BEVERLY — The Danvers American Little League all-stars had a three-word answer about whether they could get by Hamilton-Wenham to force a winner-take-all championship game in the District 15 Williamsport tournament.
Yes, we Cam.
Young ace Cam McGonagle threw a 5-hit shutout, hit a 3-run homer and totaled four RBI to power Danvers by H-W, 8-0, Thursday night at Harry Ball Field. It was Hamilton's first loss of the summer and means the teams will be back in Beverly to vie for the D15 pennant Friday evening at 7 p.m.
"Cam pitched his heart out," said Danvers manager Steve Baldassare, whose ace struck out seven batters with zero walks and kept his pitch count under the limit of 85 to go the distance. "He was outstanding. Hamilton's a great team that can hit the ball out of the yard. To hold them off like that says a lot."
As good as McGonagle's arm was, it was his bat that pretty much put the game out of reach in the third. His 3-run blast to right-center turned a tense 2-0 Danvers lead into a 5-0 edge that felt insurmountable.
Hamilton threatened in the third when Tyler Russo and Jalen Clark-Goldfeld hit singles, but but McGonagle bore down and got the next three to hold the Generals off. A single by Liam O'Bannon in the fourth, a single by Jack Cook in the sixth and Gian Gamelli's double in the first were the only other H-W hits.
"We have to hit better," said H-W manager Marty Cook. "We're excited about getting another shot at it tomorrow. This place should be full. It's going to be a great night of baseball."
Danvers American used its aggression on the basepaths to grab an early lead. After singles by Jackson Allen and Luke Horenstein, the Americans took extra bases and scored on a ball to the backstop, then got a 2-0 edge when Horenstein got caught in a run-down, waited out an errant throw and cruised home.
In the sixth, Danvers got its final run in similar fashion. With runners on first and third, Michael Pesce broke for second base and got himself caught in a run down intentionally, avoiding a tag long enough to let Christian McCarthy (3-for-4) to score.
"That's a big run because Hamilton can explode offensively at any moment. And Michael did it perfectly," said Baldassare. "We work on base running all the time, every day. It's a huge part of the game."
McCarthy and McGonagle also had RBI singled in the sixth. Danvers American had a 9-5 edge in hits with three from McCarthy and two each from McGonagle, Allen and Horenstein. Josh Henry worked three walks and scored once while Brady Baldassare also walked and scored.
"We're swinging the bat with confidence right now. This team has some momentum and we're playing well. Even some of the outs were pretty hard-hit balls," said Steve Baldassare, whose team lost to H-W by a 7-6 score in the first game of the Final Four last Saturday.
"Here we got right? We know we're going to have our hands full on Friday. Hamilton's excellent and we're going to have to be at out best."
Brae Hurley pitched well for H-W, striking out seven in 4 2/3 innings before reaching the pitch limit. A.B. Labell got three outs via the K in relief and Jack Willett finished things off on the hill for Hamilton, which will have lefthanded ace Gian Gamelli ready to go for Friday's championship matchup. The southpaw is coming off a 15-strikeout gem to beat Manchester Essex last Monday.