By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS – A late rally by St. John’s Prep fell short as defending state champion Xaverian spoiled the Eagles’ opener, 6-5. The Hawks, coming off a tough loss to Peabody in their home opener a day earlier, shot out to an early lead and managed to hang onto it.
Prep starter Dustin Hunt gave up three unearned runs in the first inning when the Hawks sent eight men to the plate and capitalized on an infield error to get on the board. Another run came home on a ground out, and Xaverian’s starting pitcher Austin DeCarr helped himself with an RBI single.
“It always seems to be a one run game any time we face Xaverian,” said Prep coach Pat Yanchus. “We answered back in the late innings, but just didn’t get enough hits to win. We gave them a couple of runs early on that booted double play ball which hurt.”
DeCarr held the Eagles to two runs on a pair of hits and struck out five in four strong innings on the mound. Tommy Buonopane led off the bottom of the first by walking, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out by Brandon Bingel.
The Prep added another run in the second when sophomore Keith Leavitt, who had two of this team’s five hits, singled and later scored on a passed ball. DeCarr retired seven of the last eight batters he faced. He snared a wicked line shot by DH David Bornstein to end the fourth before leaving the game.
“Austin wanted to stay in the game, but he had thrown 66 pitches, and at this early stage in the season I keep a close range on all the guys,” said Hawks coach Gerry Lambert. “I’m not going to risk an injury now and lose him until June. Will Shaughnessy did a good job to give us three outs.
“This is a huge Catholic Conference win for us, and it’s a step in the right direction. In the game against Peabody the hits were hard to come by, but we had better luck with the bats today.”
St. John’s collected only five hits off three different Xaverian pitchers while the Hawks made the most of 10 hits. With two runners on base Alex Person doubled off the fence in center field to knock in a run in the second inning, but the Eagles came up with a big double play to get out of the inning without further damage.
Alex Moore played the ball off the fence and relayed to shortstop Bingel, who fired to catcher Paul Crehan to nail Aaron Drummey at the plate. Crehan did a great job blocking the plate, and threw to third baseman Tyler Noe to get Person trying to go to third on the play at home.
Hunt retired the next six in a row, but ran into trouble in the fifth when Person singled and Andrew Elliott blasted a two run homer over the fence.
“I should have brought Justin Snyder in one batter earlier,” said Yanchus. “That was my mistake. Hunt was tiring, and I had the lefty warmed up to pitch to their lefty.”
Snyder was strong in relief the rest of the way. He scattered two singles and struck out four in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. St. John’s rallied, scoring three times in the sixth when Shaughnessy gave way to Worth Wilrod.
Nick Bragole walked to open the inning and Leavitt ripped a double down the right field line. Bragole scored on an error, and Leavitt came home on a passed ball. Crehan’s bunt single scored pinch runner Max Burt, but a mix up on a sign proved costly when pinch runner Rosario Missiti was caught in a rundown between third and home.
“They take the momentum so fast,” said Lambert. “We had a tough stretch with that error and passed ball. The Prep always jumps on things like that, and we were fortunate to be able to answer. They were pressing to get the tying run in, and after we got some early runs their reliever slammed the door on us.”
Leavitt and Crehan both had two hits for St. John’s while pinch hitter Natty Cabral delivered a clutch single. Bingel made some big defensive plays at shortstop. Things don’t get any easier for the Eagles, who will take on Peabody on Saturday. Bingel will be on the mound for St. John’s.