ANDOVER — Eight days remain in the high school baseball regular season, and one question looms over the Merrimack Valley Conference.
When the Division 1 North sectional tournament rolls around, should this monster be feared?
Central Catholic, as it has so many times this month, answered again with a resounding thud, pounding 12 hits and piling up the runs in an 8-3 victory, spoiling Andover High’s Senior Day at Aumais Field.
Ignored in all the state and regional polls, the Raiders moved to 13-5. Win Tuesday at home against this same Andover team, and the Raiders grab at least a share of the MVC large title.
But does anyone really believe in the Raiders? This is the same team that No. 1 St. John’s Prep toyed with back in mid-April, a team that once was 3-4 and had dropped back-to-back games vs. 4-13 Dracut and Bishop Fenwick.
“I think they should. We do,” said right-fielder Brady Abraham, who paced Central’s attack with three hits yesterday.
Like nearly everyone in the Central lineup — 1-to-6 anyway — Abraham has heated up at just the right time.
Following a midseason 1-for-15 skid, Abraham seemingly flipped a switch. The current 13-of-21 tear he’s on has the senior’s average up to .386.
He’s not alone. Bruising first baseman Nick Gorski opened the year in free-fall. A beast who hit .433 last season, Gorski opened the year at .063 or 1 for 16.
“For the first time, I didn’t worry about stats, and just tried to have fun with every at-bat,” said Gorski, an Eagle-Tribune Hockey All-Star. “Last year, it might have been about stats. This year, I just decided it was about winning an MVC championship, not a batting crown.”
One of the hottest hitters in the area now, we’s taken that .063 and pumped in a 15 for 31, with the average now at .340.
Look at the numbers piling up.
Cam Devanney? The sophomore lynchpin at a steady .407. His slick double-play partner, Anthony Licari? Booming at .371.
Pat Gleason, Aaron Hall, catcher Jon Parsons?
“It seems like every day someone else is stepping up and catching up,” said Devanney. “It starts with our team chemistry. Maybe we’re not the best, most talented team out there, but we pick each other up and it works.”
But how long will it work?
Even Central can’t be sure. The Raiders have feasted on an average at-best MVC. Of the non-leaguers, only St. John’s is a power program.
And while the Eagles cold-cocked Central, it’s tough to judge, considering the Raiders ran out a No. 3 or 4 arm and the Prep put it away early.
“I believe we’re going to go pretty far,” said Abraham. “Whoever takes us out, let’s just say it’s going to take an awful lot to beat us.”
If history means anything in the North Tourney, you have to hit the baseball to win in Division 1.
Sure, there’s been the odd, pitcher-dominated seasons. Jeff Allison strapped Peabody on his back. And folks in these parts will always be reminded of the legend of Jim Hanning, who went 3-0 with a pair of saves in a spectacular Andover High run to state title glory in 1992. Most years, though, it’s a bludgeoning contest.
It should make for an interesting June on Hampshire Street.
CENTRAL CATHOLIC 8, ANDOVER 3 MVC race update: If Central beats Andover Tuesday, the Raiders will share the MVC Large title with Chelmsford. Ride the big horse: For the umpteenth time this season, Andrew Hamel (5-1) delivered. The big fella rolled through six scoreless innings before tiring. He gave up nine hits and a walk, striking out three in 6.1 innings. "We absolutely expect this from him," said teammate Brady Abraham. "The score doesn't matter to him. He just goes out there and gets it done." Hit parade: Four Andover pitchers had no answer as the Raiders put up four in the third, two in the fourth and two more in the sixth. Central's 2-5 hitters were 8 for 16 with four runs and five RBIs. Well-kept secret: Central sophomore shortstop Cam Devanney should get credit as one of the top position players in EMass. His first-inning diving stop on a scorcher by Andrew Deloury might be the defensive play of the season. And he just keeps hitting with 19 runs and 19 RBIs. Warrior highlight: A tough, 0-3 week ended with a Senior Day thud. The 9-7 Warriors need one more win to qualify for the state tourney. One bright spot on the day? How about junior Jack Cox. The left-fielder robbed Jon Parsons of extra bases with a sweet dive-and-catch. He came in to pitch the sixth and iced down the Raider bats with a pair of scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out one. Finally, in the three-run seventh, Cox singled and scored. No rest for weary: Andover heads to Londonderry this morning for a 10 a.m. waker-upper. The Warriors requested the early opening since tomorrow is prom night. Central has to go halfway, driving to Braintree tomorrow to face Sandwich High in a 1 p.m. non-leaguer.