By Mike McMahon
---- — 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.
“It’s a group of 13 kids, they all have different roles and they all accepted those roles,” Carpentier said. “We’re coming together more and more. This game tonight will help bring us more together. That’s a tough game and a tough series.”
Hajjar, McElroy, Quinlan and Joe Phinney, who closed the game, are all in their second year playing with the 12-year-old team.
“It’s definitely an advantage having that experience,” Carpentier said. “This is a little bit of a different animal. You’re not just playing in front of your grandparents and parents; you look at the crowd tonight and they were lined up all along the fence and several people deep in some parts. The way these kids responded to that pressure is impressive, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
agateHed:North Andover East 5, Andover National 2
agateText:District 14 Championship (NA wins series 2-1)
agate_MLB_linescore9:North Andover East: 200 300–5
Andover National: 100 010–2
agateText:North Andover East (5): Connor Gough 3b 3-1-1, Joe Valentino cf 2-0-0, T.J. Regan cf 1-0-0, Jake McElroy ss 3-2-2, Steven Hajjar p 2-1-1, Joe Quinlan rf 3-1-1, Joe Phinney 1b 2-0-0, Alex Karelas lf 3-0-1, Thomas Finn 2b 2-0-0, Jack Bourassa 2b 0-0-0, Robbie Carpentier 2-0-0; Totals 23-5-6.
Andover National (2): Patrick Dennehy p 3-2-1, Chris Rassias cf 3-0-1, Andrew Theriault ss 3-0-1, Joe Biddle lf 3-0-2, Connor Peters 1b 2-0-0, Alec Haffner 2b 3-0-0, Nick Christopher c 3-0-0, John Gemmell rf 3-0-1, Steve Shaw 3b 3-0-2; Totals 26-2-8.
RBI: North Andover – Joe Quinlan 3, Jake McElroy 2; Andover – None.
HR: North Andover – Joe Quinlan, Jake McElroy
WP: Steven Hajjar (5.2ip, 7h, 2er, 1bb, 6k)