Pittsfield American 11-12 falls to Wellesley South in state Little League championship
WESTWOOD — It wasn't quite where they wanted to finish. The members of the Pittsfield American 11-12 Little League All-Star team do, however, realize that it is an accomplishment to be playing on the last day of Little League season in Massachusetts.
"We've gone so far," Pittsfield American shortstop Brendan Stannard said. "We won states two years ago [in the 10-year-old tournament], and to get all the way to the final two as 12's is just crazy.
"We did a good job."
But on this Sunday afternoon, Wellesley South did a better job. Wellesley got up early only to have Pittsfield American come back. But Wellesley broke the game open with five runs in the top of the fifth inning en route to a 9-3 win at Morrison Park. It was Wellesley's second title in the last five years. Wellesley last won a title in 2012, beating Acton-Boxborough. Pittsfield was represented in that Final Four by the former Pittsfield South.
"It's going to be tough for them to grasp," Pittsfield manager Ty Perrault said of his players, who could not win a first state championship for a Pittsfield team since 2001. "These guys will bounce back."
The team in the third base dugout figured they would be in for more of a game than the first time the two played — a lopsided 12-1 decision for Wellesley on Friday night.
"You were the best hitting team we played all year," Wellesley manager Blake Bentley said during the post-game trophy presentations.
But it was the lack of a key hit that might have cost Pittsfield American a shot at the New England Regionals next week in Bristol, Conn.
Wellesley jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings. Wellesley batters Mark Henshon and Jack Toomey hit back-to-back solo homers in the first inning, and then Henshon hit a two-run homer off Shane Bernardo in the second.
When these teams met on Friday, Pittsfield managed only four hits in a 12-1 loss. Sunday, Pittsfield had nine, two by Owen Kroboth and two by Bo Bramer, but couldn't get a clutch hit in the second inning.
Bramer led off with an infield single and then Bernardo and Nolan DeGroff both singled to load the bases with one out. Wellesley South starter Matt Lussier, who went the distance, retired the side without any damage. It was an inning that Pittsfield manager Perrault, a 20-year veteran of these All-Star wars, said would haunt them.
"We knew we had to put some runs up there, at least a couple," he said. "Two home runs right out chute, before the seats are warm, made it tough.
"Yeah, that was tough."
It wasn't as bad as the seven runs Pittsfield American gave up in Thursday's come-from-behind win over Beverly, but it was something Perrault said didn't come as a shock.
"Every game, it seems like every game, we've given up home runs to start the game," he said, "so I wasn't overly concerned. I knew we would hit the ball."
Lussier set Pittsfield down 1-2-3 in the third inning. The fourth inning was another story, as the District 1 and Section 1 champions played small ball to get back in the game.
Bramer reached on an infield single and Michael Britten beat out a bunt. Bernardo and Michael Grady each followed with RBI sacrifice bunts, making it 4-2. That was as close as it got because one inning later, Wellesley South made its presence felt in a big way.
The District 10 and Section 3 champions erupted for five runs, four earned, on four hits. The key hit of that five-run fifth was Drew Renzella's three-run home run. Wellesley batted around, sending 10 hitters to the plate. Charlie Denomme ended the five-run rally with a two-run single. When Matt Beyer popped out to Stannard to end the inning, the Pittsfield side was shaken just a bit.
"That team was the best team down here, in my opinion," said Perrault. "I watched every game of this tournament and they deserve it.
"They were four-deep on the mound and they were solid all around."
Pittsfield made it 9-3 on Patrick Rindfuss' leadoff home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Lussier was not fazed, as he retired Bernardo, Nolan DeGroff and Josh Lennon to end the game and send Wellesley South to Connecticut.
"I didn't think we'd come this far," Pittsfield catcher Kroboth said. "We were still confident in ourselves."
Wellesley's Henshon and Renzella carried their team with the bat. In two games against Pittsfield, Henshon drove in five runs with four home runs. Renzella hit three homers and drove in seen.
"They didn't want to be two, they didn't want to be four," the Pittsfield manager said. "They didn't want to be 100. They wanted to be No. 1 in the state. That's what they were shooting for."
The players and coaches posed for photos with the state runner-up trophy, and then headed back for the ride home that ended a long and mostly exciting journey.
"To be honest, I did not imagine we'd make it this far," said Stannard. "It was a crazy run, and we practiced hard every day."
Matt Lussier and Drew Renzella. Shane Bernardo (4 1/3), Brendan Stannard (2/3), Patrick Rindfuss (1) and Owen Kroboth. W—Lussier. L—Bernardo. 2B—P (Stannard). HR—W (Mark Henshon 2, Jack Toomey, Renzella). P—(Rindfuss).
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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