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High schools

State tourney flashback: Underdog North Andover clinches Super 8 baseball title

Somewhere in the pile is North Andover pitcher Sebastian Keane, a Red Sox draftee, who came on in relief to finish off St. John's Prep.
Somewhere in the pile is North Andover pitcher Sebastian Keane, a Red Sox draftee, who came on in relief to finish off St. John's Prep.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

(In the month of June, the Globe will turn back the clock to a corresponding day from a previous year, highlighting a moment from the spring high school postseason.)

June 18, 2019: Shortly after quarterbacking North Andover to its first MIAA Super Bowl title on Dec. 1, 2018, Jake McElroy turned to wide receivers coach and varsity baseball coach Todd Dullin and told him that they were going to win another title on the diamond in the spring.

On June 18, 2019, the standout shortstop saw his guarantee through to its conclusion when he gobbled up a ground ball for the final out in a 6-0 victory over St. John’s Prep, cementing North Andover’s unlikely undefeated run to a Division 1A Super 8 title as the No. 8 seed in the double-elimination bracket.

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“We knew we were a very talented team and we just hadn’t fully put it together the past two years,” said McElroy, a former three-sport captain at North Andover and a three-sport athlete at Proctor Academy this past year.

“We were confident we could play with anyone when we were all locked in, and we were fortunate to hit our stride at the right time.”

After upsetting top-seeded Franklin, fifth-seeded BC High, and third-seeded Walpole en route to the Super 8 final, North Andover had options to deploy against Prep. Yet rather than starting Red Sox draftee Sebastian Keane, Dullin elected to send sophomore lefty Brendan Holland to the mound in front of nearly 2,000 fans at Haverhill Stadium.

Holland made his skipper look brilliant with six-plus scoreless innings before Keane came out of the bullpen to stymie a bases-loaded rally in a 2-0 game, then close the door over the final two innings.

“There were big moments where people were saying there was a lot of pressure, but I never really felt any,” said Holland. “It was just me and the catcher [Jack Morin], and I was able to block out the noise and focus on each batter.”

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McElroy said there were some detractors when North Andover, with a 16-4 record, earned the final Super 8 berth over 19-1 Austin Prep, but the Scarlet Knights put all doubts to rest with a run for the ages.

“It was definitely an unforgettable experience,” McElroy said of a senior year that featured a Super Bowl title, a sectional final appearance in basketball, and a Super 8 baseball championship.

“We had a brotherhood that we built before high school and we brought it to high school. We were able to have success, and do it as best friends. I think all of us miss it.”