BEVERLY — The magic was bound to run out at some point.
The No. 11 St. Mary’s baseball team gave everything it had Monday afternoon against No. 3 Beverly, throwing its two best pitchers at the Panthers and battling until the very last play. But after a walk-off inside-the-park home run by Beverly’s Tim McCarthy in the bottom of the ninth inning, it was the Panthers who escaped the Division 2 North quarterfinal matchup with a 3-2 win.
“In that kind of a situation in a game like this, you just have to take a shot on a ball like that,” said Beverly coach Dave Wilbur. “It’s a great win and a tough loss. I have so much respect for Derek and St. Mary’s, they make you work for every single thing and it was no different tonight. Both teams had their moments, both teams battled and luckily we came out on top.”
St. Mary’s got gutsy pitching performances from both Lee Pacheco and Bobby Alcock, both of whom pitched in the Spartans’ 10-inning win over Danvers last Friday. Pacheco went the first four innings for St. Mary’s, giving up two runs on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Alcock came in to pitch the final six innings, giving up one run on three hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts.
McCarthy led the way all game for Beverly, going 3-for-5 with his home run and one RBI. Jack Ploszay (1-for-4) and John Goodwin (0-for-2) each had an RBI, while Matt Collins (2-for-4), Nick Berry (1-for-4), Clayton McAlpine (1-for-4) and Brayden Clark (1-for-4) tallied hits in the win. The Panthers also got a couple of great pitching performances of their own, starting with Clark and finishing with Brown. Clark pitched the first four innings, giving up two runs on just one hit with five walks and eight strikeouts. Spencer Brown, after pitching six innings in Beverly’s first-round win over Tewksbury, pitched the final six innings and gave up no runs on two hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.
“Spencer came out and showed why he’s the MVP of the league tonight,” said Wilbur. “But he’s also surrounded by a lot of great players and I was really proud of the way everyone played today.”
The Panthers struck first in the bottom of the second inning, taking a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI groundout from Goodwin and an RBI single from Ploszay.
The Spartans threatened to score in the top of the third after loading up the bases with two outs, but Clark escaped the inning with a strikeout. But St. Mary’s came right back in the top of the fourth, loading the bases again. This time the Spartans were able to cash in, scoring two runs on passed balls to tie the score at 2-2.
Then, in came the aces for both sides. Brown and Alcock basically went pitch-for-pitch over the next five innings, putting zeroes up on the board the entire way.
Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, McCarthy stepped in. He found the pitch he wanted and belted a hard line-drive into centerfield that just snuck under the outstretched glove of a diving Josh Mateo, rolling all the way to the wall. McCarthy hustled around the bases, but a good throw into home appeared to come in time to gun him down at the plate. But the quick-thinking senior captain made an athletic move to slip past the glove of the reaching catcher and safely cross the plate for the winning run.
Next up for Beverly (18-4) will be No. 10 Burlington in the Division 2 North semifinal at Fraser Field Wednesday (4).
As for St. Mary’s (14-8), Dana shouted out his hardworking senior class and talked about how proud he was of the season the team had.
“I mean, all of these guys are such hard workers and have done so much for the program,” Dana said of his senior class. “Anthony Nikolakakis did a great job, one of the top hitters in the league and an All-Star, Anthony Bono came out and hit .370 and was an incredible kid that just wanted to be coached, all of the guys. Aedan Leydon, Josh Mateo, Tommy Cash, Lou Vidal, all of these guys have been huge for us. From where we started to where we finished, I am very proud of what this team accomplished.”