BRISTOL, CT — The Peabody Tanners 12-year-old Softball All-Stars dropped a heartbreaker Monday, losing to Maine state champion York 1-0 in the Little League East Regional. The game proved the old adage that timing is everything, especially when it comes to sports.
The only run of the game, which was delayed six hours due to rain, wouldn’t have been a run last year, or any other year, since Little League added softball in 1974. But this year, Little League softball added instant replay to fall in line with baseball.
The decision came back to bite the Tanners after York challenged the call of the first base umpire in the third inning. He called York’s Carlie Welch out at first on a ground ball to second base with the bases loaded, seemingly ending the inning. Instead of the Tanners getting out of the inning unscathed, the on-field decision was reversed, gifting York with the only run of the game.
With the loss, Peabody was eliminated from the tournament, finishing at 1-2.
The game was a pitchers’ duel with both pitchers – Madison Raymond for York and Abby Bettencourt for Peabody – tossing 2-hitters. Raymond was dominant, striking out the side three times, finishing with 14.
Bettencourt finished with six strikeouts and four walks. Unfortunately, one of those walks was to leadoff hitter Chloe Bourque, who was credited with scoring the game-winning run.
Peabody was first to get a runner in scoring position. In the top of the third, Hailey Roach walked, stole second and took third on a passed ball, but was left stranded when Bettencourt popped out to Raymond in the circle and Payton Petrillo went down on strikes.
York’s Emerson Joyce led the bottom of the inning with an infield hit and advanced to second on a walk to Bourque. Bettencourt struck out Ava Brent, then Petrillo made a nice play at short to get Joyce at third on a fielder’s choice. Bettencourt walked cleanup hitter MaKayla Kortes to load the bases for Welch, who hit a slow roller off the grass to Roach at second, but the throw was too late with Bourque scoring on the play.
“I kept telling the Little League people after the game, so you had to choose this year to make that a new rule,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “It was a bang-bang play, but it all comes back to playing on grass. That would never have been a close play had it been played on a traditional dirt surface, but it really came down to we had our opportunities with people in scoring position, especially late, but their pitcher just threw shrapnel. She threw a very heavy ball that exploded differently than the other pitchers we faced so we had trouble making contact.”
Peabody came back in the top of the fourth and had runners on first and second with two outs, but could not come up with a timely hit. Avery Grieco was hit with one out. Then pinch-hitter Jessica Steed had the Tanners’ first base hit to move Grieco into scoring position, but Raymond caught the next batter looking.
With one out in the fifth, Roach walked and stole second. Bettencourt ripped a line-drive single, moving Roach to third with Bettencourt taking second on the throw to third. Raymond buckled down and got the final two batters on strikes to end the threat.
Peabody went quietly 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth to seal the victory for Maine.
The Tanners did not come home empty-handed, however. The team was awarded the Kevin Holder Sportsmanship Award based on voting by all the teams in the tournament.
Mark Bettencourt was already looking forward to next year.
“All these teams are almost entirely 13-year-olds, but we have five 11-year-olds and Lizzie (Bettencourt), who’s only 10, so we will have a lot of experience with half our team coming back next year.”