SUDBURY, Mass. -- Lincoln-Sudbury head coach Kirk Fredericks knew the challenge that his hitters could have with No. 7 St. John’s Prep ace Pat Connaughton in the Div. 1 North quarterfinals.
But with a little extra work and some unconventional practice, the No. 2 Warriors (20-2) knocked around the Prep star in the early innings and got to the bullpen late in it’s three-hour, 9-5 victory on Monday night at Feeley Field in the Div. 1 North tournament.
As soon as his team eliminated Boston Latin in the first round, Fredericks and his coaching staff set up the pitching machine at 90 mph to get his team ready for a helping of faster than normal heaters. He also set up the L-screen 20 feet from the hitters and had the coaches fire the ball as hard as they could to get the hitters reaction time just a step quicker.
That plan allowed the Warriors to be ready for Connaughton and the results showed as the Eagles’ ace didn’t get out of the fourth inning, surrendering five runs (four earned), walking seven and throwing over 100 pitches in his brief stint.
“We had a plan and we executed it well,” said Fredericks, whose team will play Chelmsford in the Div. 1 North semis. “It got the pitch count up and more importantly it gave our kids confidence. … If they could hit me the way I was throwing from right in front of them, they could hit Connaughton, Tyler Beede or Adam Ravenelle.”
That plan was executed best by Warriors’ lead off hitter Dan Cellucci. The junior outfielder went 3-for-3 with three runs scored and the go-ahead homer in the seventh inning to break a 5-5 tie. Cellucci reached base safely all six times he approached the plate with three walks to go along with his three hits.
“It helped a lot,” Cellucci said of the extra work. “You can’t just go up in a game and face that speed. You’ve got to practice it and it definitely helped the whole team.”
The Warriors were able to get the leadoff hitter on base in six out of their eight at-bats against Connaughton and the three other Prep pitchers.
With the game tied at two, the Warriors plated three unanswered runs in the third and fourth inning. With runners on second and third with one out, Adam Ravenelle nubbed a swinging bunt down the third base line. Connaughton tried to make a play on the well-positioned ball, but his throw sailed wide of first allowing both runs to come through for the 5-2 lead.
“I couldn’t throw strikes,” said Connaughton. “It was a control issue. I’ve had it in the past and I’ve always had it from lack of playing this sport enough. If I were able to throw strikes maybe it would have been a little different.”
His Prep teammates picked him up immediately in the top of the fifth inning to tie the game at 5. The Eagles got the first four guys to reach in the inning, with Justin Peluso hitting a RBI single and Connaughton ripping a RBI double to the right field gap.
Cellucci delivered the game-winning run with a shot to center with two out in the bottom of the seventh off of Prep reliever Bobby Woodworth. Keith Anderson fueled a three-run eighth-inning with a bloop two-RBI single into left on a 0-2 pitch.
“Two games in a row,” Fredericks said of Anderson’s plate presence. “Keith got a huge hit and three RBI in the Boston Latin game and he had another huge hit today. He’s helped us a great deal coming on at the end here.”