BRISTOL, Conn. — When it comes to perfect games, it’s getting to be a habit for 12-year-old Abby Bettencourt.
All she did was throw her third perfect game in three years (and second of the summer season) to lead the Peabody Tanners 12-year-old Softball All-Stars to a 4-0 win over Maryland state champion Hurlock Sunday at the Little League East Regional Tournament at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Training Center.
The Tanners were scheduled to play York, Maine, today at 10 a.m. in an elimination game.
Bettencourt needed only 63 pitches to polish off Maryland in a little more than an hour with the final play coming, fittingly on a chopper back to the circle.
“She was awesome today,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “Her drop curve was just deadly. It was so amazing because it was the same pitch we couldn’t throw yesterday when we had to rely on the changeup.
“You never want to throw that drop curve with two strikes because it’s so hard to catch,” he said. “So usually you go with a fastball but when the curve wasn’t working early we went to the drop curve and it was so good today that we had to throw it, even with two strikes.”
The right side of Peabody’s infield had a big hand in the no-no. While Bettencourt struck out seven, not a single Hurlock batted ball touched the outfield grass. Bettencourt spotted her curve perfectly, inducing eight ground ball outs in all, all to the right side.
“I have never been a part of a game when not a single ball went to the outfield, never,” said Mark Bettencourt.
In Peabody’s opening round 5-0 loss to Pennsylvania Saturday, the Tanners struggled to field bunts. But Sunday was a horse of a different color. Catcher Logan Lomasney may have saved the perfect game in the first inning when she bare-handed a bunt off the grass on the third base line and fired a perfect throw to first to get No. 2 hitter Cassidy Mowbray. Bettencourt’s younger sister Lizzie closed out the inning, snagging a tricky foul-ball pop-up halfway between first base and the dugout.
In the second, Bettencourt helped herself with two stellar defensive plays, the first when she stabbed a hard hit grounder on the back hand, and the second when she fielded another bunt and made a strong throw to Lizzie for the final out of the inning.
But the defensive star of the game was second baseman Hailey Roach who had four putouts and two assists.
“She had the game of her life,” said Mark Bettencourt. “I thought we were in big trouble in the fifth when their No. 4 hitter hit a rocket, a real shot, and I thought, there is goes, that’s the one ball to get through, but Hailey handled it with ease. She was incredible today. After the first game we made some adjustments because of the grass and it paid off.”
Both teams went down 1-2-3 in the first, but Peabody’s bottom half of the order came up clutch in the top of the second.
Avery Grieco led off the inning with a single and alertly took second when the ball got loose. Kiley Doolin moved her to third with a ground out, then Penelope Spack plated Grieco with what turned out to be the game-winning run with a grounder back to the circle.
Lizzie Bettencourt and Mia Philbrook, the No. 7 and No. 8 hitters, kept the inning alive with back-to-back singles but were stranded when Roach, who had Peabody’s only hit in Saturday’s 5-0 loss to Pennsylvania, grounded to third.
Peabody doubled its lead to 2-0 when Abby Bettencourt hit a shot to third base, that Hurlock third baseman knocked down, but fired wide to first with Bettencourt taking second on the errant throw. Bettencourt then stole third and kept going home when the throw got away from Hurlock.
“Lizzie and Mia hit the ball hard, but Abby’s ball almost killed their third baseman it was hit so hard,” said Mark Bettencourt. “I was surprised she stayed in the game, to be honest.”
Peabody added two insurance runs in the top of the fifth, and, once again, the bottom of the order played a big role.
Marissa Simmons, in for Philbrook, worked a leadoff walk, reached second on a wild pitch and scored on a towering double to left field by Abby Bettencourt. Bettencourt needed only two pitches to score. She stole third and then scored on a passed ball to make it 4-0.
“That was a great at-bat from Marissa, she kept fighting off foul balls until she finally walked,” said Mark Bettencourt. “Then Abby just crushed that double, especially with their left field playing so deep.”
Today’s against Maine was to be live-streamed on ESPN-Plus
Saturday, the Tanners fell to Tunkhannock, Penn., 5-0, with Roach getting the only hit.
“They (Tunkhannock) were very good and we are the first team to play a full 6-inning game against them,” said Bettencourt. “They 10-run ruled every team they have played leading up to regionals, so we played well. Abby pitched well and even though we had only one hit, Abby, Avery Grieco and Marissa Simmons all hit balls hard right at someone.”
Bettencourt went the distance, allowing two unearned runs on 11 hits with two walks and four strikeouts.