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.