By Matt Williams
---- — BEVERLY — From the point of view of Beverly Little League, home runs brought the District 15 championship flag home.
Ryan Barror and Matt Cross hit back-to-back homers in the third inning, and Cross added another in the fourth, as Beverly pulled away from Hamilton-Wenham, 10-2, in the District 15 final at Harry Ball Field last night.
With kids from Beverly Little League jumping the fence and rushing the field, the Garden City all-stars took the traditional lap with the pennant with giant smiles painted on their faces. Beverly celebrated its first District 15 title in 20 years.
“I’m really, really proud of these kids. This is what its all about,” said Beverly manager Jim Cross. “We’ve been working towards it for years. I’ve been around a long time and I haven’t seen a title, and this is my last year so to get it with these kids is unbelievable. These kids have made it a heck of a ride for all of us.”
As champions of District 15, Beverly advances to the Section 4 tournament being held at Wyoma next week. They’ll open the round-robin format against District 16 champion Peabody West on Wednesday. Section 4 also includes District 14 champion North Andover East, and the District 13 champion (Weston and Acton-Boxboro play for that title today).
In the District 15 final last night, Beverly used its relentless offense to hold off Hamilton-Wenham. The Garden City kids had a hit in every inning and 15 in all. Barror was the leader with four hits while Jon Gilbride had two, Cross had a pair (both homers), Kyle Camara had two. Matt Collins, Clayton McAlpine (two RBI), Sean Munzing, Brayden Clark and Joe Ward also had hits.
Walks drawn by Colten Petrosino and Jack Cairns meant every Beverly player reached base at least once. It was a complete team effort for a team that went 7-1 in district play and scored 87 runs.
“Beverly came out swinging, like they always do. They played the better game today,” said Hamilton-Wenham coach Bill Peach, whose team 6-3 in the tourney.
Beverly led 3-0 after one and Hamilton-Wenham got hits by Cam Peach and Pierson Tocchi and threatened right away. Beverly pitcher Gilbride was then hit the ball on a throw going from third-to-first, and the ricochet found its way to the plate as a Hamilton runner was tagged out.
Gilbride took some warm-up pitches after the injury and felt strong enough to keep going. He finished the game allowing only a 2-run homer to 11-year-old Will Jones in the second to earn the victory.
“He’s a gritty kid, a competitor. It’ll take more than that to get him out of there,” said Cross. “I have to say Joe Ward did an unbelievable job catching for us, he stepped in because we’ve had some injuries.”
Hamilton-Wenham had hits in the first four innings, but didn’t turn them into runs as Gilbride got better with runners on base. Mark Roselli had two hits for H-W, as did Peach and Tocchi. Gilbride struck out the side in the sixth and finished with six punchouts.
“I don’t know how he stayed in the game. He deserves a ton of credit,” Peach said of Beverly’s hurler. “We didn’t get good swings on his fastball and he was really sawing off our bats out there.”
Beverly took command when Barror and Cross hit consecutive solo homers in the third. Camara and Clark added RBI to make it 7-2, and Cross hit a 2-run bomb in the fifth as the lead opened to 9-2. Beverly threatened to win by the 10-run mercy rule in the fifth on Barror’s RBI single, but H-W’s Jones stranded two runners on in a clutch performance.
“I have to give it to Hamilton, they fought us every step of the way. That’s a great team,” said Cross. “We got a couple of long balls and that really helps.”
Hamilton-Wenham was making its first appearance in a District 15 championship since its last title run in 2004.
“These kids should feel really proud of what they accomplished. This was something no Hamilton-Wenham team had done in eight or nine years,” said Peach. “The toughest thing as a coach is finding a way to make sure they know well they did after a game like this. They should feel good about this run.”
When the dust settled on a District 15 tournament that included 36 total games between 14 teams, only one could remain. This year, the first year the Garden City fielded one team rather than two, that honor was earned by Beverly, a team with solid pitching, a relentless lineup and a flair for clutch performance.
“The support we’ve had from the whole city and the whole Little League has been amazing,” said Cross. “The kids have made is an unbelievable ride so far.”