P-North snaps NA's streak, returns to D2 final

BRAINTREE, Mass. -- When they look back on the season, their record will include only two losses, but for the North Andover baseball team, the second came at the worst possible time.

After winning 23 games in a row to establish state-wide dominance in Division 2, the Knights ran into Plymouth North Wednesday and lost 15-4. With the win, the Eagles return to the Division 2 State Final for the third time in four years, and will try to capture their first title since 2008.

The Plymouth North (21-3) bats got to Mike Weisman early and often, putting up four runs on four hits in the second inning after leaving the bases loaded in the first. Meanwhile the defense for North Andover (23-2) did not make life easy for Weisman, committing three fielding errors in the inning.

The Eagle hitters attacked Wiseman early in counts, often swinging at the first pitches of their at-bats. Plymouth North catcher Matt Walsh, who went four-for-five with four singles, said the team noticed a pattern in the pitching that helped them attack at the plate.

“Right away, the first three batters of the game, we noticed he started with a fastball to each hitter,” he said. “We left the bases loaded in the first inning but we knew we were going to get to him because of the first pitch fastball.”

They got to Wiseman again in the fourth inning for five more runs. Zach Zaniboni lead off the inning with a single to right-center and was brought home by Walsh two batters later. Dom Nicolosi, the North Andover third baseman, misplayed two ground balls in the inning, which kept the Plymouth North inning alive. Altogether, the team committed six errors in the game.

“We couldn’t field a ground ball today,” said North Andover coach Todd Dulin. “First game of the year (the other NA loss) we couldn’t field a ground ball and today we couldn’t field a ground ball, so that’s kind of the story.”

Weisman was pulled later in the fourth after giving up nine runs and nine hits. After pitching three times in one week, including pitching Wednesday on two days rest, the hard-throwing lefty just could not stop the Plymouth North lineup.

Plymouth North will play the winner of the Hudson vs. Palmer game, which was postponed to Thursday night due to lightning, Saturday at Frasier Field in Lynn for the Division 2 State Championship.

“This was the game we had to get, us with our No. 2 pitcher (Jake Stearns) against Weisman,” said Plymouth North coach Dwayne Follette. “Now we give ourselves a chance for another state title, which is all we want.”

Stearns threw six-plus innings and never ran into any trouble until his last inning. A back-to-back Weisman walk and Alec Jillson single in the fourth inning was the only blemish in the box score for Stearns until the sixth. There, he gave up a double to Cam Couillard and triple to Wiseman to open the inning. He was relieved in favor of Tom Faucett after he failed to record an out in the inning.

The 15 runs was a vast difference from the two runs the Eagles could muster against Somerset the night before. Walsh knows his team’s performance against North Andover is more indicative of what type of team Plymouth North is.

“We know we’re a hitting team,” he said. “It happens to every team once in a while. You get out-pitched once in a while, but we still find a way to win and that’s all that matters. We knew we’d come back to the bats tonight.”