HAVERHILL – After a handful of relief appearances, strapped with the “closer” tag, Haverhill High’s Matt Burns lobbied for a start, any start.
Burns’ reward was a Monday matinee date with the No. 6 team in the state, St. John’s Prep.
The Hillie senior didn’t disappoint, baffling the Prep with a barrage of off-speed stuff and holding the Eagle bats to four hits.
The only problem was the other guy on the hill, Georgetown’s Justin Snyder. The Prep southpaw matched Burns pitch for pitch, and the Eagles gave him enough offense to survive in a 2-1 win over the Hillies here at Trinity Stadium yesterday.
“That’s a great lineup over there,” said Burns, who went the route, allowing four hits and walking one. “I just tried to keep it down against them. They jumped on my mistakes. I left one up to their three-hitter and he hit.”
That sixth-inning homer to right for Keith Leavitt put the Prep up 1-0, but it was just about the only hard-hit ball off Burns in the game.
Haverhill answered it, too, in the bottom half of the frame, ignited by Tommy Maguire’s leadoff bunt hit. Kyle Gosselin sacrificed him to second, and Maguire moved to third on Matt McIntosh’s tapper.
Hillie senior Juanel Oriach then stroked his second hit of the day, knotting things at 1-1.
In the seventh, the Prep flaunted not its power, but its versatility to scoop the victory with a little small ball.
Keith Etherington looped a single and stole second. A bunt and sacrifice fly later — and almost in a blink — the advantage was back at 2-1.
“We know when we get him on base with no outs, with his speed there’s a good chance we’re going to score him,” said Snyder, who is heading to Salisbury School next year. “Our guys just went out and executed.”