WORCESTER -- Pittsfield South started fast and finished strong in its Little League Major Division (11-12 year olds) State Tournament opening round game against Middleboro.
Drew DeMartino's towering two-run homer highlighted a five-run first inning to help support the steady pitching of starting pitcher Isiah Provencher and reliever Jack Cooney in leading Pittsfield South to a hard-fought 5-4 win before a large crowd at the Joe Schwartz Little League Field in Worcester.
Pittsfield South plays Wellesley South today at the Schwartz field at 7:30 p.m. Wellesley South lost to Acton-Boxboro, 10-6.
"A great win. Our defense held against a team that we knew would be tough and would not give up," Pittsfield South manager Ty Perrault said. "Just a very gutsy performance by both our pitchers. We held on and got a nice win."
Pittsfield South sent eight hitters to the plate during its first inning outburst. After Cooney led off with a single to right field, DeMartino brought in the first two runs with his homer, which cleared the fence in right-center. Pittsfield South added three more runs without the benefit of an extra-base hit. Noah Santos (bases-loaded walk) and Logan Demary (infield single) had RBI.
"We scored some runs early and we thought we'd hit all night, but that didn't happen," Perrault said. "So we had to rely on our defense and hitting our spots with the pitching. This was really the first game that we've played that's been a nail-biter right to the very end, but the kids answered the call.
Middleboro chipped away at the lead, scoring two runs in the third inning and one in the fourth and sixth innings.
Sam Henrie had an RBI double in the third, plating Evan Gwozoz. Middleboro's other run came home on a wild pitch.
Middleboro scored its third run in the fourth inning when Nick Sclafani singled. The run scored when John Taylor reached on an error.
Cooney, who came on in relief of Provencher in the fifth inning, came up big in the sixth. Middleboro closed to 5-4 on a one-out RBI single by Taylor. Taylor's hit loaded the bases. However, Cooney bore down and struck out the next two batters to end the game.
Provencher, a right-hander, was on taget early on, shutting out Middleboro over the first two innings. He struck out cleanup hitter Mackenzie Allioth in the third inning with two outs and Henrie on second, ending a threat.
"I was really nervous coming in because this is a state game and it's really important," Provencher said. "Scoring all those runs early helped me calm down. Bear down and do my thing. Having that great defense in back of me helped my confidence, too. I just tried to get the ball over the plate and throw strikes. We've got a good group. We're all friends and we love playing together."
Pittsfield South got standout infield defense from shortstop DeMartino, second baseman Ryan Keenan and catcher Shaun Morgan. Lead-off batter Cooney led the hitters with three singles.