By Jeff Hamrick
---- — LYNN — A few innings into its Section 4 opener, things couldn’t have been going better for the North Andover East Little Leaguers.
Before it was over, however, North Andover needed a shut-down relief performance from Jake McElroy and a little long ball from Alex Karelas to fend off Weston’s frenetic rally.
District 14 champion North Andover East squandered almost all of a nine-run, third-inning lead but managed to hold off Weston for a 13-9 victory yesterday at Wyoma Park.
“It wasn’t the way you draw it up when you have a nine-run lead,” North Andover East manager Rob Carpentier said. “But winning (the first game) is great. It puts us in a good position, obviously. Now we get to see what happens.”
North Andover’s second game in the four-team sectional is 5:30 today against Beverly before playing Peabody West on Friday.
A victory in either game would assure East a spot in Saturday’s championship.
NA jumped on Weston with a five-run first highlighted by a pair of two-run homers by Steven Hajjar and Karelas. McElroy provided an 8-0 lead with a three-run blast in the second.
After Weston, which advanced by winning four of five in District 13 play, scored a solo run in the top of the third, East added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the frame on a two-out single by Joe Quinlan that plated Danny Albrect and Connor Gough.
“The bats were going,” said Carpentier, whose squad had at least three hits in each of the first four innings and finished with 15.
But Weston clawed back with an eight-run fourth in which 12 batters faced off against three North Andover pitchers. After Dan Packard retired the lead-off hitter, each of the next eight batters reached base and scored.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to have to go to (McElroy), but we had no choice at that point,” Carpentier said.
“We were looking for some guys to get some innings. We’re still confident in those guys. We’ll come back to them. We’re going to need these guys, and they’ll bounce back.”
McElroy began his stint by picking off one of the two runners he inherited then retired each of the final seven batters, including two with strikeouts.
“I was just thinking about shutting them down,” said McElroy, who went 3 for 4 with four RBI.
“Getting that first out helped me finish out the rest of the game.
McElroy earned the pitching victory because he was the most effective of the four relievers who followed starter Hajjar, who did not allow a hit while striking out six in his two innings — one inning shy of the minimum required for a win.
After McElroy halted the Weston rally, Karelas followed with a solo homer with one out in the bottom of the frame before Thomas Finn doubled and scored on a wild pitch for the game’s final margin.
“That was huge,” Carpentier said of the extra runs.
“The momentum had swung their way, but we kind of got it right back. If we had come in and gone one, two, three who knows what would have happened. I give these guys a lot of credit for bouncing right back.
Although he did not allow a run, Hajjar had to survive a pair of jams that had runners on second and third with one out in the first and no outs in the second. And like the rest of the staff, he has plenty of pitches left before hitting his tournament limit.
“It will probably be (Joe) Phinney (who allowed a hit and run in his only inning of work yesterday),” Carpentier said when asked who would start today.
“We still have a couple guys. We have some arms, so we’ll put something together.”
NORTH ANDOVER EAST 13, WESTON 9
agateText:Weston (9): P.K. Messervy cf/p 3-1-0, Thomas Burke c 4-1-0, Saag May 2b/c/ss 3-2-2, Jack Whorf ss/p 4-1-1, Patrick Romeri lf 3-0-0, Chouda Rutkowski lf 0-0-0, Noah Hooper p/3b/c 3-0-1, Peter Chandor rf 0-0-0, Vinnie Vasquez 2-2-2, Brian Hall 1b/p/cf 3-1-1, John Bruneau 1b 2-0-0, Nate Hohenberg rf 1-1-1. Totals 28-9-8
agateText:North Andover East (13): Connor Gough lf/p/ss 3-4-3, Joe Valentino cf 1-1-0, T.J. Regan ph 1-0-0, Jake McElroy ss/p 4-2-3, Steven Hajjar p/1b 4-1-1, Joe Quinlan rf 4-0-1, Joe Phinney 1b/p 2-1-2, Dan Packard p/rf 1-0-0, Alex Karelas 3b 3-2-3, Thomas Finn 2b 2-1-1, Jack Bourassa ph 1-0-0, Robbie Carpentier c 1-0-0, Danny Albrect c 2-1-1. Totals 29-13-15
agateText:RBI: W — May 3, Hohenberg 2, Burke, Whorf, Vasquez; NA — McElroy 4, Karelas 3, Hajjar 2, Quinlan 2.
agateText:HR: W — May 2 (none on in third and one on in fourth), Whorf (none on in fourth); NA — Hajjar (one on in first), Karelas 2 (one on in first and none on in fourth).
agateText:WP: McElroy. LP: Hooper
agateText:Weston 001 800 — 9
North Andover 532 30x—13