DANVERS — To beat the St. John’s Prep baseball team, you have to throw strikes.
In the opening round of the Super 8 Wednesday, visiting No. 7 seed Mansfield paid for an excessive number of walks and hit batsmen and the Eagles pulled away for a 10-1 win at Frates Diamond.
Senior Alex Lane’s 3-run homer deep to center was the highlight of the day for the Prep, which poured on nine runs in the last four at-bats to advance in the double-elimination Super 8.
Now 18-4 with six straight victories, St. John’s will face No. 3 seed Walpole (a 4-1 winner over Braintree) on Saturday in Brockton at 3 p.m.
“I’m not sure if we’re heading to Brockton, Neptune or Mars. It doesn’t matter. We’ll play anyplace,” head coach Dan Letarte joked. “It’s always good to get that first Super 8 game. We know how hard is to come back with the five straight wins if you don’t. It’s a bad feeling because that route is so difficult and fortunately we avoided that.”
St. John’s broke open what was a tight game through the first half of play. Mansfield (17-6) had squared the game at 1-1 in the third but a combination of eight walks and three hit batters conspired to put the Eagles in control.
Will Frain’s sacrifice fly plated the go-ahead run in the fifth, scoring Will Potdevin after he was plunked. Lane then came home on an error and Jake Miller scored on a doubleplay ball to make it 4-1.
In the next inning, Miller knocked in Brady O’Brien after he wore one and was sacrificed into scoring position by Potdevin. Though St. John’s left 13 runners on base (seven in scoring position), the damage was done.
“Walks lead to runs with some hits sprinkled in,” Letarte said. “To me the magic number is five. If we get to five runs, for me that’s huge.”
A Jack Cairns double, walk and an RBI single by Potdevin set the stage for Lane’s sky-high blast to the deepest part of the park in the bottom of the seventh, giving St. John’s a comfortable nine-run lead going to the extra two innings of Super 8 action.
Lefthanders Kevin Dewing (four innings, four hits) and Zach Fortuna (3 1/3 innings, two hits, 5 strikeouts) kept Mansfield at bay. Dewing escaped a first-and-third jam in the first and allowed only one earned run after back-to-back infield singles in the third. Fortuna, who earned the win, stranded three in scoring position and impressively all five of his K’s came with a runner in scoring position.
“Mansfield had a lot of lefties and Kevin and Zach both did a great job,” said Letarte. “Kevin hit the pitch count we wanted to keep him under, we have plans for him later in the tourney, and then Zach came in and challenged hitters. He has a little different arm angle than Kevin and he kept them off balance.”
Seniors Sean Letarte and Max Gieg finished things off for St. John’s, combining for the last five outs without allowing a hit.
Early on, St. John’s got a nice lift from D.J. Brooks, who shot an RBI single to center to score Max Feedman (walk). He and Noah Schott (two runs scored) played well while filling in for injured Richie Williams.
“D.J. and Noah have kind of split that spot and they’ve both played well, so we got them both in there today,” Letarte said. “They add athleticism to our team. Brooks had a big hit, and for a kid that wasn’t playing a ton to be a factor in a Super 8 game makes you proud as a coach.”
The Eagles totaled nine hits with Will Frain being the only man with two knocks. Lane (who reached base all five times), Potdevin, Miller, Freedman, Cairns, Brooks and Schott all had one and all nine started reached base.
It was the tenth straight home win for St. John’s, which finished the year 11-1 on the turf at Frates Diamond.
“It’s always a big goal of our seniors to win their last game on the home field,” said Letarte, whose team has won its Super 8 opener at home in five of six opportunities. “I’m glad we got it for them.”