---- — PEABODY — In a scheduling twist, both the Peabody and St. John’s Prep baseball teams faced Xaverian in their season openers last week.
Since the Tanners won and the Eagles lost, you might have expected Saturday’s annual showdown between North Shore rivals to break Peabody’s way.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Perhaps fueled by the setback and the doubters, the Eagles pounded Peabody Saturday afternoon at Bezemes Diamond. St. John’s handed the hosts a humbling 14-1 defeat that told the entire Bay State that the Prep is a bona fide Division 1 championship contender.
“It was good to make a statement,” said St. John’s senior captain Brandon Bingel, who was in complete command in four innings of work and homered for good measure in the fifth.
Bingel, a Bryant University commit from Peabody, dominated the strike zone. He got out ahead of nearly every Peabody hitter, punching out the side in the first and collecting eight total strikeouts. The righty needed just 53 pitches to get through four innings, yielding only a double to Frank Lowry that his leftfielder lost in the sun, and left with a 12-0 lead.
“He looked pretty good,” said Eagles coach Pat Yanchus. “He had all three of his pitches going.”
As the Eagles offense poured on runs, Bingel got them back to the plate in a hurry. He retired the last nine men he faced, went to a three ball count just twice in 13 at-bats and was brutally efficient with his hard breaking ball.
“You don’t want to be hanging around against him with two strikes,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “Bingel is excellent and we had to avoid that breaking stuff by squaring up balls early in the count. We didn’t do that.”
Peabody (1-1) did not help itself, committing six errors and issuing a total of seven walks. The Prep (1-1) was happy to take advanatge, scoring runs in each of the first six innings.
St. John’s earned their runs with 11 hits. Bingel and Nick Bragole (double) had RBI in the first and catcher Paul Crehan scored on a wild pitch as the Eagles chased Peabody starter Derek Demild (four strikeouts in two innings). Peabody used four pitchers including Brandon Butcher and the varsity debuts of sophomores Matt Correale (21/3 innings) and Mike Raymond (2 innings).
“That’s one of the better offensive teams in the state of Massachusetts and I told our guys to attack them and make them earn it,” said Bettencourt. “For the most part, (St. John’s) did. They hit the ball around the yard.”
The wheels came off for Peabody in the third inning. Bingel walked and scored on David Bornstein’s RBI single. Senior Alex Moore then ripped the first of his two hits to right-center, scoring two more.
The state’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year took second and third as the Tanners mishandled the ball in the outfield, then raced home and slid under the tag for a pseudo-inside the park homer that made the lead a touchdown, 7-0.
“Those two hits were huge for Alex,” Bingel said. “It was huge for all our guys. The first game, Keith (Leavitt) was the only guy hitting so to come out here and have everybody hit was awesome.”
Tyler Noe, who is also from Peabody, hit a 2-run triple off Correale in a Peabody West vs. Peabody West clash in the fifth. Bingel then sent the first pitch he saw over the rightfield fence onto Donahue Field to make it 12-0.
“We performed to our potential today,” said Yanchus, who saw seven of his nine regulars collect hits. Moore, Crehan and Bingel each had two and Sawyer Billings had one off the bench. Reserves Natty Cabral and Billy Klein both scored on wild pitches as St. John’s pulled ahead 14-0.
“You know when you schedule a game like that, this is a possibility,” said Bettencourt. “We play these games to see where we stand and we saw what happens when we don’t come to play.”
St. John’s bullpen was excellent, with Evan Roberts pitching a scoreless fifth and Jack Burke fanning two in a spotless sixth. Senior Mike Driscoll fanned one and allowed two hits and a run in the seventh, but closed the door.
Sophomore Ryan Collins was a bright spot for Peabody, reaching twice and driving in his team’s only run. Anthony Cravotta also had a hit.
“In one sided games, you find out who you are. I was happy with how some of our guys reacted and not so happy with others. We’ll address that in practice,” Bettencourt said.
It was the most one-sided win in the Prep-Peabody rivalry since a state tournament game won by the Eagles at Bezemes Diamond, 19-0, back in 2001. The Eagles have won three straight in the series and five of the eight regular season meetings since 2006.
The caveat for Peabody Saturday was that Bettencourt held out UConn-bound senior pitcher Pat Ruotolo for what the coach termed a team issue.
“We’re hoping he’s available to us and we’ll be able to use him in one of our next two games,” said Bettencourt, adding that it is his decision when Ruotolo returns to the lineup.
Matt Williams is the assistant sports editor of The Salem News. You can contact him at 978-338-2669, MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.