Andover 12-Year-Olds Head to State Championship
Andover Nationals crush Stoneham to advance to state tournament.
Another day, another “mercy rule” enacted at the bats of the Andover National All-Star 12-year-old squad, which beat Stoneham 13-3 in four innings Saturday, at Poulin Field in Tewksbury.
Andover won the Section 4 title Saturday and advances to play in the state tournament in Taunton on Thursday for a trip to the regionals in Bristol, Conn.
In 11 games, Andover has scored 150 runs, according to coach Paul Finn, who knew the stat right away.
“They are a talented group of players, who have committed themselves,” said Finn, who added that he watched that talented group of players coalesce into a talented team. “It’s the hardest working team I have ever seen. We have had one day off in 30 days.”
Andover, the home team, went into its first at bats with an unfamiliar site: down a run.
The Nationals quickly took care of the score difference, loading the bases with three of the first four batters. Michael Reilly stepped up to the dish and blasted a grand slam over the centerfield bleachers to put Andover up 4-1. Cedric Gillette followed up with a homerun, making it the second time in as many games the Nats went back-to-back.
Stoneham answered back in the top of the second, with a bases-loaded RBI through the right side to make it 5-2. But all Stoneham momentum was hobbled by a heads-up double play from Andover second baseman Nate O’Neil, who snagged a line drive and doubled up the runner at third.
While up 7-3 and two away in the bottom of the third frame, Andover went back-to-back again. Danny Walsh sent an opposite field, three-run shot over the left field fence chasing Stoneham pitcher, Michael Carbone.
The very next pitch, Andrew Salima hit his second homer of the game, an absolute missile, to right-centerfield to give the Nationals an 11-3 cushion. Salima finished 3-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs, while Walsh went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Stoneham had its first two runners reach in the top half of the fourth, but a smooth fielder’s choice groundout flipped by Andover seemed to kill any hope for momentum. Stoneham managed to load the bases, but could not capitalize.
Reilly drew a walk to begin the bottom of the fourth, and Gillette ended the game with a walk-off, two-run homerun to left-centerfield. Andover only needed 23 at bats to put the game away.
Andover will play for a state title this Thursday against other section champions. They games will be played at the Taunton West Little League Complex. Finn said he was confident in his team’s chances down the road.
“We’ve got a group of 12 kids that can all put the ball out of the park,” he said.