By Jeff Hamrick
---- — LYNN — It took five innings, but Beverly finally figured out the riddle that was Joe Phinney.
The District 15 champions ruined a stellar performance by the North Andover reliever, scoring three unearned runs in the top of the eighth for a 6-3 victory at Wyoma Park. Beverly’s victory, which came one day after a loss to Peabody, tightened the four-team Section 4 Little League tournament.
North Andover East, which defeated Weston 13-9 on Wednesday, probably now must defeat perennial power Peabody in today’s 5:30 p.m. affair to have any chance for a spot in Saturday’s sectional championship which has a state-tournament berth at stake.
The only certainties today are that East likely needs more than the four hits it had and to strand fewer than the 12 base runners it left hanging yesterday.
“Both games were kind of unusual,” North Andover manager Rob Carpentier said of his inconsistent offense. “(Wednesday) was a little unusual (with 13 runs and 15 hits) and (yesterday) was a little unusual.
“It’s been a great experience, and our guys are having a blast. Hey, I still like our chances. Obviously we still have one.”
Phinney provided North Andover its chance against Beverly.
After falling behind 3-0 through two innings, East turned to Phinney with a runner on first and no outs in the third. The reliever then hurled four innings of no-hit ball, facing only three batters above the minimum before getting tagged in the eighth.
“He really answered the bell,” Carpentier said of Phinney, who struck out three. “We wrestled with whether we should start him or not. Our thought was if we could get a few innings out of anyone else, which we did with Jack Bourassa (who left after walking the leadoff hitter in the third), we’d be very comfortable coming to Phinney if we ever got in trouble.”
North Andover, which went hitless until Steven Hajjar’s lead-off single in the fourth, tied the game on T.J. Regan’s pinch-hit, two-run double that resulted in three runs when Danny Albrect scored from first on an outfield error.
East appeared on the verge of a second consecutive victory after opening the sixth with walks by Phinney and Robbie Carpentier and a sweet sacrifice bunt by Thomas Finn, who reached base when the Beverly infielder was late to second with the throw.
“I would’ve put a lot of money on us at that point with the top of the order coming up, the bases loaded and nobody out,” Carpentier said. “You have to give (Beverly) a lot of credit.”
Beverly countered with reliever Joey Ward, who halted North Andover’s rally by striking out the final three batters on 14 pitches.
“(Ward) just reared back and came right at us,” Carpentier said. “He was lights out, obviously.”
Ward continued to stymie East batters, striking out six in his three innings. In fact, North Andover, which forced four Ward walks, managed to put the ball into play on just three of the 61 pitches they saw from him.
“It was a tough spot for him,” Beverly manager Jim Cross said of the situation he handed to Ward. “It was a real spectacular thing to get out of that jam.”
agateHed:BEVERLY 6, NORTH ANDOVER 3 (8 innings)
agateText:Beverly 120 000 03 — 6
agateText:North Andover 000 300 00 — 3
agateText:Beverly (6): Joey Ward cf/p 4-1-2, Johnny Gilbride c 5-0-2, Ryan Barror rf 1-0-0, Ryan Munzing rf 2-0-0, Matt Cross 1b 4-0-0, Clayton McCalpine lf 2-0-1, Colton Petrosino lf 0-0-0, Matt Collins p/ss/cf 3-1-1, Jack Cairns 2b 4-1-1, Brayden Clark ss/p 4-2-1, Kyle Camara 3b 4-1-1. Totals 33-6-9
agateText:North Andover (3): Connor Gough lf 4-0-0, Joe Valentino cf 4-0-1, Dan Packard ph 0-0-0, Jake McElroy ss 4-0-0, Steven Hajjar 1b 4-0-1, Joe Quinlan rf 3-1-0, Alex Karelas 3b 4-1-1, Jack Bourassa p 0-0-0, Joe Phinney p 2-0-0, Thomas Finn 2b 1-0-0, Danny Albrect ph 1-1-0, Robbie Carpentier c 0-0-0, T.J. Regan ph 1-0-1. Totals 28-3-4-2
agateText:RBI: B -- Ward, Gilbride, Clark, Camara; NA -- Regan 2
agateText:WP — Ward; LP — Phinney