PEABODY — The Saugus National 12-year-old All-Stars saw a five-run lead disappear but battled back in a 6-5 win over West Lynn in the District 16 semifinal Tuesday at Lt. Ross Park.
“Hats off to West Lynn, they were awesome,” Saugus National manager Buddy Riley said. “I grew up in West Lynn so I knew that they were going to keep playing. They hit the ball, we saw them play (Monday) night and they got here for a reason. But hats off to our guys too. They dominated the first couple innings.”
Luca Sapienza (1-for-3, two runs) had a great day at the plate knocking in three RBI, including a two-run home run to help Saugus build an early lead. Dan Zeitz also tacked on a RBI and doubled in the fifth, allowing pinch-runner Mike Muschella to score the winning run on a passed ball.
“Luca is a stud,” Riley said. “He’s our biggest hitter. He had a home run last game against Peabody. He has done it all year for us.”
West Lynn clawed back into the game, but saw its season end after failing to complete the comeback.
“This year these kids were awesome,” West Lynn manager Rich Contreras said. “They did a great job and all the coaches did a great job. We worked extra hard and we were really underdogs before this season even started. They’re all awesome kids, did everything we told them and the coaches worked double time. Everyone did their part and we’re proud of them.”
Rowan Merryman (1-for-2) had West Lynn’s two RBIs, knocking in a pair of runs on a single to help get a comeback started in the fourth.
Despite only having one hit in the first inning, Saugus National grabbed an early two-run lead. A walk and an error put runners on the corners to get things started and Sapienza plated a run on a fielder’s choice. Next, Zeitz laced a RBI double to give Saugus a 2-0 lead.
The runs kept coming in the second. Cesar Rollo singled, stole second and moved to third on a ground out before scoring on a passed ball. Tyler Riley singled before Sapienza smashed his two-run homer to stretch Saugus’ lead to 5-0.
Meanwhile, Saugus starter Cody Munafo surrendered just three hits through the first three innings while striking out four.
West Lynn finally got to Munafo in the fourth. Jacob Peterson singled and Gilbert Galva doubled to start the inning before Merryman’s two-run single cut the lead to 5-2. Guilmer Galva singled next and an infield error scored another run. West Lynn added another run in the inning on an errant throw back to the pitcher to cut the Saugus lead to 5-4.
Eddie Lewis and Christian Figueroa put together a pair of singles to start the fifth for West Lynn. Gilbert Galva singled next and an outfield error plated Lewis to tie the game at 5-5.
From there Zeitz, who relieved Munafo to start the fifth, settled down. Sapienza made a nice play at shortstop, throwing a runner out at home on a ground ball and Zeitz recorded a strikeout to get out of the jam.
“West Lynn put it on us,” Riley said. “They made us make plays. We had a couple things we could’ve done better but we battled. We never quit, that’s one of the best parts about our team.”
With one out in the fifth Zeitz doubled and Muschella did the rest, moving to third on a single and scoring on a passed ball to give Saugus a 6-5 lead.
Zeitz forced a ground ball and fly out to start the sixth and, after a walk, struck out his last batter to seal the 6-5 win.
Saugus National moves on to the District 16 final Thursday (5:45) at a location to be determined and will have to beat Peabody twice after emerging from the losers bracket.
“It was 1-1 going into the sixth last game against Peabody (a 10-1 loss) and then the wheels came off,” Riley said. “But we can play with them. The kids know that. We expect to come out and play hard.”
Marblehead 17, Peabody 5
Tessa Francis struck out 12 batters in four innings of work to lead the way for Marblehead, while Lillian Reddy had a double and two RBI to pace the offense. Tessa Andriano and Haley Schmitt each had three hits and four runs scored, while Greta Sachs and Kate Andriano each had two hits.
Marblehead (2-0) will play again on Friday against an opponent to be determined.