DANVERS — Determined not to let last year’s second-round playoff exit happen again, the seniors on the St. John’s Prep baseball team are proving their point with their bats, their gloves and pitching arms this time around.
The top-ranked Eagles, behind the fine pitching of junior Justin Snyder, recorded their 21st straight win yesterday in blanking Chelmsford, 9-0, in the Division 1 North quarterfinals.
It was fitting for longtime head coach Pat Yanchus, who is retiring at the end of the season after 33 years and won the final home game of his career yesterday.
Sophomore Keith Leavitt, whose three-run homer in the bottom of the first helped set the tone offensively, said the Eagles (now 21-1) have the right mind-set for tournament success.
“We focus on playing the game the same way all the time, and if you do that, you get good results,” he said. “We take it one game at a time and focus on winning that one.”
St. John’s Prep will now have a much-anticipated rematch with Peabody High (a winner over Central Catholic last night) in the Division 1 North semifinals Thursday at Fraser Field in Lynn (7 p.m.). The Prep hammered the Tanners, 14-1, back in April.
“My cousin Steve plays for Peabody and (it’ll be) cool to face his team,” said Leavitt. “It’s always fun to play against somebody in your family.”
Nick Bragole and Brandon Bingel worked walks off of Lions’ starter Andrew Knightly before Leavitt belted his three-run shot over the fence in right. It was his fourth dinger of 2013.
“It was a fastball low and I jumped on it,” said Leavitt. “I wanted to hit the ball hard and got a real good piece of it.”
The Eagles added a run in the fifth on a solo homer to left by Bragole. Two more runs crossed the plate in the fifth when DH Tyler Noe (2 hits, RBI) was hit by a pitch, stole both second and third, and scored on a passed ball. After Knightly walked Nick Latham and was replaced by Joe St. Hilaire, Alex Moore greeted the new hurler with a great at-bat, fouling off several pitches before hitting a long sacrifice fly to plate Latham.