Sports

Tanners enjoyed an unforgettable week in Bristol, CT

Peabody Tanners Little League 12-year-old All-Stars pose for a picture at the ESPN studios.

PEABODY — It was a whirlwind week for the Peabody Tanners Little League 12-year-old Softball All-Stars last week at the East Regional Tournament in Bristol, CT- one that the players will never forget.
While the week didn’t end the way Peabody had hoped, following a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to York, Maine July 23, the adventure didn’t end there.
“I couldn’t believe it after we lost that the girls said they all wanted to stay one more night,” said coach Mark Bettencourt.  “They just didn’t want to leave. The week was much more than just softball.”
The players stayed in the dormitories at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center.  The center features dormitory style housing, a kitchen and dining facility, recreation building, batting cages and three practice facilities.
The coaches and parents were housed in a nearby hotel.
The Tanners were active off the field as well, the highlight being a guided tour of the ESPN studios in Bristol.
Prior to the Tanners’ game against Maine, the team learned it was the recipient of the Kevin Holder Sportsmanship Award.
“I’m more proud of that than of our perfect-game win. It’s a real honor,” Mark Bettencourt said.  “It’s a high honor and is voted on by the cafeteria workers, the Little League teams, the volunteers, so I was just floored.  For Peabody kids to impress everyone that way was incredible.”
To get to Bristol, the Tanners first had to win the District 16, Section 4 and Massachusetts state tournaments. They did so in dominant fashion, outscoring opponents by a 70-1 margin.
They ran into a buzzsaw in their first regional game, losing to Pennsylvania, 5-0.  Their next game was one to remember as ace Abby Bettencourt threw the third perfect game of her career, leading the Tanners to a 2-0 win over Maryland.
Peabody’s third game, a 1-0 loss to Maine, will go down as perhaps the first Little League softball game to have the outcome decided by something that happened off the field – instant replay.  
The Tanners had escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third inning against Maine when a Maine batter was ruled out at first on an infield grounder.  But Maine challenged the call, and was gifted a run when the ruling was reversed.
“It was a bang-bang play and all I could keep saying was, ‘they had to put this rule in place this year’,” said Mark Bettencourt.  
Bettencourt said that every player on the team made a significant contribution on their run to the regionals.
“Our outfielders (Kiley Doolin, Penelope Spack, Mia Philbrook, Jessica Steed, Alana Sweeney, Marissa Simmons) did not make a single error from districts right through the regional,” Bettencourt said.  “As a group, none of them had much outfield experience, but they worked their tails off the learn to compete at this level.”
Doolin also saw time at first base, alternating with Lizzie Bettencourt.
“The job those two did was phenomenal,” Mark Bettencourt said.  “They didn’t drop a single ball and made some important catches over there for us.”
Second baseman Hailey Roach was one of two players (with Abby Bettencourt) in her fourth year with the all-stars.
“Defensively, she was solid and offensively, her bread and butter was finding a way to get on base,” Mark Bettencourt said.
Bettencourt said shortstop Payton Petrillo was a “steal”.
“We like to say we stole her from baseball and the skills she learned carried over to softball,” Bettencourt said.  “She was a great defensive player for us, especially on cutoffs and throws to get runners at home.”
Third baseman/pitcher Avery Grieco, who pitched (and won) the state championship clincher, had several key hits and was solid defensively.
“She had a great bat and had a bunch of big hits and showed her versatility winning the state final game,” Bettencourt said.  “She has a cannon for an arm.”
Catcher Logan Lomasney played outfield last year, but moved to catcher this year.
“She worked very hard with Abby in the offseason and her toughness and confidence fit the mold perfectly to replace Isabel (Bettencourt).  She was especially good on foul balls and got some huge outs when, if she doesn’t make the catch, it’s just another strike.”
Bettencourt said Abby Bettencourt’s biggest contribution was her ability to keep the Tanners in every game.
“She kept us in the game against Pennsylvania, which ended up winning the regional, yet against us, the best they could do was get a few runs on bunts and then another on a play I should have challenged,” Mark Bettencourt said.  “That’s how the best team in the region beat you? She kept us within striking distance so it was a feather in our cap as a team to have a shot at winning that game.
Bettencourt’s already looking forward to next summer.
“All these teams are almost entirely 13-year-olds, but we have five 11-year-olds (Lomasney, Grieco, Doolin, Steed, Sweeney)  and Lizzie (Bettencourt), who’s only 10, so we will have a lot of experience with half our team coming back next year. Could this team make its third straight trip to a state championship game?  That would be pretty good, I think.”

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