DANVERS, Mass. – The most dangerous lineup in the state has earned that reputation by producing from top to bottom.
St. John’s Prep overcame an early 3-1 deficit to defeat visiting St. John’s of Shrewsbury by a final of 9-4 early on Saturday afternoon, and the Eagles did it by battling in every at-bat.
While Boston College commit Nick Latham got Prep (13-2) started with a solo home run to right field in the first inning, and scored the team’s second run after drawing a leadoff walk in the third, it was the bottom of the Eagles’ order that did most of the damage.
Seniors Dan Trulli (3-for-4, R), Ryan Spurr (2 BB, RBI), and Jack Arend (2-for-2, 2 BB, R) forced Pioneers starter Danny Barlok to throw a ton of pitches through the first four innings.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Barlok’s fatigue may have come into play, as he left a fastball over the heart of the plate for designated hitter Dan Rose (2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI) to rip, and the Eagles’ 8-hitter came through with a huge 2-run single to put Prep up 4-3.
“We got to [Barlok] late,” said Eagles head coach Dan Letarte. “We were able to put up good, quality at-bats, and eventually we got our big inning. The bottom of the order has come through in several Catholic Conference games. We have confidence in all the kids, and it’s great to see them all doing well.”
After giving up that momentous hit to Rose, Barlok walked Arend, and allowed Eagles leadoff hitter Keith Leavitt to reach when he mishandled a chopper. That led to his removal from the game, but Barlok’s relief immediately allowed two walks, threw two wild pitches, and handed Prep four more runs to put the Pioneers (11-4) in an 8-3 hole.
Pitching with a comfortable lead after allowing 3 runs in the second inning, Eagles starter Justin Foley (7 IP, 8 H, 0 BB, 2 Ks, 4 R, 3 ER) tossed a 1-2-3 top half of the sixth inning, and finished the game to move to 7-0 on the season.
Tournament Experience: St. John’s of Shrewsbury handed Prep one of two losses this season when they defeated the Eagles 3-1 last month.
With an opportunity to exact some revenge on their home turf, the Eagles were prepared for a tournament-like atmosphere between two Super 8 hopefuls.
Letarte said, “We weren’t satisfied with the loss over [at St. John’s Shrewsbury], and we got down 3-1, which is exactly how they beat us, but it’s great the way the kids responded, because the first thing I said to them is ‘play this like a Super 8 game, because this is the type of opponent you’re going to see.’”
He continued, “It’s probably good for the kids, because the whole year we’ve only been down four times, and you’re going to get down in that tournament, so it’s good to know you can come back.”
Foley echoed that sentiment when he called the Pioneers, “The best team I’ve faced this season.”
The senior right-hander gave up his first homer of the year when Alex Black (2-for-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) took him deep in the second inning, and he ended up pitching with his team trailing for the first time this season.
“It hurt a little bit,” Foley said, referring to Black’s two-run shot, “But it was early, and you have to have a short memory out there. I just had to keep my head, because we have the best hitting in the state, and I knew they could get us back into it.”
It helped that Foley did not issue any base on balls. That’s a theme for Letarte’s starting staff, as the Eagles rarely allow free passes, and it proved to be the difference in a game where Prep hitters drew nine walks.
“I like that he got down, which is a new spot for him, but he trusted his defense, kept pounding the zone, and he just battled,” Letarte said about his starter’s performance.
Foley need to throw just 96 pitches to complete the game, and is now 10-0 in his varsity career. As the senior pointed out, when you have nine dangerous hitters providing run support, it’s easy to have the confidence to get back on the mound and pitch with aggression.
St. John’s Prep 9, St. John’s Shrewsbury 4
SJS 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 8 1
SJP 1 0 1 0 6 1 - 9 11 1