ANDOVER — The start of the District 14 finals wasn’t the slugfest fans might have anticipated.
When they met in pool play, North Andover East and Andover National combined for 19 runs in a battle that went down to the final inning.
Last night at Deyermond Field, Jake McElroy deftly took undefeated Andover National’s bats out of the picture, tossing a complete-game four-hitter as North Andover East seized a 5-1 victory and a quick lead in the best-of-three tourney.
The series continues today, weather permitting, at 5:30 p.m. at Carl Thomas Field in North Andover.
“He gave us a monster game, for sure,” said East head coach Rob Carpentier. “Jake is a huge competitor. He wanted the ball, and he’s the kind of guy who wants the ball in the tough games.”
McElroy was effective, throwing his fastball, curve and change for strikes — 57 in all in his 85-pitch evening.
Joe Biddle, who had the game-winning two-run double the first time these teams met, clocked a solo homer to left field in the second inning but the right-hander shook off the shot.
At one point, McElroy retired seven betters in a row to preserve East’s early lead as quality defense aided his cause.
With a shot to tie the game in the third inning, first baseman Steven Hajjar rifled a throw to third base to pick off an East runner turning the bag for a double play. Second baseman Thomas Finn made a sliding stop of a hot grounder for a fifth-inning out while right fielder Joe Quinlan made three strong catches.
“Joe’s one of the best players on the team,” Carpentier said. “We’re confident any time the ball goes in the air. And on the double play, that’s just confidence in each other to get the ball across and make the catch.”