SHREWSBURY -- The North Middlesex Regional baseball came into Monday's Division 1 Central Mass. quarterfinal at St. John's of Shrewsbury riding high after defeating rival Marlboro in extra frames on Thursday.
However, the Patriots bats could not solve the puzzle St. John's right-hander Shane Combs was dealing as no-hit the Pats, striking out 16 -- eight looking -- en route to a complete-game 6-0 win.
The Pioneers advancde to Wednesday's semifinal at Tivnan Field in Worcester to face Leominster.
"You can't help the kids if they are going to take the third strike looking," North Middlesex head coach Tom Bartelson said. "They were less aggressive than I expected them to be at the plate. We came in against a hot pitcher. The kid threw strikes."
Combs retired the Patriots bats in order in the top half of the first. North Middlesex starter Sam Ineson plunked St. John's leadoff hitter Jake Rosen to start his outing. Ineson rebounded to strike out junior Tyler McKeon before an RBI double to left-center by senior catcher Scott Manea brought around Rosen from second to put the Pioneers up 1-0.
North Middlesex's struggles at the plate continued in the second, as Combs struck out the first two batters he faced. Logan Kuzmitch hit a flair to right, which looked like it would drop in, but St. John's sophomore rightfielder Sam Shaw had other plans. Shaw, who was playing deep, raced in and laid out to make the catch, robbing Kuzmitch to end the inning.
Ineson found his groove in the second inning. The North Middlesex hurler kept the Pioneers bats off balance, striking out the side to keep it a one-run game. North Middlesex earned its first baserunner of the game on a two-out, full-count walk to senior catcher Ben Wright.
Wright was left stranded as senior right fielder Shawn Pinney went down looking on a curve ball that dropped in on the outside corner to end the inning.
In the third, St. John's senior left fielder PJ Browne reached on an outfield error and advanced to second. Ineson's outing ended after he surrendered a one-out RBI single to Kevin Quinlivan, which brought Browne in.
"You cannot give a good team like this extra outs like that," Bartelson said. "We had a close game for a while there playing against a really good ballclub.
We matched them for a while there to keep the momentum going, but that one mistake cost us. If we stopped that ball in the outfield and got a little confidence at the plate, maybe we're back in it. We just kind of shut down at the plate."
Sophomore reliever David Neuhaus served up an RBI single to David Monahan to make it 3-0 Saint John's after three.
North Middlesex put two more runners on the paths in the later innings, but it could not solve Combs. The Pioneers tacked on three insurance runs in the sixth.
The Patriots graduate nine seniors: Kyle Schwartz, Pinney, Ineson, Tyler MacDonald, Wright, Kuzmitch, Dan Considine, Brennan Lawrence and Joe Sullivan.
"It was a good year," Bartelson said. "They're a great bunch of kids. I am going to miss them."