SALEM — Make room for another Ray Gallant Tournament championship trophy in Lynn’s collection.
Behind stellar pitching from Josh Doney, clutch hits at the right moments and steady defense, Lynn grabbed a 6-0 win over Peabody in Wednesday’s final at O’Grady Field.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Lynn manager Jeff Earp said. “We have seven 11-year-olds, six of them starters. They were nervous. It showed early in the tournament. They had a chance to start their summers but they practiced. It’s absolutely amazing, what they accomplished against an outstanding Peabody team.”
Doney gave Peabody headaches throughout the game. He struck out seven and allowed five hits over seven innings. Whenever Doney ran into a jam, Lynn found a way to escape unscathed.
“Josh grew (Wednesday), right before our eyes,” Earp said. “He matured. He pitched instead of throwing. He adjusted during the game. He evolved. He’s going to be an outstanding player.”
Peabody’s hits, all singles, came from James Smith, Jariel Tolentino, Jayce Jeanpierre, Matt Smith and Joseph Keka. Matt Smith struck out 10 over seven innings.
“We ran into two good pitchers, Tuesday (Guilmer Galva) and Wednesday (Doney),” Peabody coach Al Annese, who stepped in for manager Steve Cabral, said. “You have to give credit where credit is due. Lynn came to play. I have nothing to be sad about with this team. They played all the way to the end.”
The Lynners jumped out to an ideal start. Leadoff batter Justin Jennings (2-for-3, two runs) started the game with a single before swiping second base. Christian Figueroa’s (1-for-3, two runs) walk put runners on first and second for Doney (3-for-4, two RBI, two runs), who brought Jennings home with a RBI single. Figueroa raced home on a wild pitch, bumping Lynn’s lead to 2-0. Jake Peterson (1-for-4, RBI) capped the first-inning rally with a RBI groundout, plating Doney.
Doney worked around a 2-out walk in the bottom of the first. Back-to-back singles from Matt Smith and Keka put Peabody in position to cut into Lynn’s lead in the bottom of the second. But Doney escaped the inning with consecutive strikeouts and a 1-3 groundout.
An ounce of small-ball helped Lynn cushion its lead in the top of the third. Jennings opened the frame with a perfectly placed bunt single. He advanced to third on Figueroa’s single and scored on a wild pitch. Doney extended the lead to 5-0 with a RBI single, plating Figueroa.
“We put the ball in play,” Earp said. “That’s all we had to do.”
Peabody laced three singles in the bottom of the third (James Smith, Tolentino, Jeanpierre), but Lynn, behind two big plays from Jennings in centerfield, kept Peabody off the board.
“We had chances,” Annese said. “We had men on base. We had some of our key hitters up but (Doney) did his job. We just got beat. The bats weren’t there at the right times.”
Lynn tacked on another run in the top of the fifth. Doney singled, Nate Cutone followed with another single and a bobbled ball in the outfield allowed Doney to cross home plate.
From there, it was about Doney and Lynn’s defense sealing the deal. Lynn worked around a 2-out jam in the bottom of the fifth. Doney retired Peabody in order in the sixth and seventh innings, sending the Lynners into a frenzy.
The title is Lynn’s first Gallant championship since 2016.
“The kids were down after we lost the first game to Danvers,” Earp said. “I don’t think they believed they’d accomplish anything. We showed up for the second game and won. Then it all changed. The kids evolved in every aspect.”
Annese and Earp enjoyed bringing their teams to the tournament.
“Peabody loves coming here,” Annese said. “What I like about it is both sides of Peabody play together. We don’t do that until this tournament. The boys get along great. It’s an excellent tournament.”
“It’s a great tournament,” Earp said. “I love it. The kids love it. They’re all hanging out with each other every day. It’s great to see.”
Individual award winners were Tolentino (Peabody Coaches Award), Matt Smith (Peabody MVP), Marblehead’s James Caeran (Most Valuable Fielder), Cutone (Lynn Coaches Award), Galva (Most Valuable Pitcher) and Doney (Most Valuable Player).