LYNN — When the pressure was on, the Beverly Little League all-star team responded in a big way.
After relief pitcher Joe Ward struck out three hitters in a row with the bases loaded to force extra innings, teammate Brayden Clark came through big-time with an RBI double in the top of the eighth inning to ignite Beverly’s 6-3 victory over North Andover East in a Section 4 tournament game at Reinfuss Field.
The victory was huge for Beverly (now 1-1 in sectional play), as a loss would have likely knocked them out of advancing in the Williamsport tournament. Now, they can turn their attention to Weston tonight (7:45 p.m.) in Lynn and, with a win, advance to Saturday’s sectional title game.
Ward, a left-hander, relieved Clark on the mound into a 3-3 game with two runners on and none out in the bottom of the sixth inning. A wild pitch and a walk to North Andover East’s Robbie Carpentier had the bases juiced, but Ward got tough and struck out Connor Gough and Joe Valentino swinging before Jake McElroy was caught looking at a third strike.
“What an impressive performance by Ward to get out of that jam,” said Beverly manager Jim Cross. “The game was on the line and we had to bring him in. He’s our horse and we knew this game was so important (that) we had to do everything to win it.
“We left it all on the field tonight. We weren’t worrying about pitch count; we were here to win. If we didn’t, our chance to get to the finals would be pretty much over.”
North Andover, which fell to 1-1 with the loss, will now meet unbeaten Peabody West tonight (5:30 p.m.) needing an upset win to stay alive.
“At that point I would have put a lot of money on us with the bases loaded and the top of the order coming up,” said North Andover East manager Rob Carpentier. “That kid (Ward) was lights out; he came right at us and we couldn’t hit him.”