DANVERS — St. John’s Prep baseball coach Dan Letarte calls senior pitcher Justin Foley “a strike machine”.
Being around the plate with nearly every offering Monday afternoon worked for Foley, who recorded his area-leading fourth win of the season to help the host Eagles hold off Catholic Conference rival Malden Catholic, 3-1.
Foley scattered six hits, walked one and struck out three. MC’s hitters were often pushing the ball to the hot corner, and a half-dozen good throws by Teddy McNamara and solid picks by first baseman Dan Trulli kept the hosts out of trouble.
“I knew I wasn’t overpowering anybody, so I had to make them get out. I pitched to outs,” said Foley. “I kept them off balance because I knew if I threw too many fastballs, they’d pipe them back up the middle. It’s trusting my guys to make plays.”
With the win, the Eagles (8-2 overall) move to 4-0 in Catholic Conference play. Malden Catholic is now 3-4 overall and suffered their second league loss. The Prep is in the driver’s seat to the Catholic Conference title since each of the other four teams have two league losses at the halfway mark.
Malden Catholic ace Austin Batchelor, who hails from Peabody and will pitch at Boston College next season, allowed five hits and struck out seven. He threw 80 pitches in 6-plus innings in what was essentially his third start after missing his entire junior season following Tommy John surgery.
Batchelor showed strong velocity on the fastball and good movement with his curve, but the Prep managed three runs in the third with base hits by Jake Spada, Keith Leavitt and McNamara and an RBI from Nick Latham.
“Austin pitched really well. He struck out three in the first and set the tone right away. We knew we weren’t going to score a lot of runs today,” Prep coach Dan Letarte said.
The three runs were plenty for Foley, who didn’t allow a run in his first 23 innings of the season and has allowed one in 26 frames overall. MC’s Jim Sullivan drove in Will Montgomery in the fifth, but Foley worked around a hit in both the sixth and seventh to win.
“You get three runs for Justin and you feel pretty confident in him,” said Letarte. “He just wins — and he makes kids want to win behind him. Batters’ hands fly open on his changeup, and that’s why you take a million ground balls in practice.”
McNamara led the Prep with two hits while senior Ryan Spurr also had a hit and Spada reached twice. Jacob Yish scored a run and was hit by a pitch in the third. The Eagles made a couple of errors but each time Foley stranded them on base. In fact, MC left runners on base in five of the seven frames.
“It was mental toughness. You have to put those mistakes out of your mind,” said Foley. “We bounced back.”