PEABODY — When Peabody West manager Steve Porcella and his 12-year-old all-stars first came together, Porcella knew the talent and potential was there for a competitive run in the District 16 Tournament. What Porcella didn’t know was that Peabody West would run the table during its first four games, en route to a bid in Thursday’s District 16 Championship game against the winner of Lynnfield vs. Salem (5:45 on Tuesday at Pine Hill).
Peabody West has made quick work of its opponents over the past two weeks in its quest for its first District 16 title since 2014. It started with a 16-1 win over Lynn Shore and continued with a 5-0 shutout victory over Wyoma. Peabody West thumped Pine Hill, 9-1, last week and took care of business with a 16-2 win over Lynnfield this past weekend.
“We knew we had a good team,” Porcella, in his second season as Peabody West’s manager, said. “I don’t think you ever anticipate going undefeated through your first four games. The stakes are higher in each game. You want to stay in the winner’s bracket, otherwise you have to play games back-to-back. We felt prepared and we felt our team was capable of doing it.”
Remarkably, Peabody West has allowed just four runs in the tournament. The pitching staff has been led by right handers Jayce Dooley, Thomas Fabbo and Nick Villano. All three will be available for Thursday’s finale.
“Our pitching has been phenomenal,” Porcella said. “Some of those teams we’ve faced have put up big offensive numbers in their other games. We didn’t expect to have such one-sided games against other teams. It’s been impressive.”
Porcella added, “We’ve been able to pitch to locations and avoid big innings. Ultimately the most important thing is our pitchers don’t give up walks. Jayce may have walked a few kids in our last game against Lynnfield but we have a good defense that’s able to work around that. The key is to not walk anybody in these tournaments.”
And the pitching staff’s success is also a testament to Peabody West catcher Andy Bousquet.
“He’s actually thrown out four our five runners trying to steal,” Porcella said. “He’s been great for us. He calls in the pitching location really well. All the pitchers trust him. He’s very reliable.”
At the plate, an aggressive approach has been the name of the game through the tournament run. While some coaching staffs preach patience at the plate and working into deep counts, Peabody West’s offense likes to pounce on good pitches regardless of the count.
“Offensively we make a concerted effort to try to swing at the first strike we see,” Porcella said. “We try to be aggressive and not get too deep into counts. Most of the pitchers in these tournaments have three good pitches. The further you get into the counts, that opens up a chance for a pitcher to throw his other pitches. If the first strike is a good pitch, swing at it. It’s been a pretty effective approach to this point.”
Dooley and Villano have carried Peabody West’s offense, creating a potent punch in the middle of the team’s batting order. Josh Scali has also found his footing at the plate over the past few games.
“They’ve both been driving in a lot of runs from the No. 3 and No. 4 spots of our order,” Porcella said of Dooley and Villano. “Josh Scali has knocked in a few runs recently. The 2-3-4-5 batters, the middle of our order, has been really key for us. Ultimately Jayce and Nick have probably been our strongest offensive leaders.”
Since Saturday’s win over Lynnfield, Peabody West has maintained its normal practice routine in aim of keeping its momentum. With four days off between Saturday’s victory and Thursday’s game, the team has given its pitchers a rest and honed in on repetitions on the field and at the plate.
“It’s a good opportunity to give our pitchers a rest,” Porcella said. “Maybe we’ll give them a small side session. Really it’s about reps now, infield and outfield reps, getting reps with our swings. We’re trying to stay in the swing of things. We don’t want to lose any momentum. It’s good to get four or five days off but you don’t want to lose momentum. We have to keep the kids focused.”
While the intensity amplifies as Peabody West continues its run, Porcella and his assistant coaches, Dennis Villano and Lelo Fabbo, have made it a priority to keep the team loose. Winning is the objective but having fun, Porcella said, is also important.
“We try to get together as a group off the field for barbeques and pool parties,” Porcella said. “We try to be goofballs and fool around as much as we can off the field. That’s a huge part of it too. They’re 12 years old. It’s key to keep them loose and make sure everyone’s having fun.”