Pittsfield American completes comeback, wins Little League state opener
WESTWOOD >> It was Pittsfield American manager Ty Perrault's worst nightmare.
"We didn't draw it up to give up seven runs before the first out was recorded," said Perrault.
The rest of the Massachusetts Little League Championship series game was more like a dream.
Pittsfield American outscored Beverly by nine runs over the final six innings to score a 12-10 win in the first round of the tournament Thursday afternoon.
Nolan DeGroff's leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth inning broke the tie and led to a three-run inning that gave the Section 1 champions the win.
"We know we can score runs," said Perrault. "That hasn't been a problem for us. I think there were a little bit of nerves when we took the field.
"[Beverly] can hit. We knew they can hit."
The two teams combined for 24 hits and six home runs. Pittsfield American catcher Owen Kroboth hit two homers, went 3 for 4 and drove in four runs.
"We had a lot of game left in us," said Kroboth. "We just had to cut [the lead] down little by little.
"That first inning was pretty disappointing. We just had to come back."
Game two in the round-robin tournament will be tonight at 7, when Pittsfield plays Wellesley South. Wellesley played Fairhaven Acushnet in Thursday's second game, which was played after the official opening ceremonies. Wally the Green Monster and former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield were scheduled to appear. The two teams with the best records after three days of games will play here Sunday at noon for the state title and the right to represent Massachusetts in the Little League New England Regional in Bristol, Conn.
Of the four teams that were here, only Pittsfield American — as Pittsfield South — and Wellesley South had been here before. Wellesley South won the title in 2012, Pittsfield South's last time in the state Final Four. Pittsfield American is seeking to be the first Berkshire County team since South went back-to-back in 2000 and 2001 to win a state championship.
While Beverly's Joe Loroti made it 9-8 with a two-run home run in the top of the fourth, DeGroff kept it close when he robbed Griffin Francis of a leadoff home run in that inning.
Francis hit a Shane Bernardo pitch to straightaway left. The line drive looked to be heading over the fence but DeGroff ran a long way to make a nifty grab and keep Beverly from getting a really big inning going.
"I just tried to make a break for it as quick as possible," said the Pittsfield American outfielder. "I didn't know [if I could catch it]."
Kaden Codey's RBI double in the bottom of the fourth inning scored Bo Bramer with the tying run. Bramer, who was the fourth Pittsfield pitcher and got the win, hit a two-out single to right and scored when Codey's fly ball hugged the line in left for the double.
Beverly left-hander Brennan Frost, the fifth pitcher, stranded Codey at second to end the fourth. Frost wasn't nearly as fortunate an inning later.
The lefty got an 0-2 count on DeGroff, before the outfielder launched a solo home run into the Pittsfield American fans stationed beyond the center-field fence.
"I thought it was going to be on the outside corner or an off-speed pitch," the outfielder said. "I hit it well. I hit it hard."
So which was more important?
"Both, just contributing to the team," said DeGroff.
Heading into the sixth, Pittsfield American was up 12-9. Beverly wasn't ready to surrender and cut the lead to 12-10 on a two-out RBI double by Joe Frost. But with runners on the corners and two outs, Griffin McCay flied out to end the threat and the game.
The game's biggest hit, at least in the eyes of the Pittsfield American manager, came in the first inning. That was Kroboth's first home run of the game. It was a two-run homer with two outs. Brendan Stannard had walked with two outs and Kroboth hit a 1-0 pitch over the wall in center. Had Pittsfield American gotten out of the inning scoreless, the players might have been really discouraged.
"I think it was huge," said Perrault. "It was a little bit of normalcy coming back."
For his part, Kroboth said he could feel a little bit of a momentum swing.
"I'm sure it pumped everybody up," he said.
Five different Pittsfield American batters had multiple-hit games, led by three each from Kroboth and Bramer. In fact, the middle of the Pittsfield order (3 through 5) was a combined 8 for 12.
And for the Pittsfield American coaching staff, the early game gave them a good opportunity to scout their next opponents.
The players, meanwhile, can't relax. They can take a deep breath because they can finish 3-0.
"It's great" to win the first game, said Kroboth, "because we get confident we can win and take it into the next game."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.