BEVERLY — The formula for success at the Little League all-star level hasn’t changed much in the last half-century: if you want to go far, you’d better have plenty of pitching, timely hitting and a top notch defense.
Of course, having speed up and down the lineup, versatility all over the field and outstanding team camaraderie can only help.
That’s how the Beverly Little League all-stars stack up heading into this year’s District 15 Williamsport tournament, which begins Wednesday. Beverly will face Danvers American Wednesday at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester (7:30 p.m.) in the first of four pool play games.
“There’s a lot of very good athletes in this particular age group,” said manager Jim Cross of his squad. “A lot of them play extra (i.e., AAU) baseball, so they play the game a lot. You can see it the way they practice.”
This will be the first time that Beverly will have one team made up of the best 13 Little Leaguers in the city; previously, they had two entries (Beverly West and Beverly East) in the District 15 tournament. “Certainly, we’re hoping to compete for the District crown,” said Cross. “That’s the goal every year, but when you have the best players in the city, it certainly helps.”
Beverly will have a 1-2 punch on the mound in aces Jon Gilbride and Joe Ward. Gilbride, a righty, and the left-handed Ward are both power pitchers who can also mix it up and pile up the strikeouts, said Cross. Righties Kyle Camara and Matt Collins will also likely see time on the hill.
Offensive power, which hasn’t always been Beverly’s forte, shouldn’t be a problem this summer. Matt Cross (the manager’s son) can hit the long ball at any time; so too can Ward, Gilbride and a host of others. Speed is another team asset; Ryan Barror, Tim McCarthy and Ward head up a fleet-footed group.
Like most all-star teams, many of Beverly’s best players either played shortstop, pitched or both for their regular season teams. Finding the right balance defensively has been one of the primary goals of the coaching staff during practices, and they feel as though they’ve got the right mix ready to go.
McCarthy, whom Cross a “very intelligent player”, will be Beverly’s primary catcher. Matt Cross will play first base while Camara mans the hot corner at third. Gilbride and Collins will alternate at shortstop depending on who is pitching, and Jack Cairns figures to hold down the fort at second base.
In the outfield, look for Barror in right field, Ward in center (when he’s not pitching) and either Clayton McAlpine or Ryan Munzing in left. Brayden Clark, the lone 11-year-old on the club, will play center when Ward is pitching; Colten Petrosino will also see time in right field, and Matt Corneau can play any of the outfield positions as well as first base.
“We should be fairly strong in all areas,” said Cross, who will have Beverly Little League all-star veteran coaches Jeff Bryson and Chris ‘Booma’ Lewis as his assistants. “We have pitching, we have hitting and we have a strong defense. I really feel like having the one team from Beverly this year is really going to help us.”
Following Wednesday’s game against Danvers American, Beverly will face Rockport on Saturday, Gloucester American next Monday and Boxford on July 2 to round out pool play. The top two teams in each of the three District 15 pools move on to the double elimination round.
BEVERLY L.L. WILLIAMSPORT ALL-STARS Ryan Barror Jack Cairns Kyle Camara Brayden Clark Matt Collins Matt Corneau Matt Cross Jon Gilbride Clayton McAlpine Timmy McCarthy Ryan Munzing Colten Petrosino Joe Ward Manager: Jim Cross Coaches: Jeff Bryson and Chris Lewis