WOBURN — Leaving nothing to chance, the Peabody Tanners 12-year-old Little League Softball All-Stars got out the brooms Sunday, sweeping Section 1 champion Westfield, 7-0 and 2-0, to win the state championship and punch their ticket to next weekend’s East Regional Tournament in Bristol, CT.
Abby Bettencourt staked the Tanners to a 1-0 lead with a dominant effort in the circle in the opening game, allowing just four hits while striking out nine, leaving Tanners’ manager Mark Bettencourt with a tough decision on his hands.
Due to Little League rules, a pitcher cannot pitch the next day if she goes more than six innings the day before. So Bettencourt gambled on his No. 2 pitcher, Avery Grieco, to get the job done in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
Grieco did not disappoint. She pitched five innings of 2-hit ball with five strikeouts and only one walk. She allowed only one Westfield runner to reach. With a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Grieco was relieved by Abby Bettencourt, who needed only eight pitches to close the deal.
“Avery was the big difference in this game,” said Mark Bettencourt after game two. “The big question was do we allow Abby to go 12 innings in this heat and lose her for tomorrow. But we relied on Avery to step up. We talked about leaving Avery in and bringing in Abby only if Avery got into a jam, but there was no need to risk the added pressure of having to come in in that situation, so we brought Abby in to start the inning. I have no doubt that Avery could have finished, but with their 2-3-4 hitters due up, we wanted to change things up.”
Unlike Game 1, the second game was a small-ball pitchers’ duel pitting Grieco against Westfield’s ace, Marleigh Monroe. The Tanners, however, won it on the bases.
Abby Bettencourt (2-for-3, triple) led off with a single. Two pitches later, she was on third after swiping second and third. Payton Petrillo (2-for-3) brought Bettencourt home with a single.
The Tanners added an insurance run in the fourth. With one out, Grieco (2-for-3, run) beat out an infield hit. Doolin (2-for-3) doubled her to third. Steed reached on defensive indifference, loading the bases for Sweeny. Sweeney hit a hard grounder. Westfield second baseman Kelsey Bouchard tried to get the force at home, but her throw was off the mark, allowing Grieco to score.
Westfield’s best chance to get on the board came in the fourth with Monroe on third base, only to be stranded when Petrillo stabbed a line drive at short.
“We practice getting good jumps a lot and that was a key today,” said Mark Bettencourt. “Baserunning is so underestimated and doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It takes mental toughness to be ready so that when that passed ball gets past the catcher, you are on it. It’s so important that runners get to second and third and can be in that position to come home when the ball gets away.”
In game one, the Tanners jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Abby Bettencourt (3-for-4, 2 runs, 4 stolen bases) got things started with a leadoff double. After a walk to Payton Petrillo, Logan Lomasney (2-for-3, 3 runs, 3 RBI) doubled both runners home. Lomasney advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a single by Kiley Doolin (2-for-4) to make it 3-0.
Lomasney led off the fifth with an inside-the-park home run to deep right field to make it 4-0.
The bottom of the Tanners’ order delivered several timely hits. No. 8 hitter Mia Philbrick got a second inning rally going with a leadoff single in the top of the second, while No. 7 hitter Lizzie Bettencourt kept a Tanners’ rally in the third alive with a 2-out single.
After Lomasney’s homer, No. 7 hitter Jessica Steed drew a 2-out walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. No. 8 hitter Alanna Sweeney brought Steed home with a clutch hit up the middle to make it a 5-0 game.
“They are a good-hitting team, but our top-5 batters hit better than theirs and the bottom of the order came up big for us, too,” said Mark Bettencourt. “The foundation of the order is the top, it’s your murderers’ row, but we came up with some bonus hits from the bottom. Mia had a big hit, and Alanna’s hit was just a big bonus for us. Lizzie and Jess also had great at-bats to get on base.
“The top half allowed us to get ahead early, and that took a huge edge off and allowed us to catch a deep breath. That put the pressure on Westfield to come back and was a huge factor.”
Bettencourt said the defensive play of the game was made by Lomasney, who threw out Allie Rehor attempting to steal second in the fourth.
“That was a big play to throw her out because the next girl up singled and who knows what might have happened,” Bettencourt said.
The Tanners added a couple of insurance runs in the sixth, the big hit being a 2-out, 2-run double by Grieco.
Peabody is scheduled to play Pennsylvania in the first round of the East Regional Saturday, July 21 at 4. All games will be played at the Leon J. Breen Field at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Training Center in Bristol.