North Andover Little League chasing history

TIM JEAN/Staff photoCharlie Grasso, left, is the "spark" from the leadoff spot and Trey Martin, right, is a star pitcher and hitter for the North Andover Little League team, which kicks off the Section 4 Tournament on Wednesday.

NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover Little League is on a bit of a roll, over the last dozen years to be exact.

After never winning a District 14 championship, usually dominated by Andover teams, North Andover has now won seven championships in 11 tournaments since 2009.

But there is one caveat over that impressive stretch.

A North Andover team has never won a sectional tournament and advanced to the state tournament.

North Andover Little League District 14 championship manager Brendan Salach hopes to make history beginning on Wednesday when his team joins Peabody West, Reading and Danvers American in the Section 4 championship at Harry Ball Field in Beverly.

North Andover is slated to open the tournament against Peabody West at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

“As of now our kids are clueless about that fact,” said Salach, referring to the six other North Andover teams unable to get past the Section tournament.

“But it would mean a lot for our town. A lot. I’m a townie. We have great baseball in our town at all levels. It would be awesome being the first to get to states. We feel we have a very good team.”

Salach said North Andover’s penchant for sending “townies” to Division 1 programs, and even professional baseball — including the recent draft choice of former district champ Steven Hajjar (second round, Minnesota Twins) — does mean a lot to his players.

“Our guys were 10-years-old when North Andover beat St. John’s Prep in the Super Eight championship,” said Salach. “They were getting autographs from the guys. It was a great experience. We even went to a few of their state tourney games recently. Baseball is a big deal in our town, and the boys know it.”

Salach’s team is centered around pitching and defense, with two aces in Trey Martin and Ben Sullivan-Lattuga at the top of the rotation.

“Even our number three and four pitchers, Dunny Murphy and Jake Gallant, are very good,” said Salach. “If we can get our top two guys going, we will be in good shape.”

Martin, Sullivan-Lattuga and Murphy are the big bats, too, in the middle of the lineup. Leadoff hitter Charlie Grasso is “our spark,” said Salach, and most recently the back of the lineup has been very productive.

“When our team was 10 and 11-years-old, we were always led by the big bats,” said Salach. “But lately we are getting contributions from everyone, especially our last three or four hitters. We won a big game over Andover last week without Trey or Ben doing much with their bats. Christian Valentino had a big, bases-clearing double when we were down two to nothing. That’s what we will need this week.”

Brendan Foley, Brayden Salach (catcher), Connor Elderkin, Simon Givner, Harry Goodrow, Quinn Stonecipher and Austin Allen round out the team and all had key plays over the last two weeks.

The winner of this four-team round-robin advances to the state tournament.

“This is what we have been working toward for a few years,” said Salach. “Our team is very close. So are the coaches. We can’t wait for this week.”

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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Section 4 tournament schedule

Wed., July 21

5:30 p.m.: No. Andover vs. Peabody West (7/21)

7:30 p.m.: Reading vs. Danvers

Thur., July 22

5:30 p.m.: No. Andover vs. Danvers

7:30 p.m.: Reading vs. Peabody West

Fri., July 23

5:30 p.m.: Reading vs. North Andover (7/23)

7:30 p.m.: Danvers vs. Peabody West

Sat., July 24

Championship

Noon: Top two teams

Note: All games at Harry Ball Field, Beverly

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