BEVERLY — Twice yesterday morning the Beverly High baseball team fell behind Lynn English and battled back.
The Bulldogs’ Vanderbilt-bound ace Ben Bowden wasn’t going to let it happen a third time.
The big lefty retired nine of the last 11 Beverly batters he faced and struck out 11 to beat the Panthers, 5-4, at Cooney Field.
English (2-2) took the lead with three runs in the top of the fifth. The rally came immediately after Beverly (3-2) had scored three times in the bottom of the fourth to grab its only lead.
“That’s a tremendous Beverly team and anytime you can come here and get a win it’s big,” English coach Joe Caponigro. “I liked that we came right back and scored after going down by two. That showed some intestinal fortitude.”
The result, plus Peabody’s 15-inning win over Lynn Classical and Revere’s victory over Salem, creates a four-way tie for second place in the Northeastern Conference Large division. The Panthers, Bulldogs, Rams and Patriots are all 2-2 in league play and the Tanners sit in first at 4-0.
Beverly got seven hits off Bowden yesterday and strung them together in the fourth. Matt Hamor embodied the approach needed against a pitcher of Bowden’s ability, fouling off four pitches and singling on the tenth offering he saw to drive in Anthony DiOrio with the tying run.
George Hillois followed with a single and catcher Tristan Fasheh then tripled to right as Beverly pulled ahead 4-2.
“You can’t sit up there looking for your pitch against a guy like that. You have to swing the bat or you’re down 0-1 and 0-2 all the time,” said Beverly coach Dave Wilbur. “He challenges hitters and you have to be up to that challenge. You have to be aggressive.”
The Bulldogs’ answer came with Lucas Harris leading off the fifth with a double. Beverly pitcher Eric Messina walked a pair to load the bases and English tied it when Bowden’s slide into second broke up what could’ve been a doubleplay to score two.
Drew Gentile then doubled Matt Merritt home with the go-ahead run. Messina threw 42/3 innings and limited the damage despite giving up six walks. Lefty Jay Richardson made his first appearance of the year and though he gave up the hit to Gentile he pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh and picked off a runner.
“Eric hung in there and battled,” said Wilbur. “Jay did a really good job and his pitching was one of the positive things we came away with today.”
Harry Brown (double, single, stolen base) led off the home half of the fifth with a single but Bowden’s sneaky lefthanded move picked him off. The only other Beverly baserunner the rest of the way was Jon Berchoff, who walked in the seventh and was stranded.
“Beverly had some really good at-bats in the fourth and made Ben throw a lot of pitches,” said Caponigro. “After that he kind of cruised and we were fortunate that he could finish the game.”
English led 1-0 when Anthony Dela Cruz doubled home Kyle O’Connor, but Beverly tied it when Alex Toomey drove in DiOrio, who had doubled with two outs. The Bulldogs led 2-1 when a run scored on a doubleplay in the second.
“We competed and battled but the result wasn’t there today,” said Wilbur. “We’re still trying to find our way a little bit, but there’s a long way to go and we’ll keep working hard.”