Matt Joyce (9), Charlie Bean (middle), Patrick Tevenan (left), and teammates mob Doug Concannon after the final out of Xaverian baseball’s 3-2 victory over rival St. John’s Prep at Fenway Park on Saturday. Photos by Michael Flanagan
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Entering Saturday, Xaverian baseball’s senior class had never beaten their arch-rivals, St. John’s Prep, who finished as the runner-up in last season’s Super Eight.
It only makes sense that after such a long drought against the Eagles on the diamond, the Hawks (4-3) were able to put together a signature win and snap the losing skid against Prep on the grandest of stages.
Behind four innings from staff ace and Northeastern commit Owen Langan, as well as shut-down relief efforts by Justin Posnik and Doug Concannon, Xaverian gutted out a 3-2 victory at Fenway Park while sporting some special edition No. 70 white uniforms with red lettering dedicated to the late Brother Raymond Hoyt.
“In terms of the way the games play out in the Catholic Conference, its just another day at the office,” said Xaverian head coach Jerry Lambert following the win. “To start with the obvious, for us to be here today is a dream come true for just about every guy on the team, and certainly a dream come true for the head coach. We were very, very fortunate to have this opportunity and [we are] happy that we won - that’s certainly part of it - but [we are] just happy to be here … and play well and be in a position to grind it out at the end.”
The only damage that Prep was able to do at plate against Langan (four innings, five hits, six strikeouts, two earned) all day came in the first inning, when the Eagles plated a run from second on a base hit to left before a passed ball allowed a second run to come in from third. The Hawks were able to get a pair of fly outs before Langan closed out the inning with a strikeout.
“Yeah, [St. John’s Prep] started well,” said Lambert. “They hit two or three balls well in that first inning. I think Owen [Langan] took a few dozen pitches to get his feet under him a little bit, and that’s understandable. How many times do you watch NESN at night? Thousands, and all the sudden you find yourself on that bump? For him to be in that position, he handled it very, very well. He had the one little hiccup in the fourth inning, but he got himself back under control. That’s a senior showing some leadership there and we needed it today. Every one of the outs the pitchers gave us today was really huge. Prep was tough.”
A humbled Langan credited his teammates for helping him respond after the first inning and record some tough outs to guide the Hawks to victory.
“I think everyone was nervous a little at the beginning of the game, being that it’s Fenway Park,” said Langan. “The guys behind me gave me a lot of confidence and they made some big plays to get us out of some tough jams. [Today] is definitely an experience we will remember forever, but it doesn’t happen without us all coming together and winning as a team after going down a pair of runs early and battling back.”
The Hawks were sent down in order in the home half of the first, but Langan cruised through the top of the second by recording a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to left. In the bottom of the second, Xaverian put together a rally begun by a pair of walks by Matt and John Joyce to put men at first and second with one out. A bunt single by senior catcher Patrick Tevenan loaded the bases for Chris Ducko, and the junior from Dedham delivered a bases-clearing double that found its way through the SJP left-fielder and rolled all the way to the monster to give Xaverian a 3-2 lead at the end of two.
Langan recorded a fly out, let up a single, but responded with a strikeout and a fly out to center to get the Hawks out of the third unscathed. Matt Joyce led off the bottom of the third for Xaverian with a base hit to center, but a fielder’s choice, followed by a 6-4-3 double play, got Prep out of the inning still trailing by a single run.
The top of the fourth inning was when the momentum really began to swing in Xaverian’s favor, as Langan struck out a pair of batters to begin the frame before allowing a walk and a base hit to put men at first and second with two away. Following a base hit to left field, Prep sent the runner home from second in an attempt to tie the game. Sean Birch fired home a dart to Tevenan, who was run over at the plate, but held on for the inning-ending out to keep the game 3-2 in favor of Xaverian after three and a half. The Xaverian dugout exploded with excitement at the sight of their catcher taking a hit to make what turned out to be the game-saving play.
Xaverian drew a pair of walks via Ducko and Paul Manning to begin the bottom of the fourth, looking to add to their lead. However, a fielder’s choice and an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play kept it a 3-2 game heading into the fifth.
Posnik came on in relief of Langan with a man on first and no outs in the top of the fifth and recorded a fly out to center, a strikeout, allowed a single, and got out of a first-and-second jam, thanks to a diving stab at third and throw to first by John Joyce to conclude the inning.
Prep was again able to prevent Xaverian from adding to its lead in the bottom of the fifth, but Posnik also did his hit part in the top of the sixth for the Hawks by battling out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam, recording a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to left to keep It 3-2 Xaverian after five and a half.
John Joyce led off the bottom of the sixth for Xaverian with a single to right, but a fielder’s choice and a pair of strikeouts got Prep out of the inning with the chance to tie it with a single run in the top of the seventh.
Following a walk by Posnik, Doug Concannon came on to try and record the save for Xaverian with a man on first and no outs. The junior from Quincy allowed a walk to put runners at first and second, and a sacrifice bunt put men at second and third with one away. Concannon battled back to induce a pop out to short right field and prevent the tying runner on third from tagging. He then earned a swinging strikeout on a pitch in the dirt before Tevenan fired on to first for the game-ending out to give Xaverian the 3-2 victory.
A pleased Lambert credited his two relievers, Posnik and Concannon, for shutting the door and recording those key outs late in the game to propel the Hawks to the thrilling victory.
“Justin Posnik had pitched great for us in those two innings, but that was the most he had pitched all season in terms of a relief outing,” said Lambert. “We tried to get maybe one or two more outs of him, but he was a little gassed. For Doug to come in there, that’s a real tough spot for a guy who’s new to the varsity program. He kept his poise, kept his composure, threw strikes and did what he had to do in that situation. Real tip of the hat to him, because that’s a tough spot I put him in there. I don’t have any right to expect him to be able to perform there, and he did a wonderful job - really picked us up.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.