Boston High School: Jimmy Smith

Recap: No. 1 SJS 9, No. 22 New Bedford 3

May, 27, 2012

SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Although New Bedford and St. John’s of Shrewsbury have already punched their respective tickets to the Division 1 baseball postseason tournament, there was still plenty at stake as the two powers met this afternoon in a non-divisional showdown.

In the final regular-season game for both teams, the last thing either wanted was to head into next month’s tourney with a loss. With that notion in the back of their collective minds, something had to give.

From St. John’s standpoint it did. Behind Mike Sullivan’s 5 RBI outing, the Pioneers clipped the Whalers 9-3 at Pioneer Field to improve to 20-2 having now won 12 straight. St. John’s, which lost to the New Bedford back on April 25th, avenged that defeat by putting this contest away early, scoring three times in the second inning and adding three more the following frame.

“We wanted to go into the tournament with some momentum,” said Pioneers coach Charlie Eppinger, who team was playing its third game in as many days after defeating Algonquin and Wachusett on Friday and Saturday, respectively. “We had games Friday, Saturday and Sunday so we knew this weekend was going to be a testament to our mental toughness. You’ve got graduation going on here and other things and these guys are tired.

"But I thought we showed a lot of heart and a lot of self-discipline to win our last three ball games. I’m really impressed with my team in how they handled these last three days.”

St. John’s starter Ben White (5-0) was not as sharp as in previous outings. But nonetheless, the junior righthander had enough in the tank on this hot afternoon to last six innings, allowing 2 runs on 9 hits and striking out 4.

Like St. John's, New Bedford also had a grueling stretch of contests on its schedule. Playing their third game in 24 hours, having defeated Oliver Ames Saturday morning before falling to Brockton later that evening, the Whalers (13-7) were able to mount some pressure on White early.

They blew a chance to score a run in the opening inning after Chandler Debrosse was gunned down at the plate by St. John’s center fielder Jimmy Smith after trying to score from second on a Rick Moraes single. The next inning New Bedford left three on base with nothing to show for it.

In the Pioneers' half of the second, they refused to let their opportunities on the base paths slip by. With two out and Owen Shea on second, Sullivan cracked a single to center plating Shea with St. John’s first run. Connor Kurtz followed with a triple extending the lead to two, and moments later PJ Browne grounded a single past second baseman Jake Souza sending Kurtz home with the Pioneers' third run off of Whalers' starter J.T. Sylvia (3 IP, 6 runs, 7 hits, 1 K).

After coming away empty-handed in their first two times at bat, New Bedford finally answered the call in the third. Javier Lozada started things with a lead-off single. White would retire the next two batters before walking Jon Finnerty. Kyle Prudhomme came to the plate next and grounded a single off of Kurtz’s glove at second base scoring Lozada. Finnerty would follow Lozada in a short time later thanks to Sylvia's single cutting the deficit at 3-2.

But any momentum gained by New Bedford had soon vanished in the bottom of the frame as the Pioneer offense continued to wreak havoc on Sylvia. Smith opened with a bunt single and proceeded to steal second and third. Two outs later Scott Manea lofted a soft single to center scoring Smith. Jake Byrne kept things alive with another single. Up stepped Sullivan, whose hot bat stayed that way, as he launched a shot off the top of the right field fence for an two-run double extending the Pioneers lead to 6-2.

“I saw the ball good today but we got the win and that’s all that matters,” said Sullivan, a junior. “In practice we work a lot on two-out, situational hitting. We do things like bunt runners over and then try to get them in. Today we were able to do that very well.”

With Finnerty on in relief of Sylvia to open the fourth, the senior was able to stop the bleeding as he kept the Pioneers off the board over the next four innings. But in the St. John’s eighth, the offense re-awoke. Sullivan blasted a two out, two-run triple and Kurtz followed with an RBI single which put the Pioneers ahead by seven.

"Mike has a great swing," Eppinger said. "Earlier in the year we saw a great swing during batting practice but not in games. It just wasn't translating. It was just a matter of confidence with him I feel and him going up to the plate with a mentality that I can hit and I am going to do this. He's been really swinging the bat well lately which is a credit to him and also a credit to his teammates for pushing him."

New Bedford managed a solo run in the ninth on a Mike Rapoza RBI single against Browne, who had come on in relief in the seventh. But the Whalers slim chances at a comeback were just that as they drew no closer.

"You can't give good teams extra outs and at times I thought we did that," New Bedford coach John Seed said. "We also left a lot of runners on base early on and couldn't come up with that big hit. That's going to hurt you. You need to take advantage of those opportunities.

"When we get chances to score like that we have to. St. John's is a good team and obviously you need to play at your best to beat them. But now the pre-season, as I call it, is over and it's time to get ready for the tournament. I think we'll be ok. Everyone is 0-0 to start so we'll see what happens."

Recap: No. 4 St. John's (S) 5, No. 1 BC High 2

May, 11, 2012
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Although they never displayed it openly, you knew to a player that St. John’s had Friday’s return match against BC High circled several times on its calendar.

The Pioneers were beaten handedly by the Eagles in Dorchester last month and were chomping at for a redemption shot. Jumping out to a 3-0 lead after one inning, St. John’s did precisely what it set out the do having turned the tables en route to a 5-2 non-league victory at Pioneer Field.

“We have taken every team we've played just as serious as this game today,” said Pioneer third baseman Owen Shea, who contributed a pair of RBIs in the victory. “Yesterday after our game against Burncoat, we talked and made sure that all of us were ready for this one today. We came out hard early and managed to get the win. It's great.”

