St. John’s baseball holds off Shrewsbury

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St. John’s baseball holds off Shrewsbury
James Benestad drops down a bunt to advance the runners on first and second. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – In the latest chapter of Shrewsbury’s intra-town rivalry, the St. John’s Pioneers held off the Shrewsbury Colonials baseball team, winning a hard-fought and highly competitive game by a score of 4-2.

Each teams’ offense got off to a slow start, sending only three batters to the plate in the first inning. Shrewsbury starting pitcher Joey Guidotti held the Pioneers in check, striking out four consecutive batters – two looking, two swinging – in the opening two innings.

Shrewsbury’s offense started the scoring in the bottom of the second inning. Singles from Colby Coghlin and Gavin Flynn created traffic on the basepaths, and after Kieren Ghidella was hit by a pitch, the bases were loaded. Ryan Kinsky – batting ninth – hit a hard ground ball that skipped over first baseman Noah Basgaard’s glove, driving in two runs.

St. John’s responded at the top of the third inning. The Pioneers used one walk, a hit by pitch, two stolen bases, and some creative baserunning to generate runs. While Jack Forgues was caught in a pickle, leadoff hitter James Benestad dashed home and scored before Forgues could be tagged for the third out of the inning.

After the third inning, the game was tied 2-2.

From there, St. John’s starting pitcher Theodore Cove was able to control the game. After an unlucky second inning, Cove kept the Colonial bats silent. Cove went the distance, striking out three, walking one, and giving up seven hits.

Though the Shrewsbury offense tried to gain momentum and put the team ahead, with Cove pitching, the Colonials had only one baserunner in scoring position over the last four innings.

“[I tried to] attack early with the fastball and then in later innings just go in with the off-speed and attack the hitters and stay ahead,” Cove told the Community Advocate.

Cove never waivered after the difficult second inning. “I just [tried] not to let it get to my head and [kept] attacking the zone and let my defense make the plays,” he said.

“He was locked in today,” St. John’s Head Coach Charles Eppinger said. “It was his first start of the season – it was his tenth appearance but he hadn’t gotten a start for us – I didn’t expect a complete game, but he was pretty efficient and got it done for us.”

With Shrewsbury’s offense under control, the Pioneers looked to take the lead. An RBI single by Pearson Dodds in the fifth inning put St. John’s ahead 3-2. Dodds, who batted ninth, went 2-2 with two singles, scoring two runs, and stealing two bases.

Later in the inning, the Pioneers had the opportunity for more. With the bases loaded and Basgaard – the cleanup hitter – at the plate, an overeager runner was picked off at second base, ending the inning and the Pioneers’ chance to own a commanding lead.

“We left a lot of guys on base,” Eppinger said. “We squandered a few opportunities to score runs. Thankfully, [Cove]… was in control. A bad hop helped them get a couple runs, but he was in control the rest of the game.”

An RBI single by Forgues in the top of the seventh inning drove in an insurance run and gave the Pioneers a much more comfortable 4-2 lead. The team would win by that score.

“I think [it was a] good win. It’s always good to beat Shrewsbury – quality team, crosstown rivals… What I told the guys after the game was we win close games. Sometimes they don’t play their best – and I don’t think we played our best today – but we win close games, we find a way to win. When we get down, we don’t quit, and we keep coming back,” Eppinger said.

Shrewsbury Head Coach Lee Diamantopoulos told the Community Advocate that his team needs to execute better heading into the playoffs.

“It wasn’t because of lack of effort, I think it was lack of execution,” he said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t play as well as we could have or should have. We’ll work on correcting it this weekend and getting ready for the district tournament.”

While the teams competed against one another, both groups also fought the wind. Consistent, powerful wind gusts whipped through Shrewsbury High School’s hilltop campus, making pop-ups and fly balls tough to track. Players – especially outfielders and catchers – wrestled the wind throughout the game, leading to several misplays and unusual hits.

“There [were] a lot of balls to second base [and] right field, and the wind definitely played a factor with a lot of those, but the guys battled through it… Both teams did a good job battling the wind, and it definitely was a factor today,” Eppinger said.

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