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.