BEVERLY — No team in District 15 was able to stop the Danvers American Little League all-star team's momentum once it got going. The first team from outside the district to try didn't have much luck, either.
Danvers American opened the Section 4 tourney with an 8-4 victory over Reading under the lights Wednesday at Harry Ball Field. With its fifth straight win, Danvers sits in first place after the first of three round robin rounds by virtue of giving up fewer runs than fellow unbeaten Peabody West. The Americans (7-2 overall this summer) face North Andover on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. with a win all but assuring them of a spot in Saturday's championship game.
It was a five run explosion with two outs in the fourth inning that gave the District 15 champs control of the game for good. Danvers American got three of its nine total hits in that inning, with a no-doubt 3-run homer by Maxwell Parent that boinked off the bleachers in left field ballooning the lead to 7-0. Two batters before, Chase Horenstein stung a 2-stirke triple to right to plate two runs.
Manager Mark O'Brien used four pitchers to keep Reading at bay, keeping each one fresh for possible action later in the tournament. Logan Travers got the start and struck out five of the nine batters he faced, departing after 35 pitches. Lefthander Damon Mataragas threw 20 (meaning he can go on Thursday), Tyler Brown threw 35 and worked admirably around three Reading hits in the fifth while throwing 35 and Colby Mederios got the game's final out.
A few web gems really put the exclamation point on the victory for Danvers American. Early in the game, Brown laid out for a diving catch in right-center that probably prevented runs from scoring. Hornestein, at shortstop, made three tremendously strong throws from deep in the hole for outs and the Americans turned a pair of impressive double plays.
In the fourth, a hard ground ball back to Mataragas was fielded cleanly, fired to Horenstein for one and turned to first for another. Then in the sixth, first baseman Owen Hawke recorded an unassisted double play by catching a line drive and tagging the runner already on first out.
Travers gave his team an early 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the second frame. Danvers tacked on another in the third when Cole Anderson (who scored twice) singled and came around on a couple of Reading errors. Owen Swanton had two hits, doubling in the fifth and coming around on Brown's RBI single to make it an 8-0 lead in the top of the fifth.
Reading came up with four runs in the fifth thanks to RBI knocks by Ethan Greatorex and a 2-run double by Alex Vitirago, but a nice turn by Horenstein ended the threat. Reading also juggled its pitching with eyes on the rest of the tournament, using three arms with none reaching the 85-pitch limit.
Parent also had two hits for Danvers, Medeiros walked and scored a run and Hawke had a single. Chris Cashman also reached and scored.
After facing North Andover on Thursday, Danvers is scheduled to battle Peabody West on Friday under the lights at 7:30 p.m. The top two teams after three rounds of pool play advance to Saturday's title game, with the Section 4 champ moving on to the Massachusetts Final Four next week in Gloucester.