GLOUCESTER — Manager Ty Perrault said his players would sleep well Thursday night.
With that sleep should be some pleasant dreams as well, after Pittsfield American opened its trip to the Massachusetts Little League state tournament with a 4-0 win over Peabody West at Bourdeau Field in Gloucester.
A combination of three Pittsfield pitchers struck out 16 batters and surrendered just two hits in the shutout performance.
It was a long day for Perrault's squad, which left Berkshire County early and took a three-hour ride to the northeastern part of the state on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to play in the weekend-long tournament.
Pittsfield American at state tournament
Pittsfield American shutout Peabody West 4-0 in its opener at the Massachusetts Little League State Tournament on Thursday in Gloucester.
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"Everybody left this morning, drove down the three-hour drive, had batting practice, opening ceremony and finally the game," said Perrault. "This is a resilient group."
Perrault didn't mention that the early game in the tournament, between Needham National and Middleboro, went nine innings, and in the middle of the third inning in Pittsfield's game, there was a lengthy rain delay. The first pitch by Sebastian Herrera came at 7:08 p.m., and teammate Cam Blake struck out the final Peabody batter at 9:33 p.m.
Herrera set the tone for the game, and perhaps the tournament as a whole, with his arm and his bat. He handled Peabody himself in the top of the first with a 1-2-3 frame, striking out two and fielding a grounder back to the mound. Then, despite Pittsfield's first two batters falling to Peabody's Cullen Posterick, Herrera launched a two-out double to the fence in right field. Kevin Konefal singled him home with a drive down the first-base line for the 1-0 lead.
The Pittsfield starter struck out another three batters in the second, and battled back from a leadoff double in the third to strike out Peabody's 1-2 hitters with the runner on third in a one-run game.
That's when the rain fell, but playing on the state's biggest stage, with the Boston Bruins anthem singer Todd Angilly ringing in the start of play and gulls circling above, Pittsfield American never lost sight of the goal.
"They don't seem to get too nervous. This weather, they're comfortable in it. We've had a ridiculous amount of it this summer," said Perrault. "They didn't let down during the break, just had some food, ran around a little bit, walked back out and, that's 12-year-olds for you."
After the tarps were removed and the field was worked on, Pittsfield started hitting lasers. Micah Roberto blasted one right to the right fielder, before Christian Barry and Blake reached on hard hit balls that caused errors. That brought Herrera back to face Posterick a second time, with the same result. Herrera's second double scored Barry, and Konefal matched him with an RBI double to right-center field to score Blake.
Herrera finished 3 for 3 with another RBI single in the fifth after Blake singled and came around to score. Konefal was 2 for 3 with 2 RBI. John John Mullen had a pinch-hit single in the fourth.
Hey, it rains on this end of the state too!We're in rain delay at Gloucester in T3.Pittsfield American 12s lead Peabody West 1-0 at MA Little League Tournament. pic.twitter.com/6vH8HDv2On— Mike Walsh (@WalshWrites89) July 29, 2021
But Thursday was about the pitchers for Pittsfield American. Herrara's day came to a close in the top of the fourth. Peabody reached on an error and then Herrera issued his first walk. That led to Barry coming on in a brief, but dominant, relief appearance. The starting catcher struck out the first batter he faced before walking one to load the bases with one out. On a full count, he got a batter swinging and then struck out another looking to end the threat with no harm done.
Christian Barry had four hits and five runs batted in, and struck out 10 as Pittsfield American beat Longmeadow 11-1 for the Section 1 Little League title.
Blake went to the mound to start the fifth and struck out his first two batters, before a single and a walk put two on. The response was swift, a three-pitch backwards K against Peabody's cleanup hitter.
"They threw well. They threw really well tonight. Cam especially, he had been struggling with his command a bit lately, but he came through," said Perrault. "Really proud of them all, and it bodes well for the tournament."
Herrera struck out seven in three innings, while Barry added three more and Blake set down six to account for all of the outs while he was on the hill.
Pool play continues today, with Pittsfield meeting Needham National at 5:30 p.m. Pittsfield will play Middleboro at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. The top two teams from pool play will play in a championship game on Sunday at noon.
"We're going to take it one game at a time. Obviously, every team down here is extremely talented," Perrault said. "Anything can happen in pool play, so we'll take it one game at a time and hope to continue what we were able to do today."