By Jean DePlacido
---- — BEVERLY — When the situation called for a must-win, the Beverly Little League Williamsport all-star team responded — in a big way.
Masterful pitching from starter Joe Ward and reliever Johnny Gilbride and some timely hits enabled Beverly to crush previously unbeaten Boxford, 11-1, in a mercy rule game last night at Harry Ball Field in District 15 pool play.
With a 1-1 record coming into the game and needing a win to keep their chances of advancing to the elimination round alive, Beverly shut down a Boxford team that had previously scored 27 runs in its first two games, both victories.
Ward worked 3 2/3 innings and left after throwing 65 pitches. The hard throwing southpaw struck out nine and walked four. Gilbride took over and retired the last four batters he faced in order.
“The bats finally got going,” said Beverly manager Jim Cross, his team now 2-1 with one game, against Gloucester American on Friday, remaining in pool play. “Ward threw a great game and Gilbride came on to shut it down. I’m very happy with this effort and the way we were able to grind them down.”
Ward, who had two hits and scored twice, led off the bottom of the first with a long homer that landed in the center field bleachers.
Beverly tacked on two more runs in the third to snap a 1-1 tie. Gilbride and Matt Cross both singled to set the stage for Clayton McAlpine, who came off the bench to deliver a two-run double. McAlpine wound up with four RBI after adding a two-run single in the fifth.
“McAlpine is getting hot at the right time, and Ward hit that big homer to get us going,” said Cross.
William Roberts, who doubled to lead off the game and scored in the first inning, had the only hit for his squad. Manager Jim DiBlasi also praised his work on the mound, saying his hurler didn’t get any help defensively or offensively before giving way to reliever Colin Vallis.
“I thought we would give Beverly a good fight, but for whatever reason we didn’t come ready to play,” said DiBlasi, whose team had beaten Rockport and Gloucester American coming into last night’s tilt.
“We made too many mental mistakes and had a tough time with Ward’s offspeed stuff and curve. He was excellent and we couldn’t touch those pitches.”
Play was halted after Beverly sent 13 men to the plate and scored eight runs in the bottom of the fifth, allowing for the 10-run mercy rule. The key hits were a double by Ward and a two-run triple by Ryan Barror (who finished with 2 hits). Jack Cairns (2 hits) contributed an RBI single while Kyle Camara, Timmy McCarthy, and Gilbride also hit safely in that inning.
Cross was on base all three times he was up with a hit and two walks.
“With all the rainouts we’ve been having it’s tough to keep the kids focused, but tonight we got great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense,” said Cross. “We work hard on our defense, and it’s nice to see it pay off. Everybody except Ward will be available (to pitch) on Friday and Ward can pitch on Saturday, so that’s a good situation.”
Now it’s a must-win for Boxford, which faces Danvers American on Friday. “We’ll be ready,” said DiBlasi. “We’re going to practice hard to get ready for it.”