By Matt Jenkins
---- — WEST ROXBURY — The Peabody West Williamsport all-star team departed The Guy Cammarata Complex early last night having come up a game short in its bid to capture the 2013 Massachusetts State Little League championship.
The team did head home with its strongest attributes — resiliency, determination, and heart — completely intact.
Newton SouthEast outlasted Peabody West, 5-3, yesterday at Praught Field, setting up the state final between Newton and Hanover tonight (7 p.m.).
Peabody West faced a 5-1 deficit with only three outs remaining, but added two more runs and had the winning run at the plate before Newton reliever Brandon Lee recorded a strikeout to shut the door.
“Right down to the last out, they don’t give up,” Peabody West assistant coach Ed Aiello said. “Going into the bottom of the sixth, we still felt like we were going to pull it out. They believed it. The first two guys get on with base hits and we had the winning run at the plate. We had a shot. They don’t give up.”
Facing elimination, Nick Ianuzzi and Jonathan Polignone had back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the sixth. Ianuzzi eventually scored on Caroline Kukas’ RBI groundout and Daniel Marshall produced an RBI single to cut Newton’s lead to 5-3. At that point, Peabody West had runners on first and second with two outs.
West was unable to score any more runs, however.
“At this level, you see a lot of everything. You have to be prepared like you are going Williamsport,” Peabody manager Frank Benea said. “You really have to be prepared and try your hardest, which these kids have done. They just fell short.”
Peabody West built a reputation as a solid defensive team, but at times it struggled to produce runs. A slow start cost Peabody yesterday.
Newton starting pitcher Jackson Danforth was not overpowering, but he kept the West hitters off balance for five-plus innings.
Peabody didn’t record a hit until Ianuzzi laced a single to center field in the fourth inning, and Danfort held them scoreless until the fifth.
That inning may have been Peabody’s undoing.
Trailing 3-0, Chris Ruggiero worked a walk and Dom Lewis reached on an error. Danforth recorded the next two outs, including a strikeout on a borderline pitch that would have loaded the bases with one out. Josh Cerratani followed with an RBI single to get Peabody on the board, but that’s all it could manage.
“We needed to get more out of that inning and make it closer,” Aiello said. “I was hoping to get three and tie it. It just wasn’t in the cards. One pitch can turn it around.”
Peabody West starter Chris Kwmuntis, like his counterpart from Newton, was not overpowering, but hit his spots and kept his team in the game.
Kwmuntis ended up allowing four hits and striking out two over five innings. All five runs were charged to him, but only three were earned.
Lee was Newton’s most productive hitter, blasting a two-run homer in the third inning while also reaching base after getting hit by a pitch and drawing a walk. Ben Genser also had an RBI single in the first inning.
“We weren’t expecting a shutout from (Kwmuntis). We knew he’d give up a few runs, but he pitched very, very well and he gave us a shot at it,” Benea said. “We just couldn’t get the bats going. Their kid pitched really well. I saw him in warmups and he had a good fastball, but he had good off-speed stuff and a nice little change up.”
Peabody West fell short of its goal to reach the Eastern Regional, but the coaching staff was pleased with the journey.
“We told them we were proud of them and that they had a great run,” Aiello said. “I think we’re still the best team down here, I really do. We just ran into a buzz saw in the first game (against Hanover) and I was sure hoping we could get to them (in the final).”