DANVERS, Mass. -– From the very beginning of Monday’s Catholic Conference tilt between BC High and host St. John’s Prep, it was very obvious that Prep senior lefthander Evan Roberts was in complete control.
Roberts, a Davidson College baseball commit, never allowed a baserunner to get past first base, surrendering just one hit to Luke Rafferty in the fifth inning. Roberts’ precision on the mound had BC High (6-2) constantly guessing at the plate, masterfully placing his off speed pitches to lead St. John’s Prep to an 8-0 victory.
The win puts Prep at 8-1 overall and in sole possession of first place in the Catholic Conference.
“I threw strikes, [Prep catcher] Mike Geaslen called a great game," Roberts said. "I knew I could trust my defense...they played great defense all day. We had timely hitting, that’s the most runs we’ve scored in awhile –- we could really hit the ball today. I trust in my catcher, I trust in my coaches, I trust in everybody behind me. We had a good, complete game today."
The Eagles have made just three errors through nine games played this year, a factor that has been huge for Roberts, who by his own admission and the admission of his coach, is a ground ball pitcher who relies on his command and having a strong defense behind him.
“It makes my job so much easier,” Roberts continued. “Those guys work hard in practice every day, they come out ready to play, and they want the ball hit to them.”
After losing several key starters and the majority of his pitching staff from last year’s team, the consistent defense, especially from infielders like senior co-captain Max Burt, Rosario Missiti, Ryan Spurr, and Ted McNamara, has been a pleasant surprise for first-year Prep head coach Dan Letarte.
“Three errors as of today, and that’s in nine games. We didn’t expect that with all those kids playing college baseball this year, the kids who have stepped up and started have kept that along. The question-mark coming into this year had been defense, so far it’s been solid,” Letarte said. “Evan definitely was on, had command and control all game. He kept them off balance, great curve ball, and his change up was really working today too. He just kept it down and we wanted groundball outs, that was it.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead on BC High starter Colin Brennan in the second inning. Mark Etherington came up with Prep’s first hit of the game, stole second base, and then came around to score on a bloop double between third base and left field by Missiti. Missiti came around to score two batters later on a fielders’ choice by Spurr.
“Everyone on the pitching staff always feels comfortable when we can get the first run of the game. After that we can just ride it out. I trust my hitters and they came through,” Roberts said.
Sawyer Billings added a solo home run in the fourth for Prep. During a five-run fifth inning, Prep was rid of much doubt going into the final innings thanks to timely hitting by Burt (2-for-4, SB), leadoff hitter Nick Latham (1-for-3, HR), McNamara (1-2, RBI) , and Missiti (2-for-3, 2B, RBI).
“The kids right down the line have been hitting. We don’t have a ton of speed, so we have a lot of hit and run, run-hit, but all the kids came through today and they hit the ball well," Letarte said. "[Latham] is not a leadoff guy, but he has quality at bats. With a kid like that, if he gets up four times instead of three then that definitely helps."
Prep graduated their two highly-recruited aces from last year -- Northeastern flamethrower Dustin Hunt, and Bryant University pitcher/infielder Brandon Bingel, last year's ESPN Boston Mr. Baseball selection. Because of that, Letarte expected that much more pressure would be on Roberts and fellow senior Justin Snyder coming into the season -– especially given the fact that they are one of the few returning starting pitchers with experience in big games.
So far, Snyder and Roberts have both been able to answer the call.
“I honestly thought with him and Justin Snyder I thought he’d be okay, and [Roberts] has been okay. Kids were behind on him last year,” Letarte said, joking about the difference in velocity between the hard-throwing Hunt and the crafty Roberts. “We really do rely on [Roberts and Snyder]. We’ve got some young guys who are figuring it out and doing well. But Evan’s been like this for four years, he’s been consistent in wooden bat games, he keeps the ball down and he’s a groundball out pitcher.”