Justin Powers tallied 13 strikeouts over six innings of work and hit a three-run home run in Peabody’s win.
By HAROLD RIVERA
After a tough loss to Gloucester in the sectional tournament on Wednesday, the Peabody Little League all-stars were in need of a win against North Andover National on Thursday night. Starting pitcher Justin Powers didn’t let his Peabody teammates down.
Powers tossed six innings and fanned 13 North Andover batters en route to a 6-2 Peabody win at Reinfuss Field.
“Justin had good control on the mound today,” Peabody coach Justin Powers, the pitcher’s father, said. “He was in the 70’s for the pitch count, which is pretty good for a six-inning game. He kept North Andover off-speed. He kept his offspeed pitch in and spotted his fastball pretty well.”
Given the fact that North Andover was coming off a 21-run performance in a 21-20 win over Reading on Wednesday, quieting its bats wasn’t an easy task.
“These guys scored 21 runs in their last game and we hammered that home,” Powers said. “We knew we had to bring our A game to compete with them. Our group did a great job, these kids are tough as nails.”
After Powers struck out the side in the top of the first, Ryan Brunet put the all-stars on the board in the bottom half. Carson Browne doubled to lead the inning and stole third. After a popout to third, Brunet launched a two-run home run to give Peabody a 2-0 lead.
Both teams went down quickly in the second inning as Powers worked around a two-out walk and North Andover pitcher Andrew Lesoftsky bounced back to fan Peabody in order.
Powers kept North Andover off the board in the third, but not without a little help from Browne in centerfield. With a runner on first, Browne made a highlight-reel catch reminiscent of Jackie Bradley’s robbing of Aaron Judge on Sunday night.
“Brunet got us off to a jump with that big two-run home run,” Powers said, “and then we had an unbelievable catch in center by Browne. That was awesome.”
“I saw it (the catch) and said ‘Jackie Bradley’s got nothing on Carson Browne,’” Powers added.
Powers helped his cause in the bottom of the third. After Browne and Brunet singled, Powers blasted a three-run homerun to extend Peabody’s lead to 5-0.
“Justin’s home run was huge,” Powers said. “That gave us some breathing room.”
Andrew Perry led the fourth with a single for North Andover but a 1-6-3 double play erased the threat.
Peabody added one more in the bottom of the fourth when Eli Batista, who entered the game as a pinch-runner, raced home on a wild pitch. Batista’s run, which came with two outs, made it 6-0.
North Andover rallied for two runs in the fifth, but that was all the offense it could muster. Powers struck out the final six batters of the game to seal Peabody’s win, 6-2.
“Being able to go through the heart of North Andover’s order three times and shut them down, that’s huge,” Powers said. “That’s a credit to us.”
The Peabody all-stars now gear their attention to Friday night’s clash against Reading. A win gives Peabody its best chance to advance.
“Reading is another team that smashes the ball,” Powers said. “You never know what you’re going to see now. All these teams are good in the sectionals. There are no easy games. The Gloucester loss still stings a little but we’re a resilient bunch.”
First pitch for Friday night’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m at Reinfuss Field.