ANDOVER — As one North Andover Little League assistant coach stepped away from the celebrations taking place on the infield at Deyermond Park on Wednesday, he looked up and said, ‘this team is gonna give me a heart attack.’
North Andover may have a tendency to make things interesting, but the last two nights it’s gone in its favor. Now, the group that had its back against the wall for two straight nights is headed to the sectional tournament.
Despite Andover American giving everything it had, North Andover held on to keep its summer going, emerging victorious in the winner-take-all District 14 Little League championship game, 5-4.
“They don’t make it easy, but we told them it wasn’t going to be easy anyway, especially against a tough team like Andover,” head coach Brian Trundy said. “Today, we said championship teams usually have one thing in common, that they’re resilient. ... We had some adversity and kept battling through it.”
Having come from behind to win last night’s second game and force the rubber match, North Andover found itself in a different spot on Wednesday, picking up a 2-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to a two-RBI single by Cole Mullen. Nick Ottaviani’s RBI in the fourth made it 3-0, as Gabe Polonsky was cruising on the mound.
He tossed four innings of shutout ball, allowing seven hits and striking out four. Polonsky constantly worked his way out of jams, twice escaping bases-loaded situations, and leaving at least one runner on in each of his four frames.
“I just hit my spots on the strike zone,” Polonsky said. “I was fine letting them hit it because I trusted the fielders.”
Polonsky’s exit after four breathed new life for Andover, which posted two runs in the following inning, with Simon Green drawing a walk with the bases loaded and Hayden Waugh singling in another. More trouble may have come if not for a stellar diving catch by North Andover’s Jake Jackson in left, but Andover left little breathing room for its opposition after its strong fifth inning.
But, for the second straight night, North Andover’s Robert Brown sealed the deal with a home run, this time a two-run shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting his team up, 5-2.
“It feels great,” Brown said. “It wouldn’t have mattered if we didn’t have great pitching and hitting overall, though. This is just a great team.”
However, Trundy said his team knew it was never over until the 18th out is recorded, and Andover proved that to be true. Sean Napolitano drove in a run on a single and then Alex Berman hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth, making it a one-run game.
But, with two on and two outs, reliever Jeff LaVolpicelo followed Polonsky’s suit, getting out of a jam with a strikeout and sending North Andover into a frenzy and sealing its spot in the sectional playoffs.
“LaVolpicelo came on in a jam and got us out of it, and that was huge,” Trundy said. “He’s a guy that we trust. We’re lucky to have a bunch of kids that can come in and pitch in tough spots with that mental toughness to overcome it.”
North Andover coaches were unsure when their next game would be or who it would be against, but they know they’ll be back at Deyermond Park to kick off the sectional tournament. It is expected to begin next Wednesday.
And, whether they make it easier on themselves or they don’t, they’ll be prepared to keep their summer run going.
“I don’t know who we’ll be playing, but we’ll get them ready,” Trundy said. “I don’t know if it can get tougher than Andover. I’m hoping it doesn’t, but we’ll be as ready as we can be.”
North Andover 5, Andover American 4
District 14 Little League Championship
Andover American (4): Hayden Waugh rf 4-0-3, Griffin Bucci p 4-0-0, Will Norris c 4-1-1, Chris Jaillet 1b 4-1-1, Cam Hosmer 3b 3-0-1, Ben Gwiazda ph 1-1-1, Rishi Rane ss 2-1-2, Sean Napolitano lf 2-0-1, Jed Gallaudet ph 1-0-0, Ryan Jaillet 2b 1-0-1, Alex Berman 2b 1-0-1, Simon Green cf 2-0-0, Ryan DeBenedictis 1-0-0, Totals: 30-4-12
North Andover (5): Jake Jackson lf 3-1-1, Jeff LaVolpicelo ss 2-0-1, Josean Rios rf 3-1-0, Robert Brown 1b 3-2-1, Cole Mullen 3b 3-1-2, Ben Iglesias cf 1-1-0, Ryan Trundy 1-0-1, Dylan Lawrence c 1-0-0, Nick Ottaviani 1-0-0, Gabe Polonsky p 1-0-0, Brendan Burke 1-0-0, Trevor Hunter 2b 1-0-0, Adam Ferry 1-0-0, Totals: 22-5-7
RBI: A — Hayden Waugh, Simon Green, Sean Napolitano, Alex Berman; NA — Robert Brown 2, Cole Mullen 2, Nick Ottaviani
WP: Gabe Polonsky; LP: Griffin Bucci
Andover: 0 0 0 0 2 2 — 4
North Andover: 2 0 0 1 2 0 — 5