DANVERS, Mass.- Is there a better way to prepare for a state tournament than by ending the regular season playing a cross-town rival?
Danvers and St. John’s Prep squared off Saturday night in a battle of bragging rights and momentum going into the playoffs. It was a tightly-contested game through the first five innings, but Prep scored five runs over the final two innings to come away with the 8-2 victory.
“This game is always big, we always have a bunch of momentum coming out of it,” said the Prep’s Brandon Bingel. “We’re always pumped to play it, so it’s a good game to give us momentum going into the playoffs.”
Prep (15-5) got on the board in the top of the first after a Bingel three-run opposite field home run. Coming off the bat, it did not appear to have enough legs to get over the wall, but it did.
Even Bingel was not convinced it was going to get over the wall.
“It didn’t feel too good coming off the bat,” he said. “As I got down the first base line, I saw the wind carrying it, and it just got over.”
Danvers (14-5) got a run of its own in the bottom of the inning after a throwing error by the third baseman allowed Ray Orocho to come around and score.
The Prep lead was being threatened in the fourth inning when Danvers had two runners on with only one out. After a passed ball and a wild pitch, one run scored. Nick Valles flew out to right field, but Anthony Capuano’s throw was so strong and on the money that Orocho was stuck at third.
Tyler Dustin grounded out two batters later, preserving the Prep lead.
It was the second run-saving play of the game Capuano made again Valles. In the second inning, back-to-back hits by Dan Connors and Orocho put runners at second and third with two outs.
On the 0-2 pitch, Valles hit a fly ball to right and Capuano laid out and caught the ball in a play that most would say was worthy of Sportscenter’s Top Plays.
Danvers was kept off the board for the rest of the game, while Prep added to it’s total, including three runs off Arocho in the seventh.
Bulldog Effort: It was a good week for Bingel. After declaring his verbal commitment to Bryant University earlier this week, the junior went 2-for-4 at the plate tonight with a home run, a double, and 4 RBI.
“Committing to Bryant kind of took a lot off my shoulders,” he said of the Bulldogs. “There’s people here watching and it doesn’t effect me at all, I just go out and play. I’m feeling pretty confident after committing, and it helps when I play.”
Strong Relief: Prep coach Pat Yanchus saw all he needed to see out of his starter, Dustin Hunt after 4.2 innings. He brought in Bingel to relieve the hard-throwing right hander with the count still at 3-1.
It is hard to blame the coach, considering the sequence of events that lead up to it. Hunt started the inning by striking out Joe Strangie. He proceeded to hit Connors, walk Orocho, and allow the two to advance a base because of a passed ball.
After Valles flew out to right, that left runners on second and third with two outs. Yanchus decided to intentionally walk Scott Hovey. Hunt tossed one of his throws over his catcher’s head, which allowed Connors to come home for Danvers’ second run of the game.
Yanchus went to the mound right after that, determined not to let the lead slip away.
“He was struggling, they were hitting him hard,” he said. “He got up to about 70 pitches, he had to work, and he seemed a little tired, and Bingel’s a good pitcher, so we made the change.”
Tourney Time: The two teams now wait in anticipation for the tournament seedings to be announced, which will happen early next week.
With the win, SJP is behind only BC High in the Catholic Conference standings and sets itself up to get a high seed in Division 1 North tournament next week.
Yanchus wanted to get his team into the tournament mindset, starting with Saturday’s game.
“We tried to get them into the mindset that this is the beginning of the tournament,” he said. “Proceeding to win this game is like a tournament game, so let’s treat it like such.”
He feels there are improvements his team still needs to make, even though his team sits at 15-5.
“We’re not hitting like I’d like to be hitting,” he said. “Maybe we can break into hitting a little, maybe this gives us a little confidence.”