By Jean DePlacido
---- — The three Peabody Little League teams — Peabody Heil, Peabody Chmiel and Peabody West — are getting ready for District 16 Williamsport all-star tournament, which begins Sunday.
Peabody American and Peabody National merged after last season, and the league separated into two divisions named after Peabody LL coaching legends: Ed Chmiel and Charlie Heil, respectively.
Here’s a look at each all-star team:
Manager Eric Dollin will count on his two returning players from last year’s Williamsport team, pitchers, Mason Zeuli and Tyler MacGregor, to lead the way. His team opens tournament play Sunday vs. Revere at the Lynn Shore field (1 p.m.).
“We’ll go as far as their arms take us,” said Dollin. “I think the bats are there, too. We have some power along with some contact hitters who can put the ball in play. Our goal is to play good defense and not give teams any extra outs.”
The team, made up of all 12-year-olds, is solid up the middle with Mike Panzini and Chris Masta sharing the catching duties, Zeuli and MacGregor alternating at shortstop and Caleb Dollin anchoring the outfield in center.
“We’ve got speed in the outfield and speed on the bases,” said Dollin. “MacGregor, Zeuli and (first baseman) James Taylor are the big home run threats. Also, Panzini is very versatile and can play anywhere in the middle infield as well as catch.”
Marc Alperen and Ryder Pare will be spotted at third base and also see action in the outfield. Masta caught all season and will be another arm on the mound as well as fill in at first base. Caleb Dollin can also catch if needed while Andrew Langley, Matt Moran, Connor McCarron, and Aiden Murphy will be used in the outfield. Josh Tanzer is another versatile utility player.
The main area of concern is the inexperience of 11 boys, who have never played at this level. “It’s a whole different story dealing with the crowds at the Williamsport games,” said Dollin. “Everything becomes more magnified, and that’s hard on some kids.”
Christian Buckley, Colin Lomasney and Evan Mullen all played a year ago and are expected to contribute both on the mound and at the plate.
“We have pitching depth but no clear-cut ace,” said manager Adam Buckley. “All our pitchers were successful in putting the ball over the plate during the Little League season. Mullen or Lomasney will probably get the nod in the opening game (Tuesday against Pinehill in Revere at 5:45 p.m.).”
Mullen and Lomasney will handle the catching duties when not on the mound. Chmiel is strong up the middle with Buckley and Michael Johns either at shortstop or second base, both of whom are table setters and good contact hitters.
Mullen led the league in homers with eight and will be counted on to supply power; Lomasney and first baseman Connor Full are also legitimate threats to hit the ball out. There is good speed with Sullivan Marino, Joseph Zito and Spencer Weedon always threats on the basepaths.
Zito is a lefty hurler who mixes his pitches well. Ryan Lemole, Buckley, Johns, Zito, Dylan Guarino, Alex Vlachos, and Derek DeLisi all pitched during the regular season and will be called upon in relief. Buckley has good control and throws strikes, while Lemole will play third base and also come on in relief when needed.
“We will definitely not have a shortage of arms,” said Buckley. “If we can get consistent pitching and have other teams put the ball in play, our defense can keep us in games.”
Nick Ianuzzi, Josh Cerratani, Cooper Jaques and Jonathan Polignone all return from last year’s Williamsport team and will lead a team with a dozen 12-year-olds, plus 11-year-old John Mulready.
“We really won’t know an awful lot until we see what other teams in the district have,” said manager Frank Benea, whose team opens tournament play Sunday in Saugus against West Lynn (1 p.m.). “We’re hoping our strength is pitching, because good pitching will carry you a long way. After that, you have to have strong defense and be able to hit the ball.”
“We hope we’ll be a good-hitting team, although we don’t have any big home run threat. During the regular Little League season all the kids have hit 1-2 homers, but nobody stands out. What we want to do is hit for contact and score a few runs. I think we’ve put together a pretty good team, but time will tell.”
Versatility should be a big plus for Peabody West. Caroline Kukas, the only girl on the squad, fits that role perfectly as she can catch, play first base or anywhere else in the infield as well as pitch.
Dom Lewis and Jacques are also multi-dimensional in that both can play the infield or outfield. In addition, five players — Cerratani, Ianuzzi, Kukas, Chris Kwmuntis, and Mulready — have all caught at one time or another.
Ianuzzi, Polignone, Dan Marshall and Mulready are the team’s top pitchers. Eddie Campbell, Cerratani, Christian Cummings, Will Preshong and Chris Ruggerio could also be called upon in certain situations.