LYNN, MASS. –- Gabriel Hernandez and Pat Pengeroth couldn’t have picked a better time to deliver back-to-back triples.
The consecutive three-baggers by Andover’s bottom two hitters in the batting order broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning, sending the Warriors past Chelmsford, 6-3, for the MIAA Division 1 North Championship on Sunday evening at Fraser Field.
“Gabe stepped up with a great triple. It was a great shot then I came in and saw a pitch I liked and hit it hard,” said Pengeroth.
“I’m at a loss of words. We’ve been working on that for so long. To finally come together and get the win was great,” said senior Sam Bennett, who picked up the win in relief.
“Gabe Hernandez has been on fire the last half of the season as has Pat Pengeroth,” said Andover head coach Dan Grams.
Bennett picked up the win, pitching 1.2 innings of scoreless relief after replacing starter Colin Flynn with one on in the top of the sixth.
“I’ve had a lot of success using Sam Bennett out of the bullpen. Colin went as far as he could,” said Grams.
“You have to give credit to Sam Bennett. He came on in a tough situation. It was very impressive. It was a great outing,” said Pengeroth.
Chelmsford manager Mike O’Keefe spoke of his respect for Andover’s team following the game.
“Obviously you don’t like to lose. [Andover] is very good baseball team over there. They deserve everything they have. They played an outstanding game. They played better than we did tonight,” said O’Keefe.
“[Andover] came through in the last inning. It was a close ballgame, but they had some big hits at the end,” added O’Keefe.
After Chelmsford scored in its top of the first on a Jack Campsmith single that scored Quinn Cooney, Andover struck back quickly with two runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Tim Awiszus and Quinn McCarthy led off with consecutive doubles to even the score at 1-1. Frank Potts’ single a batter later scored McCarthy to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.
Chelmsford regained the lead with a two-out rally in the top of the third. It all started when Campsmith was hit by a pitch. Lions pitcher Mike Tice reached on an error before Derek Adamson’s deep single scored both Chelmsford runners for a 3-2 lead.
Andover got a run back to tie the score 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning on another Potts single that scored McCarthy who reached base in his first three plate appearances.
That set the stage for the heroics from the bottom of the batting order in the bottom of the sixth. E.J. Perry reached on a hit by pitch to lead off the inning before Hernandez and Pengeroth both tripled to give the Warriors a 5-3 lead. Awiszus’ sacrifice fly scored Pengeroth to provide even more breathing room with a 6-3 advantage.
“We have a very balanced order so I wouldn’t really call it the bottom of the order,” explained Grams. “I’m very superstitious. I don’t like to mix around with a good thing. Through the tournament we had the same lineup that worked very well.”
Bennett slammed the door on Chelmsford’s season and its remarkable run through the bracket, including Saturday’s win over Methuen with all the distractions that came with the MIAA’s decision to play the game as scheduled.
“It was a great run. It was a great season. It was a tough season. We had a lot of ups and downs, but it’s a credit to these guys here. They’re resilient. They stuck it out. I told them it stings to lose, but they should be very proud of what they did this year,” said O’Keefe.
“I don’t think yesterday’s [distractions] had anything to do with today. Andover played better than we did. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the other team,” added O’Keefe, who was very classy in defeat.
Andover faces Division 1 South Champion Norwood on Tuesday at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
“I love these guys. We play as a team. We all play for each other,” said Pengeroth. “I don’t want to lose our last game together.”