ANDOVER – With the season on the line, there isn’t anyone North Andover East head coach Rob Carpentier wanted on the mound more than towering 12-year-old Steven Hajjar. In last night’s District 14 title game, Hajjar delivered, tossing 5-2/3 innings, striking out six and scattering six hits as the Knights topped cross-town rival Andover National, 5-2.
North Andover won the best-of-3 series 2-1.
“He’s a horse,” said Carpentier, whose team moves on to play the winner of District 13 on Wednesday night in Lynn. “We would have confidence no matter who we put out there, but having (Hajjar) on the mound today, I think you just saw it in the rest of our kids how much confidence we had in him.”
The only runs Hajjar surrendered were when his counterpart, Andover pitcher Patrick Dennehy, scored on a pair of wild pitches in the first and fifth innings. Hajjar, a lefthander, delivers a sharp fastball as well as a looping curveball that kept Andover hitters out of tempo almost all night.
After Dennehy scored in the first inning, Hajjar retired 11 of the next 14 batters, including four strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the North Andover bats provided pop in the middle of the order with No. 3 hitter Jake McElroy and No. 5 hitter Joe Quinlan each homering, accounting for all of North Andover’s runs.
McElroy’s first-inning blast to right center scored Connor Gough, who led off the game with a single, and Quinlan’s three-run bomb in the fourth plated McElroy and Hajjar.
The Knights were just as sharp on the field. In the bottom of the sixth, with a two men on, McElroy made a diving stab to snatch a line drive, saving at least one run. On the Andover side, Dennehy made three quick stabs with his glove to retire runners at first.