By Chuck Frye
---- — 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.”
Hajjar also contributed with the bat as his towering two-out, two-run homer in the third extended East’s lead to 4-1. The bomb came after Quinlan’s first-inning two-run double, also with two outs, got North Andover on the board first.
A bases-loaded walk to Quinlan in the seventh wrapped up the scoring.
“Andover threw some good pitchers at us,” Carpentier said. “Our guys took advantage of a couple little breaks. Our 1-5 batters have been phenomenal for us.”
Indeed they were as the quintet reached base 10 times last night.
“This was a pitchers’ duel,” said Andover National head coach Brian Theriault as he received good production from hurlers Chris Rassias, Nick Dellatto and Conner Peters last night.
“Half of the kids on our team faced Jake a lot in AAU ball and this was the best he’s thrown against them so far, but we’ll be back to battle (today).”
agateHed:North Andover East 5, Andover National 1
District 14 Finals, Game 1
agateText:Andover National (1): Patrick Dennehy cf/1b 3-0-1, Andrew Theriault ss 3-0-0, Chris Rassias p/cf 3-0-0, Nick Christopher c 2-0-0, John Gemmell rf 2-0-0, Joe Biddle lf 2-1-1, Conner Peters 1b/p 1-0-1, Nick Dellatto p 1-0-0, Alec Haffner 2b 1-0-0, Sam Green ph/pr 1-0-0, Collin Kirkpatrick 3b 2-0-1. Totals 21-1-4
agateText:North Andover East (5): Connor Gough 3b 2-1-1, Joe Valentino cf 2-1-0, Danny Albrecht ph 0-0-0, Jake McElroy p 1-2-1, Steven Hajjar 1b 3-1-1, Joe Quinlan rf 2-0-1, Joe Phinney ss 3-0-0, Alex Karelas lf 1-0-0, T.J. Regan ph 1-0-0, Thomas Finn 2b 1-0-0, Dan Packard ph 1-0-0, Robbie Carpentier c 1-0-0, Jack Bourassa ph 1-0-0. Totals 19-5-4
agateText:HR: AN — Biddle; NAE — Hajjar
agateText:RBIs: AN — Biddle; NAE — Quinlan 3, Hajjar 2
agateText:WP: McElroy; LP: Rassias
agate_MLB_linescore9:Andover National: 0 1 0 0 0 0 — 1
agate_MLB_linescore9:North Andover East: 2 0 2 0 1 x — 5