ANDOVER — The dust around home plate hadn’t even cleared from Josean Rios’ go-ahead, two-RBI single when Robert Brown stepped up to bat with two runners on in the bottom of the fourth inning on Tuesday.
With a swift swing of the bat, Brown blasted a three-run home run far beyond the fence, giving North Andover Little League a four-run advantage, along with renewed hope that the team’s tournament run wasn’t over just yet.
Brown’s homer proved decisive, as North Andover beat Andover American, 7-5, forcing a winner-take-all elimination game in the District 14 Little League championship series.
“You could feel it,” North Andover coach Brian Trundy said. “That’s his role. He’s our power guy. He had a couple of tough at-bats and has battled up there, but he stuck it out and focused, saw the pitch and delivered in a big moment.”
Brown said he knew the moment he made contact that the ball was headed over the fence, but was not prepared for the scenes of celebration after putting his team up, 7-3, with two innings left to play.
“Off the bat, I was like, ‘oh no, did that just happen?’” Brown said. “It was crazy. Normally, when I run around the bases, I don’t hear anything, but this time, the cheering was crazy.”
Brown felt his homer was a big turning point for North Andover, which had its back against the wall, having lost, 8-4, to Andover on Monday night.
Trundy said he felt the momentum shift late in Monday’s game, as his team put together a bit of a rally, which carried over into Tuesday’s contest, when North Andover struck first with two runs in the second inning.
But, when Andover answered with three in the third, thanks to RBI-singles by Chris Jaillet, Ryan Jaillet and Rishi Rane, Trundy’s team was in a hole again. Not for long, though.
“They stuck with it,” Trundy said. “We told them this was going to be a series like that. ... Whoever withstands the runs the most will be in good shape.”
Having relieved Jake Jackson the previous inning, Cole Mullen came in to close the door for North Andover. The hard-throwing right-hander’s first taste of the game was a bases-loaded situation, but he struck the batter out, allowing for his team’s big fourth to occur.
Mullen ran into some trouble in the fifth, when Hayden Waugh and Griffin Bucci drove in runs for Andover, but he kept his lead intact and closed out the game, ensuring North Andover would play for at least one more night.
“The message tonight was to embrace the challenge,” Trundy said. “They did. They showed up and played like they’re capable of playing, and kept themselves mentally tough throughout the game.”
Now, all the focus turns to Wednesday’s winner-take-all battle, with the team that emerges headed to the sectional tournament.
Returning to Andover’s Deyermond Field at 6 p.m., North Andover finds itself full of confidence entering the decisive championship tilt.
“We have the momentum going into tomorrow,” Brown said. “I have trust in all our pitchers and our fielders. We’ve been playing great all year, so we can keep the momentum rolling and hopefully win tomorrow.”
North Andover 7, Andover American 5
District 14 Little League Championship Series Game 2
Andover (5): Hayden Waugh rf 4-1-1, Griffin Bucci ss 4-1-3, Will Norris p 3-1-2, Chris Jaillet 1b 3-1-1, Cam Hosmer 3b 2-0-1, Ben Gwiazda ph 0-0-0, Sean Napolitano lf 3-0-1, Jed Gallaudet ph 1-0-0, Ryan Jaillet c 2-0-1, Alex Berman 2b 3-1-0, Rishi Rane 2b/p 1-0-1, Simon Green cf 2-0-0, Ryan DeBenedictis 1-0-0, Totals: 29-5-11
North Andover (7): Jake Jackson p 3-1-0, Jeff LaVolpicelo ss 1-1-1, Josean Rios rf 3-1-1, Robert Brown 1b 3-1-1, Cole Mullen 3b 3-0-2, Ben Iglesias cf 2-1-1, Ryan Trundy ph 1-0-0, Dylan Lawrence c 1-1-0, Nick Ottaviani ph 1-0-0, Brendan Burke lf 1-0-0, Gabe Polonsky ph 2-0-1, Trevor Hunter 2b 0-0-0, Adam Ferry ph 1-1-0, Totals: 22-7-7
RBI: A — Chris Jaillet, Ryan Jaillet, Rishi Rane, Hayden Waugh, Griffin Bucci; NA — Robert Brown 3, Josean Rios 2
HR: Robert Brown (two on in fourth)
WP: Cole Mullen; LP: Will Norris
Andover: 0 0 3 0 2 0 — 5
North Andover: 0 2 0 5 0 x — 7