St. John’s baseball stays alive in “Super 8” hunt

Max Gieg picked up the save in Friday's win. (COURTESY PHOTO)

BROCKTON — The St. John’s Prep baseball team lives to see another day in the Division 1A “Super 8” tournament.

It was far from easy but No. 2 St. John’s ended Catholic Conference rival No. 5 BC High’s season with a 4-3 win in an elimination game Friday at Campanelli Stadium.

Led by three RBI from Will Frain, St. John’s worked its way to a 4-1 lead through the top of the ninth. Showing no quit, BC High made things interesting when it scored two runs (one on a passed ball, the other on a wild pitch) off St. John’s closer Max Gieg. But Gieg buckled down and struck out the final batter to seal the win.

“That’s high school baseball,” St. John’s coach Dan Letarte said. “You’re telling yourself, ‘let’s get that one out. Hit it in the air, hit it on the ground, strike him out.’ That’s just how it’s been with BC High. They’ve fought throughout the postseason. They’ve had quality at-bats.”

St. John’s starter Kevin Dewing gave the Eagles five solid innings. Dewing allowed one earned run on four hits and struck out seven. Sean Letarte followed in relief and threw three-plus innings. Gieg held St. John’s lead in the bottom of the ninth for the save.

“I think Dewing started us off really well,” Letarte said. “I thought Sean did very well. He got a little tired there at the end. He ran into a little trouble but he was coming back on short rest.”

BC High struck first in the top of the first inning, grabbing a 1-0 lead on Sean O’Connell’s 2-out RBI triple. Dewing kept BC High’s bats at bay through the next few innings, giving his Eagles a chance to get back on track.

They did so with a 3-run rally in the bottom of the third. Leadoff batter Brady O’Brien (2-for-5, two runs) got things started with a 1-out single. Alex Lane (1-for-3) kept the rally alive with a 2-out single to right field. In stepped No. 4 hitter Frain, who ripped a 2-run single to give the Eagles their first lead of the afternoon. Jake Miller’s (2-for-4, RBI) RBI single brought Frain home and stretched St. John’s lead to 3-1.

St. John’s tacked on one more in the bottom of the fifth. Again, O’Brien set the table with a single to get things started. Frain (2-for-2, three RBI) plated O’Brien with a sacrifice fly to left field, padding the lead at 4-1.

“Will was really focused,” Letarte said. “I thought he got some nice counts. He had a tough game last game, he went 0-for-5. He worked extra hard (Thursday) in practice, getting his hitting in. I’m just really proud of the kids. They all fought.”

That’s how things stayed for the next few frames. Sean Letarte, who took the ball in the top of the sixth, sent BC High down in order in two of his three innings of work. But he walked the first two batters of the ninth, prompting Coach Letarte, his father, to call on Gieg for the last three outs.

A passed ball allowed BC High’s Wil McCarthy to race home and closed the gap to 4-2. O’Connell sprinted home on a wild pitch, bringing BC High to within a run at 4-3. Gieg sent Phil DiBlasi down on strikes to close the deal.

“I thought Sean did well for three innings,” Letarte said. “I was thinking about using Max to start the ninth and in hindsight I wish I did. Sean was gassed. He’s usually a one or two inning guy. He went three solid. I think it made things tough on Max not starting that inning clean. Live and learn on that one.”

St. John’s will take on No. 3 Walpole Sunday (12) in another elimination tilt. The winner gets No. 8 North Andover in the “Super 8” final.

“We show up and we’re kind of loose,” Letarte said. “I don’t feel we have any pressure on us. We have two good pitchers coming up (Walpole’s) Cam Schlittler and Matt Donato. They’re both going to be well rested. Donato beat us last time. It’s just one day at a time.”

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