NORTH ANDOVER – Prior to Monday’s opener in the District 14 Little League championship series the manager for Andover American had a simple message for his 13 players.
“I just told them to have fun,” Aaron Green said. “I told them the pressure isn’t on them, it’s on me. I just want to put them in the right places to succeed, and that’s what they did.”
Fun certainly was had by Andover which built an eight-run lead then held on for an 8-4 victory in the first game of the best-of-three series which continues at 6 p.m. tonight when Andover plays host at Deyermond Field.
A three-run third gave Andover its first lead as a Griffin Bucci single drove in Hayden Waugh before Will Norris drilled a 2-0 pitch that never got more than 10 feet off the ground but quickly cleared the left-field fence for a two-run homer.
“We really needed a clutch hit there,” Norris said. “I think that really got us going. It got us pumped up. Then we just kept mashing the ball.”
Bucci doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth to make the score 4-0.
“We’ve been doing that every game,” Green said. “We’ve jumped on each team early. It keeps us loose and having fun, and then we can play our game.”
Andover’s game last night relied heavily on left-handed starter Sean Napolitano, who worked into the fifth, getting two outs before being relieved by Norris. Napolitano allowed four hits and no walks while striking out seven.
“I was just throwing the fastball and pounding the zone,” Napolitano said. “I just have to remember to hit my spots and be smart. I was throwing fastball, curveball, sinker but mainly the fastball. When you hit your spots, you’re 10 times harder to hit. I don’t throw the hardest, so I have to be smarter.”
Norris stranded runners on first and second in the fifth with the first of his two strikeouts over an inning’s work.
“We knew Sean was going to throw strikes and take us deep into the game,” Green said. “Then we knew Will was going to come in and do his thing. They both threw strikes. They’re awesome. That’s what they do.”
Andover sent 10 batters to the plate while scoring four more in the sixth on two hits, four walks and an error. Bucci drove in one with a fielder’s choice while scoring his third run of the game. Chris Jaillet had an RBI walk and Cam Hosmer drove in another with a fielder’s choice grounder while Napolitano had a run-scoring single.
North Andover rallied in their half of the sixth, which began with a Cole Mullen single. Adam Ferry drove in the first run with an infield single before a two-run double by Jake Jackson, who had three of the team’s seven hits and later scored on an error. Starter Robert Brown allowed four runs on six hits while striking out 10 in 4 2/3 innings.
“I told them we lost five innings to one,” North Andover coach Brian Trundy said. “I told them they played the end of this game the way they usually play. If they keep up that type of ball, they’ll have more success. That last inning was more indicative of how they can play.”
Both coaches said their pitching plans remain intact for tonight’s second game, which Andover knows could be the win that sends the team into the sectional tournament.
“This kind of puts us on top,” Norris said. “We’ll be a little more pumped up for the next game.”
Andover American 8, North Andover 4
District 14 Little League Championship, Game 1
Andover 003 014 – 8
North Andover 000 004 – 4
Andover (4): Hayden Waugh rf 4-1-0, Griffin Bucci ss 4-3-2, Will Norris c/3b/p 3-2-1, Chris Jaillet 1b 3-0-2, Cam Hosmer 3b 3-0-0, Ben Gwiazda 3b/lf/2b 1-0-0, Sean Napolitano p/lf 2-0-1, Alex Berman 2b 1-0-0, Ryan Jaillet 2b/c 2-0-0, Jed Gaullaudet lf/cr 1-1-0, Rishi Rane 2b/p 2-0-1, Simon Green cf 2-1-1, Ryan DeBenedictis ph 1-0-0. Totals 29-8-8
North Andover (8): Jake Jackson 1b/p/lf 4-1-3, Jeff LaVolpicelo ss 3-0-0, Josean Rios rf 4-0-2, Robert Brwn p/3b/1b 4-0-0, Cole Mullen 3b/p 3-1-1, Ben Iglesias c 1-0-0, Ryan Trundy ph 1-0-0, Dylan Lawrence cf 2-1-0, Nick Ottaviani ph 1-0-0, Brendan Burke lf 2-0-0, Gabe Polonsky ph/p 1-0-0, Trevor Hunter 2b 1-0-0, Ferry ph 2-1-1. Totals 29-4-7
RBI: Andover – Bucci 2, Norris 2, Jaillet, Hosmer, Napolitano; NA – Jackson 2, Ferry; 2B: Andover – Bucci; NA – Rios, Jackson
HR: Andover – Norris (one on in third)
WP: Napolitano; LP: Brown