just doesn’t panic. When he doesn’t have his best stuff he battles.”

Perry walked the first batter of the game, but got the next to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

In the bottom of the seventh, in a 1-1 game, he watched the leadoff man get on when a ball got under his first baseman’s glove. He was able to get the lead man thanks to a comebacker and also ended the inning by starting a 1-6-3 twin killing to send the game to extra innings.

But his best work came in the bottom of the ninth. Perry looked to be tiring when the first two men reached in the inning. Tim Duggan sacrificed both runners over to set up a second and third situation with nobody out.

Eppinger had Perry intentionally walk Jon Kelly on four straight pitches to set up the force at every base. With a full count, Perry dug in to get Austin DeCarr to fly out to the left fielder in foul ground with no advancement from the runners, and finished off Mike Muir looking to end the threat.

“That was probably one of the biggest things of my career so far,” Perry said of the moment. “I had the pitcher up for their team, 3-2 count. I just needed to throw a strike. My outfielder came up big on that play and from there on I just needed to get that out.”

Eppinger had no thought of taking out his lefty at that point in the game.

“That was his ballgame,” said Eppinger. “I actually went out and told him that on the mound. … That was his ballgame to win or lose.”

Perry didn’t factor in to the decision, but did manage to celebrate when the Pioneers manufactured the game-winning run in the top of the 11th inning. Three-hole hitter Curtis Pomeroy put down a perfect sacrifice to move Keith Kelly on to third base with one out.

Light drove a 2-0 pitch deep to right to easily plate Kelly for the game-winner.

Pitching, Pitching and More Pitching

The conditions were tough for hitters, especially with the use of wood bats, but there might not have been an answer either way for the way both sides were able to throw the ball on a “Spring Day” in New England.

Sophomore Ben White came in to record the final six outs of the ball game for the Pioneers. He struck out two and walked one, but that runner was quickly erased in the bottom of the 10th as he was caught trying to steal second.

The Hawks got a more than stellar performance from Derek Reddy, and on any other day he’s walking off the mound with a win in his back pocket. Reddy fanned six, and retired 11 in a row at one point, in 6.2 innings.

“He gutted it out and pitched well,” said Hawks’ coach Gerry Lambert. “We certainly did not lose because of our pitching today. It wasn’t a function of that. It was a function of us not doing enough when we had the chances offensively.”

The biggest pitching prospect for the Hawks, Austin DeCarr, showcased his electric stuff in 3.1 innings in the latter stages of the ball game.

The sophomore possesses an 88-89 mile per hour fastball, according to the radar gun by scouts at the game, and showed off a mean hook, which completely buckled Pomeroy to end the top of the eighth inning.

In his brief stint, DeCarr struck out seven and only issued two hits.