FRANKLIN — A couple of days ago, North Andover baseball coach Todd Dulin believed his team wouldn’t have any nerves competing in their first-ever Super 8 tournament.
Well, after one game, score one for the coach.
The No. 8-seeded Knights looked over at top-seeded and defending champion Franklin in the other dugout and didn’t bat an eye. The champs went up a run early, but the Knights rallied for an eventual 5-3 win that keeps them in the Super 8 winner’s bracket.
The Panthers (21-2) had runners on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The runner on first broke to steal second after a swing-and-miss, but it was deemed immediately by the home-plate umpire that after his swing-and-miss the Franklin batter leaned over home plate and impeded North Andover catcher Jack Morin from making a throw.
Interference was called, the batter was called out and the game ended.
“I’m proud of the way our guys played today against a very great team,” said Dulin.
It’s easy to be confident when you have Sebastian Keane on the mound. After being drafted by the Boston Red Sox earlier in the day, the senior right-hander tossed 7.1 strong innings and struck out nine. He got tagged for three earned runs — two in the bottom of the eighth — but Dylan Caporale and Jake McElroy came on in relief and closed out the win.
With all eyes, including major TV outlets, on him, Keane delivered another gem.
“It was a great day for him,” said Dulin. “He pitched really well. I probably left him out there a little too long, but he pitched great.”
Franklin struck first in the bottom of the third after a double-play ball with the bases loaded and no outs scored Joe Lizotte. Starter Brennan Rivera pitched brilliantly for the Panthers, not allowing a hit until the top of the fifth inning while retiring 13 of the first 14 batters he faced.
But the Knights (17-4) finally struck in the fifth. Brett Dunham broke up the no-hit bid, then with the bases loaded and two outs the ever-clutch McElroy laced a triple to right that plated three. The Knights added another in the sixth when Erik Whitehead singled in Keane, then one more in the seventh when McElroy scored on a wild pitch.
And once he got the lead, Keane didn’t let up.
“Huge hit from Jake and then we did a great job holding on at the end,” said Dulin.
North Andover will play either No. 4 Lowell or No. 5 BC High in the next round. Their game was delayed until Thursday due to weather.
The MIAA currently lists North Andover’s next game taking place on Saturday at Haverhill Stadium, start time TBA.
North Andover 5, Franklin 3
Super 8 First Round
North Andover (5): Jake McElroy ss 3-1-1, Thomas Finn rf 4-0-1, Jack Morin c 3-0-0, Sebastian Keane p/2b 5-1-1, Trevor Crosby 3b 5-0-1, Brett Dunham lf 4-1-1, Jason Faro dh 1-0-0, Erik Whitehead dh 3-0-1, Justin Connolly 1b 4-1-0, Joe Quinlan cf 3-1-1, Jackson Berberich 2b/ss 0-0-0, Dylan Caporale p 0-0-0. Totals 35-5-7
Franklin (3): Jack Nally cf 3-1-0, Scott Elliot rf 5-1-3, Alex Haba ss 5-0-2, Jake Macchi c 4-0-2, Cooper Ross 3b 4-0-0, JB Floris 1b 4-0-1, Jake Fitzgibbons 2b 4-0-0, Dan Markowski dh 2-0-0, Trip Pisano ph 2-0-1, Joe Lizotte 4-1-2, Brennan Rivera p 0-0-0. Totals 37-3-11
RBI: NA — McElroy 3, Whitehead; F — Macchi 2
WP: Keane (10-1); LP: Rivera
North Andover (17-4): 0 0 0 0 3 1 1 0 0 — 5
Franklin (21-2): 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 3