By Matt Williams
---- — There are 16 Little League Williamsport all-star teams left in Massachusetts, dreaming about representing their state at New England Regionals in Connecticut.
By the end of the weekend, it’ll be down to the final four.
The Section 4 tournament begins tonight at Wyoma in Lynn with North Andover East, Peabody West, Beverly, and Weston playing a round-robin slate of games. The two teams with the best records will play for the sectional title, and a spot in the state finals in Roxbury next week, in a winner-take-all game Saturday.
North Andover East opens with Weston today (5:30 p.m.), then plays Beverly tomorrow and Peabody West on Friday.
North Andover comes from District 14 with a 6-2 record, having outscored their opponents 62-28. It toppled Andover National in the district’s championship series 2-1.
“We’ve used eight pitchers. We’re expecting to play against some very good teams, and who knows what’s going to happen,” said North Andover East manager Rob Carpentier. “We feel good about our team going in and we’re ready to go.”
Steven Hajjar and Jake McElroy both pitched well for North Andover in the District 14 tourney. Joe Quinlan and Connor Gough are two of the hitters to watch in their lineup.
Weston, the District 13 champion, went 4-1 and upset of Acton-Boxboro in their District final, a team that had beaten them 20-8 in pool play.
“You never want your kids to be overconfident and you also don’t want them to get psyched out, so I think there’s a bunch of positives that go with not knowing much about the other teams,” said Carpentier. “On the flip side, it’s always good to know who the dangerous hitters are.”
Beverly hasn’t been this far since 1993. Power hitters in the middle like Ryan Barror and Matt Cross give the Beverly lineup plenty of pop. The team also has a fair amount of pitching depth: Jon Gilbride, Joe Ward, Brayden Clark and Kyle Camara are all capable of throwing.
Perennial power Peabody won six straight Section 4 crowns from 2006-11. Peabody (5-0) has a staff ace in Nick Iannuzzi, who was the winning pitcher in his team’s first three District 16 games and threw to the 85-pitch limit in the championship win over Lynnfield.
Beverly plays North Andover East tomorrow and Weston on Friday. The Orange-and-Black youngsters enter sectional play with a 7-1 record and the best run-differential of any of the four clubs with an aggregate score of 87-27.
SECTION 4 LITTLE LEAGUE TOURNAMENT schedule Today: Weston vs. North Andover East, 5:30 p.m. Tomorrow: North Andover East vs. Beverly, 5:30 p.m. Friday: Peabody West vs. North Andover East, 5:30 p.m. Saturday: Championship game (Top two teams) Directions: The tournament is being hosted by Wyoma Little League. Their field is located at 290 Broadway in Lynn. Following Route 1 to Route 129 into Lynn, go left onto Broadway near the square. Alternately, following Lynn Street through Peabody will lead to Broadway and the field will be on the right.