SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

June 18, 2009

Around the Horn baseball column: Team of the Decade: St. John's Prep, Peabody or Swampscott?

(Continued)

That doesn't even begin to delve into the throng of players from all three schools that have excelled in Division 2 and 3. Just off the top of our heads, for St. John's: Reid Auger (Bowdoin), Matt Sullivan (Trinity), Trevor Manzi (Roger Williams); for Peabody: Matt Sucharewicz (St. A's), Bobby Celentano (Salem State), Mark Sakelakos (UMass-Lowell); For Swampscott: Peter Kinchley (Middlebury).

Edge: St. John's Prep, boasting quality and quantity across all 10 years.

CONSISTENCY: Getting to the state tournament 10 straight seasons is enough consistency to satisfy most critics, but to settle this debate we're going to have to ratchet up the magnification on the old microscope.

St. John's has the steadiest hand, as Pat Yanchus guided the Eagles every step of the way. Both the Tanners and Big Blue underwent controversial coaching changes in the middle of the decade. Ed Nizwantowski was forced out at Peabody in 2004 — fresh off a Division 1 North title — and Frank DeFelice was likewise pushed out of Swampscott after the 2005 season.

All the credit in the world goes to the Tanners' Mark Bettencourt and the Big Blue's T.J. Baril for making sure these legendary programs didn't go off track. But Swampscott's win total has fallen off recently as they've lost nine games in four of the last five years.

Peabody's consistency dips in the playoffs — both they and Swampscott went one-and-done twice. St. John's never has, and in fact failed to win at least two games in the tourney only once from 2000-09.

Edge: The Prep. A state title in a "down year" (13-7 in 2000) and winning only one tournament game is the worst you've done? That's consistency defined.

THE VERDICT: Mitigating factors such as public schools against private schools and Division 1 vs. Division 3 aside, St. John's Prep takes it by the slimmest of margins. Peabody has a few more wins and more players who have gone on to make their living playing baseball. But St. John's has the one thing the Tanners lack — the 2000 state title.

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