DANVERS — With beanies on heads and hot coffees in hand, Sunday afternoon was a chilly one at the Pete Frates Diamond. But, hey, it’s a lot better when the home team puts on a show.
The St. John’s Prep Eagles got out to a 3-0 start in the first inning and never looked back, besting Haverhill 12-2 in just six innings (10-run mercy).
“It’s always good to beat a Merrimack Valley opponent,” Prep coach Dan Letarte said. “Overall, it was a pretty good day.”
It certainly was. The Eagles outhit the Hillies 19-5, something Letarte talked about right away.
“I like the hitting. I think we’re hitting well so far,” Letarte said. “Just putting the ball in play [and] trying to avoid strikeouts. I’m happy with that.”
Run support is a plus, but it’s not like Drew McGowan necessarily needed it. The Eagle played five innings, retiring seven batters and allowing just two runs.
“It’s his first time out this year,” Letarte said. “I think he’s just getting warmed up and used to everything. Overall, not bad for your first time out.”
Despite allowing his only two runs in the second inning, McGowan chose to respond, not run, and nothing was better than his flashy curveball to retire the side in the fifth.
“He did well,” Letarte said. “I thought he got even stronger during the late innings… a lot of ground balls and finished out strong.”
On a side note, he retired the third inning side in about 90 seconds, putting balls in play for his fielders to pick up the 1-2-3 inning.
Back to the run support. Prep’s Cam LaGrassa and Nic Lembo each tripled in the first inning, and Nate Marston roped one into right to plate two Eagles – who led 3-0 after one.
“We’re hitting all the way through the bottom of the lineup,” Letarte said.
After some back-and-forth action, the fourth inning was another big one for Prep. LaGrassa hit one sharply into right field to score Johnny Tighe, then tapped home plate himself after Lembo picked up an RBI triple.
“Just keep it going,” Letarte said. “I thought we played well at the end.”
From there, Prep put its marbles on reliever Will Shaheen who didn’t disappoint. He recorded two strikeouts in the sixth inning to help send the Hillies home.
Letarte said he was “just throwing strikes.”
Once the speakers played “Dirty Water” and players rejoiced, Letarte was happy – and it’s easy to see why after a 19-hit, one-error performance.
That said, he recognized there were things to improve upon (such as baserunning), and there’s no time like the present as the Eagles travel to take on Chelmsford at 1 p.m. on Monday.
“That’s going to be a good challenge for us,” Letarte said, “We’ve got to continue working on stuff.”