Pittsfield 13s Babe Ruth team ready to start New England regionals
PITTSFIELD — Paul Brindle spent last summer as a parent watching his son play baseball. That gave the now Pittsfield 13-year-olds Babe Ruth All-Stars manager a front-row seat to a group of local kids who came to the brink of the Little League World Series.
A "taste" as he called it after a Pittsfield 13s practice earlier this week at Deming Park.
A large portion of the Pittsfield American squad that brought home a Little League state title last summer has matriculated to the big field and into the local Babe Ruth program. Together, along with four players coming out of the Pittsfield National Little League program and another from Hancock, those 10 who reached the New England final are heading back into the regional waters this weekend.
The Pittsfield 13s were en route to Stamford, Conn. on Thursday, and will take the field for the opener of the New England Babe Ruth Baseball regional at 10 a.m. Friday against Eastern Massachusetts representative Plymouth.
"The good thing with this team is that they want to win, because they've experienced winning, and they've also experienced getting right to the cusp," said Brindle. "They know what that feels like, to be an inning, a pitch, an at bat from the World Series.
"We're going down there not feeling like, 'oh, I hope we win a game.'"
The 13s spent the early portion of their summer racking up a 10-1 record as one of the dominant teams in the Eastern New York Baseball League. There, they out-scored opponents 104-22.
"We haven't had to make a ton of adjustments. These kids are very talented, and we're a pitching and defense-oriented team," said Brindle. "We don't make errors, and we go eight deep with pitchers."
Offensively, the 13s are led by a handful of bats, while the rest of the team is steadily developing and maturing physically. Still, the concern over being a group of kids still getting used to the full-sized field hasn't created much cause for concern for Brindle and his staff.
The 13s are led by some familiar names from that American squad last summer, with Evan Blake, Nick Brindle and Antonio Scalise adapting seamlessly to the big field. Blake has continued right on mashing, batting .800 in June with five homers, 20 hits, 22 runs scored and 24 RBI. Nick Brindle and Scalise are also hitting over .400. Brindle has 13 hits, 11 RBI and 14 runs scored, while Scalise had nine RBI. Owen Salvatore, Christian Salzarulo and Walker Abdallah are all batting over .300, with Salvatore swatting four doubles and scoring 11 runs.
Blake is also the team's No. 1 starter, posting a 5-0 record, with Salzarulo, Cam Sime and Brayden Gutzmer all top-line pitchers as well. Damon Pause, Ben Cornish and Salvatore can also toe the rubber as reliable arms.
Blake plays shortstop when he's not on the hill, while Scalise handles most of the catching. Brindle is a middle infielder, along with Salzarulo. Pause and Keegan Crouse can play third base, with Gutzmer and Tommy Mullin on the other corner. Salvatore and Ben Jacob see time in center field with the other outfield spots populated by Sime, Abdallah, Ben Cornish, Alex Williams and Ethan Bretmaier.
"We've got talented kids coming from both leagues, and this was an opportunity to keep working with them," said the 13s manager, who has coached 13 of the players at varying other levels. "It's a great group. They've been together, they like each other and they pick each other up."
Like the Pittsfield 14s, this group will head into regional play without the benefit of a state tournament. In light of that news, they have been scheduling scrimmages and kept the team busy with practices and visits from local high school coaches, as well as college players.
"What we've been doing is bringing in the high school coaches, JV coaches, some high school players have come in and thrown batting practice," said Paul Brindle. "They've come in to help us with different facets of the game. Today we worked solely on first-and-third plays, bunt defense, situational stuff."
For a team with as much talent as the 13s possess, the staff — which also features coaches Bruce Blake and Jeff Gifford — needs to make sure from time to time that their team is "sitting, listening and learning."
The team will play three games in pool play, including games against Keene, New Hampshire on Saturday and Milford, Conn. on Sunday. The top three teams in each four-team group advance to the bracket play starting Monday. The championship is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Cubeta Stadium.
Should the 13s claim a New England title, they won't have to travel far to play in the World Series starting on Aug. 8. That tournament is being hosted in Westfield.
Mike Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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