Two local baseball teams remain in the hunt for a state championship. Beverly, of the Northeastern Conference, plays Masconomet Saturday (7) in the Division 2 North final at LeLacheur Park in Lowell. Lynnfield, of the Cape Ann League, plays Austin Prep in the Division 3 North final Sunday (3) at LeLacheur.
Beverly cemented its bid into the sectional final, its first since 2014, after the No. 3 Panthers took down No. 10 Burlington in the semifinal round with a 5-1 win Wednesday at Fraser Field. Spencer Brown (2-for-3, two doubles and three RBI) and Tim McCarthy (3-for-3, three runs) led the offense for Beverly. Matt Collins and Nick Berry each also added an RBI single. Kyle Cravatis and Mike Urbanski teamed up to get the job done on the mound.
Beverly’s the last NEC team standing in the state tournament.
“We feel very fortunate,” Panthers coach Dave Wilbur, who was named NEC coach of the year, said. “The NEC’s always competitive. To be the last team standing, it’s nice to be there. It’s a good thing. We’re very fortunate to be in this position but we’ve earned it. We’re looking forward to playing an excellent Masconomet team. It should be a great game.”
The Panthers and Chieftains clashed once during the regular season, with Masconomet earning a 4-3 win at Beverly May 19.
“I think they’re the best team we’ve played all year,” Wilbur said. “They’re extremely talented with a lot of tradition.
“At this point it’s not about our opponent. It’s about us playing solid, fundamentally sound baseball,” Wilbur added. “We have to make routine plays on defense, have quality at-bats and our pitching can’t give anything away for free. That’ll keep us in the game. Quality at-bats, limit strikeouts, make routine plays and I think we’ll be in the game with a great chance to win.”
One of the keys for Beverly will be coming into the game well rested. Wilbur has also preached the importance of capturing the moment while staying focused on winning to his players.
“You have to have your eye on the prize,” Wilbur said. “These kids have put a lot of time in. Each game we’ve been fortunate enough to win, we enjoy it for a while. The kids worked hard to get here. It’s really important to have your players enjoy the moment. They deserve that. After we beat Burlington, I wanted the kids to enjoy that win. We’ll be ready for Saturday.
“It’s been a special group of seniors,” Wilbur added. “I’ve been at Beverly for 17 years. The senior leadership has been outstanding. We have an outstanding group of young men on this team. I’m really proud of them and it’s an honor to be their coach.”
For No. 2 Lynnfield, Sunday’s game marks the first time the Pioneers will clash against No. 1 Austin Prep this year. Lynnfield lost to the Cougars in last year’s Division 3 North final.
“We’re familiar with them from years past,” Lynnfield coach John O’Brien said. “The last three or four years we’ve ended up meeting them in the tournament. They have a good team and good players. We’re expecting a very tough game. They’re always well-coached and very prepared. We have to be at our best to win the game Sunday.”
The Pioneers cemented their bid in the sectional final with a 5-4 win over No. 14 Dracut Thursday at Alumni Field in the semifinal round. Cooper Marengi led the way for Lynnfield, going 2-for-3 with two RBI. Fernando Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with one RBI and also earned the six-out save for the Pioneers after coming in to relieve starter Matt Fiore (5-plus IP, four runs, six hits, one strikeout).
Lynnfield played stout defense, committing no errors in the win.
“We’ve played good defense the last six games of the year and into the tournament,” O’Brien said. “We’re capable of doing that. We have to get good pitching and timely hits. Once the game starts, the records don’t mean a thing. I know the kids are looking forward to it and so are the coaches.”
O’Brien pointed to team camaraderie as one of the main reasons for Lynnfield’s success this spring. With a group of players buying into the team’s goal, the Pioneers have flourished.
“We have a good mix of kids,” O’Brien said. “We have half a dozen seniors and the underclassmen are all contributing. It’s a pretty tight group. They all get along and they realize what’s at stake. They’ll do what it takes to get the job done. That’s a big part of our program. Everyone buys in and everyone’s working toward one goal.
“It’s a nice achievement to get this far,” O’Brien added, “and we’d like to continue.”