HAVERHILL – The eighth and final selection to the Super 8 baseball tournament is sitting as pretty as possible following the opening two rounds.
A pair of eighth-inning runs and an outstanding eight innings of Brendan Holland relief kept North Andover perfect in the tourney with a 7-5 victory Saturday afternoon over fifth-seeded BC High at Trinity Stadium. The Knights (18-4) will play the other remaining unbeaten team, third-seeded Walpole (18-4), in the winner’s bracket semifinal. A date and time for that game has yet to be announced.
“We’ve been confident since we knew we were in this tournament,” said Jack Morin, who drove in a run with each of his three singles. “We think we’re a great team. Anyone who comes up against us we think we can win. This just shows how with our hitting and our pitching everyone contributes.”
Trailing 5-1 entering the bottom of the second, BC (14-8) took advantage of three walks and a hit batter to chase North Andover starter Bret Dunham. Holland, a sophomore like Dunham, surrendered a couple run-scoring singles and a sacrifice fly as the Eagles tied the game. Holland got the final out in the inning when Wil McCarthy stole second but inexplicably trotted back to first and was surprised when Holland’s throw to Justin Connolly got there first.
“I thought I’d be getting in in the fifth inning or so,” said the sophomore Holland, who ran his record to 4-0. “I thought Brett was going to be good, but he got into a tough situation which is just baseball. That’s just life. And when (coach Todd Dulin) told me to get ready, I got ready. I did everything I usually do, and just did my best.”
Holland cruised the final seven innings, facing only three batters over the minimum while allowing five hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
“I felt great,” Holland said. “I was locating in the zone, and our catcher Jack Morin did a great job setting up all around the plate. I was just zoning in, kept calm and threw strikes like I usually do. I always want to pitch to contact. I hate walking people. If they make contact, I’m confident my infield and outfield will make the plays.”
Holland had innings where he threw only five, six, seven and nine pitches en route to his 81-pitch performance.
“We were hoping,” Dulin said of his young reliever lasting. “But he had some really quick innings. When he’s on and throwing strikes, he’s tough. He can put the ball where he wants. He was outstanding.”
The Knights made a winner of Holland when Jason Faro led off the eighth with a walk before a Connolly sacrifice sent courtesy runner Will Fitzgibbons to second. One pitch later, Joe Quinlan blasted a double to left center to drive in the go-ahead run before scoring on Morin’s third single and second with two outs.
“I think that’s the biggest hit I’ve had this season,” Quinlan said. “I knew I was going to get a fastball on the first pitch. The team needed a spark plug, and I just took a great swing.
“It was the best thing that ever could’ve happened to me. It was getting a little daunting with the game coming down to the wire. Good players end games, so I had to show them what I was about.”
Morin helped the Knights get going with a first-inning single to plate Thomas Finn, who ended up at third after his sacrifice bunt turned into an error that also scored Jake McElroy, who had drilled a lead-off double.
Morin also drove in Connolly with a two-out single in the second before Sebastian Keane drilled an 0-2 pitch to left sending McElroy and Finn home for the 5-1 lead.
“I got up with runners in scoring position every at bat I think,” Morin said. “Like I’ve said before, I just try to put the ball in play, do the job and get the guys in.”
Despite the outstanding tournament start and possibly having pitching ace Keane ready to go again, the North Andover coach knows there’s some tough baseball yet to be played.
“There’s a lot of monsters out there still,” said Dulin, coach of the only team playing in its first Super 8. “We’re going to enjoy this and then hopefully get a good practice in (today). Then we’ll worry about first pitch whenever we play next … I think we’re in good shape (pitching wise).”
North Andover 7, B.C. High 5
Super 8 Second Round (winner’s bracket)
North Andover (7): Jake McElroy ss 3-2-2, Thomas Finn rf 2-2-0, Jack Morin c 5-0-3, Sebastian Keane 2b 5-0-1, Trevor Crosby 3b 5-0-1, Brett Dunham p/lf 5-0-3, Eric Whitehead dh 3-0-0, Jason Faro dh 1-0-0, Will Fitzgibbons cr 0-1-0, Brian Vazza lf 0-0-0, Justin Connolly 1b 4-1-1, Joe Quinlan cf 4-1-1. Totals 37-7-12-6
BC (5): Pat Roche 2b 3-1-1, Connor Flavin rf 3-0-1, Wil McCarthy dh 3-0-1, Sean Rafferty 1b 4-0-1, Dan Scolaro lf 3-1-0, Charlie Devin cf 3-1-0, Jacob Perez ss 3-1-0, Aidan Carey 3b 3-1-1, Dave Bryne c 3-0-0, Parson ph 0-0-0. Totals 29-5-5
RBI: NA — Morin 3, Keane 2, Quinlan; BC — McCarthy 2, Roche, Flavin, Carey
WP: Brendan Holland 4-0 (*8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K); Also: Dunham (1,0,5,5,3,0); LP: Shea Sprague
North Andover (18-4): 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 7
B.C. High (14-8): 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 5