BEVERLY — At the time, it seemed unlikely that anyone could upstage Beverly’s Robby Black.
Then, along came Hamilton-Wenham’s Cooper McGrath.
McGrath smashed a game-winning, walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift Hamilton-Wenham to a 12-11 win in the District 15 winner’s bracket final last night at Harry Ball Field.
Hamilton-Wenham advances to the district finals while Beverly has to come back tonight against Danvers American (7:30 p.m.) in the loser’s bracket final.
Walk-offs by nature are dramatic, but McGrath’s theatrics were accentuated by Beverly’s 7-run performance in the top of the sixth inning to take an 11-10 lead. The highlight of the top of the sixth was a line shot grand slam off Black’s bat, a blast that landed in the second Harry Ball Field diamond.
Aidan Cann drew a one-out walk for Hamilton-Wenham in the bottom of the sixth inning, moved to second on a passed ball and advanced to third on a ground out. Hamilton-Wenham just needed Cann to score to extend the game, but McGrath’s blast to right field wrapped things up.
“He’s been hitting the ball so hard, I felt great,” Hamilton-Wenham manager David Jones said about having McGrath up in the two-out, one-on situation in the bottom of the sixth. “He makes contact, hits the ball hard and I was expecting him to get one through.
“The fact he got it up was unbelievable. That’s what Little League dreams are made of.”
“It’s the first time we’ve been the home team and it was kind of fun having the last at-bat. These kids have battled all year and they’re just good hitters, so we knew we could get at least one run. At least that’s what we told them,” Jones joked. “They had some good at-bats and I’m just happy they fought and didn’t give up. They knew it wasn’t over.”