With Advanced Placement testing taking place this week, BC High coach Norm Walsh did not have a full unit to begin the game. Those players who were testing arrived just before first pitch. That being the case, Walsh had to maneuver his lineup some and had to use a junior varsity pitcher (Sam Telman) on the hill.

St. John’s (14-2) wasted little time getting to Telman, a righty. Tom Petry led off the Pioneer first with a double. Two outs later, Shea followed with a wind-blown double to right scoring Petry. Shea took third on the play after Eagle third baseman Justin Silvestro, taking the cutoff throw, fired home trying to nail Petry but the ball sailed on catcher Bobby Melley hitting the backstop. Moments later Scott Manea belted a double to center plating Shea with the Pioneers’ second run.

Telman woes would continue. Following Manea's hit, Jake Byrne next smacked a single to left scoring Manea with St. John’s third run.

“They took advantage of my JV guy,” said Walsh, his club falling to 12-3. “We could have bailed him out I think with some better play in the outfield. It was tough, wind conditions today and the balls were hit pretty hard. Them scoring three in the first was certainly the difference today.”

Pioneer starter Ben White, despite playing with a stomach virus, was holding the Eagles in check over the first three frames, issuing no hits. But in the fourth, BC High (which defeated the Pioneers 11-5 three weeks ago for St. John's last loss) started to make some noise against the junior righthander.

With one out, Chuckie Connors reached on a Petry error at shortstop. White then struck out Silvestro but couldn’t escape the power of Brian Hocking. The senior roped an 0-1 pitch over the left field fence to bring the Eagles back to within a run. Following the blast, BC High proceeded to load the bases but White (4-0) avoided further damage by striking out Rich Roach.

Following the gutty fourth, White’s day was done. Senior Anthony Perry took over and it was up to him to maintain the lead. The lefty pitched was flawless in his three innings of work, surrendering just one hit.

In between, St. John’s was able to tack on a couple of more runs on Perry's behalf. In the fifth, consecutive singles by Jimmy Smith, Nick Sieber and Shea produced the Pioneers’ fourth run. In the sixth they added one more on a Micah Cummins home run off of reliever Bartley Regan.

“Scoring early really helped us,” St. John’s coach Charlie Eppinger said. “We know BC High has an amazing lineup and I give Ben White and Anthony Perry a tremendous amount of credit. Our catcher Scott Manea called a great game and kept their hitter off-balanced throughout. Our kids really wanted this one today. It’s a great win against a great, well-coached program.”

Recap: No. 4 St. John's (S) 2, No. 11 Burncoat 0

May, 10, 2012
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Jimmy Smith has done a lot of good things during his time as a St. John’s baseball player. But the one thing the senior had never done was homer in a game. You can now add that to his resume.

In a scoreless deadlock against mighty Burncoat yesterday, it was Smith who struck the decisive blow. With two out and a runner on, Smith turned on a letter-high fastball and sent it deep over the right field fence giving the Pioneers a 2-0 victory at Pioneer Field in a highly-anticipated matchup between two of the elite programs in Central Mass.

“That is the first one I’ve hit in the two years I’ve played here,” said Smith, more noted for his speed on the base paths and defensive prowess. "I grew up around the Burncoat area and I know everyone on that team so it feels good to get a big hit like that. Everyone on this team has a huge heart and we look to come out an win every single game. That comes back to our practices. We practice as hard as we can all the time. Everyone is pushing each other to make everyone better and I think that has helped us to win a lot of these close games like today.”

As expected, both St. John’s ace Mike Badjo and Patriot counterpart Sean McGrail matched zeros on the scoreboard. The two seniors played things out as if it were a do-or-die chess match with neither hurler refusing to give an inch.

Prior to the fifth inning dramatics, the Pioneers had managed only a pair of singles against McGrail, a righty who started his career at St. John’s before transferring a few miles down the road to Burncoat. Likewise, the Patriots were struggling to get anything going against Badjo (CG, 2 hits, 6 Ks). In the third they did load the bases with two out but the right hander got a ground out to end the threat. Burncoat did nothing with the bats thereafter.

“It was an outstanding baseball game,” said Pioneers head coach Charlie Eppinger, his team improving to 13-2 and await a huge showdown Friday when they host BC High. “McGrail and Badjo both pitched great. We know McGrail really well after he spent his first two years here at St. John’s and is a great pitcher. I thought Badjo was just a horse for us out there today.'

McGrail, like Badjo, went the distance, allowing 3 hits and striking out 8. Burncoat (12-2) came into this tilt averaging just under six runs-per-game. In spite of the many victories the Patriots have attained this season, they knew St. John’s would be a measuring stick game for them.

“It was a matchup between two of the better teams around and two of the better pitchers around,” Burncoat head coach Brian Sargent said. “One hit by them was it today. Playing a team like that you have a small window to score runs and in the third we had our shot but couldn’t get the big hit. We have nothing to hang our heads over. We knew St. John's is the best team around. Today we played a quality team and now we know that we can hang with anyone. Today was the highest level of competition yet for us and I think we rose to the challenge.”

In the fifth, No. 9 hitter Micah Cummins drew a one-out walk (one of five issued by McGrail on the afternoon). After retiring leadoff batter Tom Petry on a comebacker, McGrail had a 2-1 count on Smith. Sticking with his bread-and-butter fastball that was moving well all over the strike zone, McGrail delievered his next pitch. Only this time the ball never moved and stayed up which allowed Smith to take full advantage as it was gone the moment it struck the bat.

"It was good to see Jimmy come up with that big hit," Eppinger added. "I don’t know where that came from because he’s more of a speed and singles guy. Two out hits like that one win ball games and it showed today."

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.”