PEABODY — Everything’s clicking at the right time for the Peabody Little League 12-year-old All-Stars. Peabody has excelled in all three phases through all four of its District 16 Tournament wins. Now Peabody finds itself one win away from a district championship.
“We’re playing really well as a team,” Peabody manager Justin Powers said. “We’re pitching well, we’re playing good defense and we’re swinging the bats well. I think anytime you can combine all three of those you’re going to find some success and that’s what we’ve been able to do so far.”
Peabody will play Saugus National Thursday (5:45) at Wyoma’s Reinfuss Field for the district crown. Saugus National emerged from the one-loss bracket, meaning it must beat Peabody twice in order to advance to the sectional round. The two teams met Sunday with Peabody using a late rally to grab a 10-1 win.
“They were winning 1-0 all the way into the fifth inning,” Powers said. “A lot of credit to those guys. They played good defense and they threw a lot of strikes. We have to keep our heads in the game and play well through all 18 outs. We scored nine runs in the sixth inning to put it away but we were down most of the game.
“Saugus National’s a good team,” Powers said. “They’ve won a lot of games in this tournament too. They can compete with anybody. We try to focus on us getting better and playing our game. If we play the way we’re capable of, we’ll take it whether it’s win or lose. I have a lot of confidence in our guys. It’s going to be a great game between two teams that’ll compete for 18 outs.”
Eleven members of this year’s team played together last year on the 11-year-old all-star team that won District 16 and Section 4 titles. Although it helps Peabody’s cause to have big-game experience on its side, prior results and past success don’t carry over. That’s the mentality Peabody has adapted.
“That’s the biggest thing we’ve tried to stress to this group,” Powers said. “No scores carry over, no big plays or results from years past carry over. We tell them every practice that they have to earn it. I think they’ve done a good job taking that to heart. They compete every game. I think the experience does help. At the end of the day you still have to make the plays in the game you’re in.”
Offensively, Peabody has been carried by Jayce Jeanpierre (three home runs) and Jariel Tolentino (team leader in RBI). Noah Crocker, Matt Smith and James Smith have also swung the bats well through the tournament.
“We’re a tough lineup, one through 13,” Powers said. “We beat Salem 22-1 and sent 18 kids up in the first inning. I don’t know if there’s anyone that doesn’t have a hit. We’re tweaking things here and there by game. Whoever’s in there, they’re all supporting one another. They do an awesome job supporting one another. It’s really fun to watch.”
Crocker, Matt Smith, James Smith and Tolentino lead the pitching rotation.
“They’ve all thrown very well,” Powers said. “The most we’ve allowed in a game is three runs. I’m confident in all our guys. I like our defense behind them. We tell them to pitch to contact and good things will happen with our guys behind them. We haven’t had many walks and that’ll be the key Thursday.”
Win or lose, Powers is confident Peabody will come ready to play. Peabody has given each of its opponents its best efforts thus far and Thursday’s game shouldn’t be any different.
“Even to get to this point, it’s not easy winning four games in an all-star tournament,” Powers said. “We definitely feel we have some more to accomplish. If they happen to outplay us, tip your hat to them because they earned it. At the end of the day, we’re not going to get knocked out of this tournament because of lack of effort. We’ll play you for the full 18 outs. That’s what I’m most proud of about this team.”