NORTH ANDOVER — In high school baseball, there are no mid-April must-wins.
Still, after being boxed around by Billerica in Monday’s opener, yesterday’s 8-inning, come-from-behind victory over North Andover had to resonate pretty clearly for a young group of Methuen Rangers.
“This was just a great way for us to come back after Monday’s (13-0) loss,” said Ranger righty Enrique Veras, who got all but the final out to earn the 4-2 decision over the Knights. “Coming back twice like we did, the clutch hits that we had late, it has to help us down the road. These are the games you have to win. And it feels good to get one.”
A Methuen offense that had been skunked over the season’s first 12 innings awoke for one in the sixth, another in the seventh and two more in the eighth to spoil a gem by North Andover’s Jake DiSalvo, who nearly matched Veras pitch for pitch.
“I guess this is what it’s going to be like for us in this league,” joked coach Todd Dulin, whose Knights held leads of 1-0 and 2-1, fighting to the end and leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth of their Merrimack Valley Conference debut. “I thought Jake pitched well. He threw strikes and made good pitches. But we’re going to have to hit the ball better.
Steven Kramer and Matt Varoutsas had the RBIs on a day the Knights managed just six hits.
Veras scattered the six hits and four walks, striking out six in his 7.2 innings on the hill. The junior looked destined for the “tough-luck loser” tag, though, until the Rangers got to swinging.
Matt Bauchman first knotted things at 1-1, plating the Rangers first run of the year with a one-out single in the sixth. Veras did the job himself, down 2-1 with two outs in the top of the seventh, doubling home Evan Lacroix who had walked.