By Dan Harrison
---- — BEVERLY — Beverly couldn’t find its rhythm at the plate until the bottom of the seventh inning yesterday against Bedford in the Lou Tompkins All-Star Tournament of Champions final.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, it was too little to late as Bedford closer J.P. Agiorgousis got the final out with the bases loaded to give the visitors the 3-1 win at Cooney Field.
“(Bedford) put it together the last week and hit where we didn’t,” said Beverly (17-6) manager Bill Brewer, who was extremely pleased with the level of play he saw in the playoffs. “This whole final four, the competition level was great for this (high school) age group. It’s been a lot of fun playing at home.”
Bedford (13-12) starter Alex Heyl stymied the Panthers with constant off-speed pitches that were always right around the strike zone. He went 6 1/3 innings before Beverly put together two singles and earned a hit by pitch to start the seventh. That’s when Agiorgousis came in to close it out.
“He was awesome. He battled the whole game,” Bedford manager Ron Taylor said of Heyl. “That was probably the best game he pitched all summer.”
The off-speed stuff seemed to frustrate Beverly, which wasn’t patient enough early in the game and allowed Heyl to get into a rhythm of his own.
“It was almost like facing Jamie Moyer,” said Brewer of the famously soft-tossing Major League lefty. “He didn’t throw anything hard, but he was always around the plate.”
Beverly starter Dan Cashman took the hill on just three days’ rest and his arm simply wasn’t there. Bedford plated all three of its runs in the bottom of the second when the visitors sandwiched a sacrifice fly in between a pair of RBI singles.
“That (second inning) hurt us. Danny Cashman was only going (on minimal rest) and didn’t have his velocity,” said Brewer. ““He’s been with us all four years and is a quasi-captain, so I felt he deserved the opportunity.”
The Panthers scored their lone run in the bottom of the seventh when Andy Brown was hit by a pitch and eventually scored when Eric Messina drew a walk with the bases loaded. Brown made a pair of fine plays at the hot corner too, including a diving stop on a grounder before making a successful throw over to first.
But the defensive play of the game came in the top of the sixth when Beverly center fielder Luke McDonald sold out to make a diving catch on a line drive going to his right.
The highlight reel snag helped Messina keep Bedford off the board after the Beverly reliever came in for Cashman with one out in the third inning. Messina threw his fastball for strikes and picked up two big strikeouts in which he got the Bedford batter to go down looking with a breaking ball.
“(Messina) came in and shut them down. He didn’t give up any runs,” said Brewer, “and we needed that to keep us in the game.”