By Jean DePlacido
---- — Peabody West is a name that appears frequently in Massachusetts Williamsport state tournament history since 2001. The list of the Final Four to determine the Commonwealth’s representative in the New England Regional at Bristol, Conn. lists Peabody West as a finalist in 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and now 2013.
During that incredible span in both District 15 and 16, Peabody West has won the state championship twice and gone on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. once.
This year District 10’s Parkway is hosting the tourney at the Guy Cammarata Complex in West Roxbury. Holden from Section 1, Hanover (2), Newton South East (3) and Peabody West (4) are the last four teams in the state. Round one of the tournament begins today with Holden vs. Hanover at 4 p.m. followed by opening ceremonies at 6 o’clock, and Newton South East against Peabody West at 7:30.
In round two tomorrow the Tanner City kids play Hanover at 5 p.m. and take on Holden Saturday at 2 p.m. in the third round. The top two teams advance to the state championship game on Sunday at 4 p.m. Ties after round robin competition will be broken by head-to-head results, and if needed ratio of runs allowed to defensive innings will be used (lowest run total allowed advancing).
Peabody West won District 16 by beating Lynnfield in the finals and then defeated District 15 winner Beverly (10-5) in the sectional championship. The team was unbeaten in district play and lost only once in sectional competition, a 3-2 walk-off loss to North Andover East, so they’re 8-1 overall this summer.
“We don’t really know much about the other three teams,” said Peabody West coach Ed Aiello, who has assisted manager Frank Benea with other Williamsport all-star teams that have gone to the states including the 2006 state champion squad that lost in the New England Regional semifinals at Bristol. “We’ve been doing some newspaper reading to try to get a better idea.
“Our first opponent, Newton South East, looks like they play a good brand of baseball, and that Hanover team appears to have a great offense. It’s tough because they come from different parts of the state, but we are fortunate to have the second game on opening night so we will be able to see Hanover and Holden play before our game.”
Holden beat Pittsfield South in the Section 1 championship and scored 34 runs in three games. Hanover blasted Lakeville, 15-1 to take Section 2, and Newton South East defeated Walpole National, 7-6 in seven innings in Section 3.
“The kids are so excited they are jumping out of their skin,” Aiello said. “Frank and I are experienced because we’ve done this before and know what it takes to do well at the state level. Every team there is going to be very strong, and in the back of your mind you realize you are just one step away from Bristol.”
Being one of the final teams remaining in Massachusetts never gets old for Peabody West, especially because it’s a new bunch of players getting to experience a state final almost every time.
“It’s down to the last four teams out of something like 170, and you have to pay attention to the finer details of the game. It’s going to be very grueling with four games in four days,” said Aiello. “You have to have pitching, defense, and hitting. The biggest thing is pitching, and we know we have decent pitching.”
Peabody West will most likely start ace Nick Iannuzzi, who is coming off an impressive win against Beverly in the sectional finals. Jonathan Polignone, Dan Marshall, Chris Kwmuntis, and Josh Cerretani are also ready to go. Kwmuntis has been rock solid behind the plate.
“We call Polignone and Marshall our 1B and 1B right behind Iannuzzi,” said Aiello. “Cerretani and Kwmuntis are just as good, and any of them could be the No. 1 guy on another team. They all know how to spot the ball and set up batters.”
Potentially playing four times in four days, as they did in the sectional tournament, is a challenge. Peabody’s coaches will have to manage pitch counts to ensure they have pitchers available for the next day’s games, but the District 15 and Section 4 champs feel like they have enough arms to get through.
“If we work it right we have plenty of depth there with six bona fide pitchers. We haven’t used 11-year old John Mulready yet, but he can throw. We also have Chris Ruggiero and Eddie Campbell available,” said Aiello. “At practice we’ve been working on fine tuning because we know it’s going to come down to the little things when you have four pretty equal teams. We’re ready to go now, and it should be very exciting.”
LITTLE LEAGUE STATE FINALS SCHEDULE Today's games: Holden vs. Hanover (4); Peabody West vs. Newton South East (7:30). Tomorrow: Hanover vs. Peabody West (5); Holden vs. Newton South East (7:30). Saturday: Peabody West vs. Holden (2); Newton South East vs. Hanover (4:30). Sunday: State final (Top two teams, 4). TIEBREAKERS: Head-to-head results are the first tiebreaker. If that can't break the tie, runs allowed ratio is used. In the event of a three-way tie, once the first team advances it reverts back to head-to-head if possible. DIRECTIONS: The tournament is hosted by Parkway at the Guy Cammarata Complex, 299 Baker Street in West Roxbury; I-95 South to Rte-9 East (Exit 20A) to Walnut Street, Dedham Street and Baker Street. The complex is located near Catholic Memorial High School. (Source: Google Maps). Follow The Salem News on Twitter @SalemNewsSports and sports reporters @MattWilliams_SN, @MattJenkins_SN and @GiannaAddarioSN for updates