Boston High School: Mark Stefaniak

CNEPSBL: Philips Andover wins second straight title

May, 19, 2013
5/19/13
2:20
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WORCESTER, Mass. -- Up until this past week, there was no guarantee that Phillips Academy-Andover would be grab a spot in Central New England Prep School Baseball League (CNEPSBL)/Thomas Blackburn Championship Tournament. Having won the title a year ago, the Big Blue struggled this season and needed to beat Tabor Academy on Wednesday to qualify. On the strength of pitcher Rory Ziomek, Phillips Academy cruised to a 5-0 triumph to earn the bid.

With the pressure off, the Big Blue walked into Assumption College's Rocheleau Field on Saturday with a "nothing to lose" attitude. That mindset certainly paid off as the fourth-seeded Big Blue defeated top seed Deerfield Academy, 10-7, in the semifinal round before knocking off No. 2 seed Worcester Academy, 12-8, in the afternoon in the title tilt.

"This is our second championship in a row but this is a much-different team than last year," fifth-year Phillips Andover head coach Kevin Graber said. "Last year's team was very dominant. This year we had to scratch and scrap and faced a lot of adversity along the way.

"Our pitching carried us into this tournament and our depth manifested itself and we were able to get our offense to catch up in the end. My philosophy has always been for us to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season, especially in a end-of-the-year tournament. We did that this year."

On the strength of 10 hits and a multitude of wildness by the Hilltoppers' pitching corps, the Big Blue (10-6) led late, 12-4. In hindsight, they were fortunate to construct such a cushion because Worcester (19-11), which blanked Phillips Exeter in its semifinal matchup, decided to make things a bit more interesting late.

Phillips Andover jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning after Hilltopper starter Nick Johnson served up four consecutive walks. A double-play later in the frame led to the Big Blue's second run.

[+] EnlargeJohn Simourian
Brendan Hall/ESPNFreshman John Simourian went 5 for 7 in the championship game with 4 RBI to lift Philips Andover to its second straight CNEPSBL title
In the bottom of the inning, Worcester Academy cut the deficit to one after junior John Marculitis (3-for-4) tripled and later came home on Jessey Valdez's fly out. In the fourth, the Hilltoppers took a 3-2 lead thanks to Marculitis' two-run double. But the tide of momentum would quickly change over to the Big Blue side in the fifth. Johnson opened the frame by allowing a single and plunking the next two Phillips Andover batters to load the bases.

For the game, three Hilltopper combined to hit eight Big Blue batters. Hilltoppers head coach Dana Forsberg made the decision to pull Johnson in favor of Nick Economos. But the lanky right-hander walked John Festa to force in a run and knot the game 3-3. A passed ball ensued to plate Phillips Andover's fourth run. Harry Roche then lined a single to right for another run and push the lead to 5-2.

The Big Blue weren't done. Later in the inning they loaded the bases before Forsberg summond Greg Hemmer to the mound. But Hemmer was immediately greeted by a John Simourian a two-run single pushing Phillips Andover's advantage to 7-3. Simourian, a freshman transfer from Belmont Hill, finished 5-for-7 at the plate on the day and also drove in four runs.

"I'm just glad we came out with the win," said the Big Blue catcher. "As it showed today, everybody is a fighter on this team. There isn't one guy who wouldn't lay everything he has down for the sake of the team. I think that's what led to another championship for us."

After Worcester Academy got a run back in the fifth, the Big Blue responded with four more uns in the sixth highlighted by Joey Verhaegh's two-run double. In the seventh, back-to-back doubles from Chris Hohlstein and Connor Farrell increased the Big Blue's lead to eight runs.

To the Hilltoppers credit, they didn't go down without a fight in their final at-bats. Three errors sandwiched around a Marculitis RBI single pulled them to within four runs. But Phillips Andover and future Tufts University pitcher Tim Superko (CG, 6 hits, 7 Ks) worked through the circus-like atmosphere of the inning to nail down the victory, giving the Big Blue their 10th CNEPSBL crown since 1988.

"This is probably the most-talented team that I have ever had here," said Forsberg, who last won a title in 2011. "The kids played hard. When you are down big like that it is easy to fold but that never happened. These kids never stopped believing. We preach to our pitchers that you have to throw strikes.

"If you don't throw strikes and put people on those runs are going to cross and that bit us today. This was a special team and the toughest team that I've ever coached. They love the game of baseball. We've got some good kids coming back and some nice ones coming in so we'll be ready for next year."

Semifinals: Stefaniak shines, Dennehy says goodbye
In the day’s first game, the Hilltoppers jumped on Phillips Exeter pitcher Hunter Carey for three first inning runs and made it stand due to the mound majesty of Mark Stefaniak. The lefty dominated the Big Red, striking out 15 in the process.

“I just went out tried to throw strikes and get ahead of the hitters,” said Stefaniak, who also will pitch for Tufts University next year. “When you get ahead of hitters you have a much-better chance to put them away. That is what I focused on today and tried to stay ahead of their hitters.”

After his rough opening frame, Carey settled down and kept Worcester Academy off the board the rest of the way. But it was the first inning that haunted the future Trinity College hurler. The Hilltoppers took a 1-0 lead on consecutive doubles by Anthony Barry and Brad Petitpas. Hemmer followed by blistering a moon shot over the center field fence for a two-run homer. That would prove to be enough run support for Stefaniak who handcuffed the Big Red (11-7) early and often.

“That team came out swinging and were ready to hit from the beginning,” said 42-year Phillips Exeter coach Bill Dennehy, who is calling it quits at season’s end. “I thought Hunter hung in there after that first inning but their pitcher was just too tough on us today.

"This is my last year and it’s been tough to think about. You surprise yourself when you see how fast it goes even after 42 years. I couldn’t have had a better job. I've been blessed here. What I’m going to miss most is being around the kids on a day-to-day basis. That was always the biggest thing for me. We've always had great kids here.”

In the day’s other semifinal, Phillips Andover jumped out to a 6-1 lead and held off a couple of late Big Green (10-3) surges to come away triumphant. The Big Blue put this one away with a five-run third. A two-run double from Farrell and RBIs by David McCullough and Matt Hosman pushed Phillips Andover out to a 6-1 lead. Deerfield Academy shot back in the fifth, scoring four times. Cullen Geary keyed the inning with a two-run single.

In the Big Blue's half of the sixth, they put this game out of reach after scoring three more times on a SAC fly, a fielder's choice and a Simourian double to lead 9-4. Phillips Andover led 10-5 going into the final inning. The Big Green scored a pair in the bottom of the frame on RBIs by Coltan Dana and Conor Quinn failed to draw any closer.

D1 EMass Final: Xaverian 3, Lowell 2

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
2:11
AM ET



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
4/26/12
9:50
PM ET
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.”

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