St. John’s baseball comes up short in semifinal matchup against Taunton

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St. John’s baseball comes up short in semifinal matchup against Taunton
James Mitchell slides under the tag to score the Pioneers’ second run of the game. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

WORCESTER – Despite securing an early lead and outhitting their opponent, the No. 6 St. John’s baseball team fell 10-5 in the semifinal match on Tuesday against Taunton. 

Taunton, who is seeded second, is the defending state champion.

The Pioneers got on the board early. On the second pitch of the game – before most fans had settled into their seats – catcher James Benestad crushed Taunton pitcher Jack Cali’s 1-0 offering, sending the ball flying over the left field fence.

Benestad’s home run was just the start. After James Mitchell walked and Jack Forgues singled into center field, cleanup hitter Noah Basgaard put another run on the board with an RBI groundout. Brady Collins brought Forgues home with an RBI double. 

At the end of the first inning, St. John’s led 3-0, and the offense seemed poised to dominate Taunton’s pitching for the rest of the game. 

“We had a fantastic start,” Coach Charles Eppinger said after the game. “We hit three balls extremely hard [and] got a three-run lead.”

The Pioneers hit the ball well throughout the game, but their runners were left on base. 

“We had bases loaded, no outs, and couldn’t get anything. We had second and third with one out and couldn’t get anything. We squandered a little bit unfortunately. But it was a heck of a start. The guys hit the ball well all day, [and] we just didn’t get the timely hits that we needed,” Eppinger said.

Taunton pulled away in the fourth. 

After Basgaard hit the first batter of the frame, southpaw reliever Theodore Cove started with two strikeouts. With two outs, Cove walked the next two batters, eventually surrendering a bases-clearing triple to Ryan MacDougall (2-4, 4 RBIs). MacDougall crossed the plate on a wild pitch, and Taunton went up 7-3.

“It was the wrong time for the wheels to come off a little bit,” Eppinger said. “We’ve been a great defensive team all year, [and] we’ve gotten great pitching all year. I was happy to see the hitting today because that’s been inconsistent for us, so it was nice to see us hit well today. Five runs should be enough for us to win, but today it wasn’t.”

For St. John’s, the loss represents the end of an extremely close-knit and successful team.

“We’re going to miss our seniors a lot – they set the tone really really well… [We had] fantastic leadership from our captain Jimmy Mitchell and all the way down [to] all the other seniors as well,” Eppinger said.

For Taunton, the win puts them back in the state championship game. The Tigers will look to become repeat champions against top-seeded Franklin. 

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