Earp, Lynn looking forward to Gallant Tournament

The 2018 Lynn Gallant Tournament team. Kneeling (left to right) are Rich Avery, Will McCaferty, Chris Marks, Juniel Guzman, Josh Jiminez, Morenel Castro, Braydon London, James Meklis, Brendan Zollo. Standing (left to right) are Coach Rich Avery, Manager Jeff Earp, Alex McMillan, Gabe Diaz, Kevin Whelan, Carlos DeLaRosa, Anthony Cedeño, Coach Brian O’Connor, Coach John Meklis. (COURTESY PHOTO )

LYNN — The second week of August is always circled on Lynn Babe Ruth President Jeff Earp’s calendar. That’s because Earp, for the past 10 years, has managed Lynn’s team in the annual Gallant Tournament.

The Gallant Tournament pins area 11-12-year-old all-star teams against one another in a double-elimination bracket. The tournament usually features eight teams, but this year’s includes seven. They are Lynn, Marblehead, Peabody, Danvers, Salem, Manchester and host Beverly.

All games will be played at Beverly’s Harry Ball Field.

“You have the best teams from everywhere” Earp said. “It’s the best of the best. To match up against that, it’s very cool and we always do well.

“It’s really something,” Earp said. “This Gallant team ends up being the core group for the Babe Ruth teams going forward. It’s something else that it happens like that. It’s cool, the kids love it. They still wear their shirts three years later. It’s such a great experience. It’s the first time they all play together as one and that’s how it is moving forward for them.”

The tournament begins Thursday night (7:30) when the Lynners play against Marblehead. Regardless of Thursday’s outcome, Lynn will have a rest day Friday before stepping back into action Saturday, potentially in a double-header.

Earp has organized practices for the past week and a half and said things look good thus far.

“We started practicing last Monday right after the City Series ended,” Earp said. “They work hard. We’re going to rely on pitching, defense and hopefully some timely hitting.”

Coaching alongside Earp are Brian O’Connor, John Meklas and Rich Avery.

Among key players on Lynn’s roster are Pine Hill’s Juniel Guzman, Wyoma’s Alex McMillan and East Lynn’s Morenel Castro. Guzman, who played in the Gallant last summer, helped lead the Reds to the City Series title and won the City Series Home Run Derby last week. All three are infielders and will also see time on the mound.

“They’re all very good pitchers,” Earp said. “If the three of them pitch to their abilities then we should be OK.”

The rest of Lynn’s roster includes Brendan Zollo, James Meklis, Brayden London, Willy McCafferty, Anthony Cedeno, Josh Jiminez, Richie Avery, Chris Marks, Gabe Diaz, Carlos DeLaRosa and Kevin Whalen.

For the past few years, the tournament has featured wood bats. Prior to the start of this summer’s edition, the rules were changed to bring aluminum bats back into the fold. Earp said the change could work in Lynn’s favor, as offense and timely hitting were two areas for improvement for last summer’s team.

Despite last year’s struggles at the plate, Lynn battled its way to a close loss to Peabody in the final.

“Last year we struck out about 90-95 times in six games,” Earp said. “Our batting average was under .150. We went to the loser’s bracket and kept fighting back. We had to beat Peabody twice in the final. We beat them in the first game and lost 6-3 in the second game. It was a great experience.”

Earp said he owes a big thanks to Lazy Dog owner Tom Dill for his continued support. Dill donates money annually to the Lynn Gallant team, which goes a long way in purchasing uniforms for the players.

“We don’t charge the kids anything for this,” Earp said. “The parents don’t have to pay anything. We have an entry fee but Wyoma Little League covers that. All the expenses are picked up by Tom Dill at the Lazy Dog. He’s been involved with sports forever and he’s super generous. He’s always giving to all the sports team but I have to thank him. It means a lot to him and me.”

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