ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
Frank DiOrio connects for a base hit.
By KATIE MORRISON
BROCKTON — Another year, another tough loss for St. John’s Prep in the Super 8 final.
St. John’s of Shrewsbury took advantage of Eagles miscues to score four runs in the sixth, and the Eagles’ comeback was too little, too late as the Pioneers wrapped up the title with a 5-4 win Wednesday night at Campanelli Stadium.
Two days after making six errors in a win over BC High to reach the final, St. John’s Prep didn’t make as many mistakes but the Pioneers made it pay for every miscue. That was the case in a sixth inning that sealed the win for St. John’s.
“For the first time, I felt like we were a little fatigued, a little tired,” Prep coach Dan Letarte said. “The four-run inning, that hurts. You pull that out, it’s a 4-1 game. But that’s baseball, that’s the way it goes.”
“In this tournament, you have to play perfect, you can’t have a bad inning,” Letarte added. “We’ve learned that over the years. And when we have those bad innings, that usually leads to big runs, big problems.”
It’s the third year in a row that St. John’s Prep has reached the Super 8 final. The past two years, the Eagles pushed the tournament to its limit, but fell to Braintree in the finale each time. This year, the Prep fell to St. John’s on a dramatic walk-off in the winners bracket semifinal. The Eagles had to beat BC High Monday to get another shot at St. John’s, who they split the regular season series with, 1-1.
Early on, everything was clicking for the Prep. Casey Bussone, who took the loss in the Saturday’s winners bracket semifinal, got the chance to redeem himself against the Pioneers. Bussone wasn’t his sharpest, but he was effective, allowing one run on three hits, striking out four.
The Prep struck first, plating two runs in the third. The Eagles found two-out magic as Jacob Bolger reached on a two-base error after a throw to first skipped to the dugout. That kept the inning alive for Tyler MacGregor, who laced a RBI double to deep left-center. Frank DiOrio followed with a double up the middle, bringing in MacGregor.
But as was the case Saturday, the shutdown inning was elusive for the Eagles. St. John’s cut the lead in half on a two-out single from Christian Jordan. But Bussone worked his way out of a two-out, two-on jam to preserve the lead.
All was quiet until the sixth. Matt Relihan came on in relief of Jake Sanderson, who tossed two scoreless innings, and the trouble for Relihan started right away. Sean Burke reached on an infield single, and Thomas Moschella drew a walk. John Fields bunted the runners over.
Dan Regan took over for Relihan, and the Prep caught a stroke of luck when Patrick Galvin grounded into a fielder’s choice and catcher Alex Lane caught Burke in between third and home for the second out.
That luck turned quickly, however. A balk brought home the tying run in Moschella, and Jake Hamel drove home the go-ahead run with a hard single to left to make it 3-2. Another walk and an error brought home two more runs.
Max Gieg came on in relief and walked the bases loaded but got a groundout to escape any further damage. Still, the Eagles were staring at a 5-2 deficit.
The Eagles mounted a comeback in the eighth, as MacGregor started a rally with a leadoff single. DiOrio delivered another huge hit, this time a RBI triple to cut the lead to 5-3. Dan Frey drove DiOrio home on a fielder’s choice.
But St. John’s coach Charlie Eppinger wouldn’t let the Prep’s rally continue. Enter Ian Seymour.
Seymour held the Eagles at bay for much of Saturday’s loss, and continued his dominance in Wednesday’s game, striking out Andrew Selima and Chris Francoeur to end the threat. In the ninth, the Eagles put runners on second and third, but Seymour buckled down to finish it out.
“The kids are so resilient. They’re down and they put the winning run on base. You can’t ask for more than that,” Letarte said. “The resiliency was great, but St. John’s is a very deserving champion. We had some young guys get some tournament experience, that’s good. But the best team won, they beat us three out of four.”