By Matt Williams
---- — DANVERS — It took Justin Snyder a few batters to find the strike zone yesterday. But once the St. John’s Prep left-hander did, he was nearly untouchable.
Snyder retired 19 of 21 Malden Catholic batters between the first and seventh innings as St. John’s won its eighth straight, 3-1.
Wearing special alternate jerseys to honor Class of 2003 St. John’s alumnus Pete Frates and his fight against ALS, the Eagles (8-1 overall, 2-1 Catholic Conference) rode great pitching and timely hitting to an important league win.
“We didn’t want to lose on a day that we honored Pete,” said Eagles head coach Pat Yanchus.
After hitting the first batter he faced and walking the next two, Snyder went six innings without even going to a 3-ball count. He escaped a bases loaded, no out jam with just one MC run scored in the first by finding his off-speed location.
Malden Catholic (5-3) was limited to two baserunners the rest of the way, with senior Dustin Hunt coming on to get the final two outs and the save in the seventh.
The Lancers pitched a solid lefty of their own in Jeremy Roberts, but the Eagles came through with timely hitting to prevail. Sophomore Keith Leavitt crushed a homer to right to even the score in the second.
Senior Alex Moore’s infield single led to trouble for MC in the third. After a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base, Prep senior Tyler Noe doubled him home with the go-ahead run. Senior Nick Bragole followed an RBI single after Noe swiped third, and that was all the offense the Eagles needed.
“Ocho (Bragole, who wears No. 8) came up with a big hit. We didn’t get a lot of walks, but we got that timely hitting,” said Noe, who was 2-for-2 with an RBI, a run and two stolen bases. “This was a good team win overall.”
St. John’s looked to extend the lead when Natty Cabral sent a ball onto the lacrosse field in left, but the umpires ruled that the ball was caught despite protests from the St. John’s coaches. Noe and Leavitt singled in the fifth and sixth, but Roberts stranded them with some crafty work from the stretch.
“I was a little worried in that first inning with the bases loaded and no outs, but Justin settled in,” said Yanchus. “They had a good pitcher, too. It was a good lefty duel.”
Snyder went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit with three walks, a hit batter and six strikeouts.
Peabody native Austin Batchelor scored MC’s run and played well behind the plate, nailing Tommy Buonopane (1-for-2) as he tried to score on a wild pitch.