Lowell Up to the Task Against NA Ace Keane
LOWELL — Through 5.2 innings, North Andover High’s Sebastian Keane’s stock kept rising.
The senior right-handed pitcher, who has committed to play next year at Northeastern University, is expected to be an early round selection in next month’s Major League Baseball Draft. With scouts in attendance at LeLacheur Park on Tuesday night, Keane had given up just two hits and struck out 12 Lowell batters before Edgar Velazquez’s single up the middle led to three unanswered runs, which ultimately lifted Lowell to a 4-2 victory over the Scarlet Knights in the first round of the annual Spinners Cup.
The victory improved Lowell to 13-4 (10-3 Merrimack Valley Conference), while North Andover dropped to 11-3 (9-3 MVC).
Lowell will play Methuen, which defeated Tewksbury in the earlier game, 7-2, for the Cup championship on Wednesday night (7:30). Tewksbury will play North Andover at 5:00 pm.
With the game scoreless with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the sixth, Velazquez singled to center. Tommy Hassett followed and reached on an error, sending Velazquez to second and he then scored on an RBI single to right field by Ray Velazquez, Edgar’s younger brother, for what proved to be the game-winning hit. Hassett then scored on a wild pitch and later in the inning, Jamie Velez reached first on another NA error, allowing Ray Velazquez to score.
“We knew coming in that we had our work cut out for us,” said Lowell head coach Dan Graham. “You gather as much information as you can, do as much as you can in practice to simulate velocity so kids can get accustomed to it and try to catch up to it so they can put some balls in play and put some pressure on their guys to make plays. All of the runs we scored in the sixth inning were with two outs. That was clutch from the top of our lineup.”
While Keane was overpowering the Lowell hitters, Red Raiders’ sophomore Adam Betty also tossed up zeroes into the sixth inning before North Andover scored a run on back-to-back singles, sandwiched between a wild pitch. Betty also went 5.2 innings, giving up seven hits and striking out four. He didn’t give up any walks, but did hit one batter. Betty came out with a runner at first and two outs and left-handed reliever Corin LaLiberty struck out Jackson Berberich to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Edgar Velazquez beat out and infield single to score Aiden Foyle, who walked and then advanced to third on a throwing error from first baseman Justin Connolly on a pick-off play, making it 4-1.
North Andover certainly made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with no outs. Tim Scott, who is one of Lowell’s starting pitchers, came on and gave up a groundball to force a runner at second, which allowed a run to score, before getting out of the jam with a strikeout and a groundout.
“Timmy comes in and pitches what could have sent me to the hospital with chest pains,” said Graham. “He is as cool as a cucumber.”
This is the second win in four days for Lowell over North Andover.
“Honestly, for me anyways, I felt like the pressure was off of us a bit today because I don’t think many people expected us to come in here and beat Keane and to beat North Andover again,” said Graham. “But it doesn’t matter what I think, the kids all believe. The underdog for us is always a good thing and these kids have always risen to the challenge.”
METHUEN 7, TEWKSBURY 2 — In a must-win situation to keep its postseason playoff hopes alive, Tewksbury dropped a decision to Methuen to fall to 4-10 on the season and now two losses behind the Rangers for second place in the MVC Division 2 standings, which is an automatic qualification for the state tournament.
Methuen scored four runs in the top of the first on three hits, two walks, a Tewksbury error and a wild pitch. The Redmen scored one in the bottom of the second as senior Michael Polimeno stroked an opposite-field double to right to score Matt Perron, who had singled.
Both teams exchanged single runs in the second before Methuen added two in the fourth to put the game away.
Tewksbury managed just four hits in the game.
“We didn’t throw many strikes early on,” said Tewksbury head coach Kirk Monbleau. “We had a couple of OK at-bats early on, but we just couldn’t get much going after the first couple of hits that we got. Just zero momentum and we couldn’t put anything together.”