By Jean DePlacido
Playing four games in one day finally caught up with the Boston Junior Rams 13U AAU baseball team. The Rams, lead by several North Shore boys, lost a heartbreaker, 5-4, to the Orlando Assault when a last-inning rally fell just short. The tournament was held at ESPN's Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort in Florida.
The loss snapped a surprising five-game winning streak by the Rams, but couldn't spoil a highly successful tournament that featured 40 teams invited from New England and New York, along with others from California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Puerto Rico and Guatemala.
"The boys had a great showing against tough competition," said Rams manager Jeff Mejia, who is the infield coach at Suffolk University. "I've been with this group of kids since they were 11 years old, and, to be honest, they did even better than expected.
"This group is made up of kids from the North Shore, and you go up against some of the teams from the Southern states that play year-round. When you go to a tournament like this, you hope it's clean and competitive.
"We got great pitching all tournament from Bobby Sullivan (a Peabody West Little League all-star last year), Matt Cunha (Lynn), Jake Spada (Middleton) and Nolan Webb (Rockport). Webb was on fire with a win and a save on elimination day."
Bad weather forced the postponement of some games, and the Rams were forced to play four times on elimination day beginning at 9 a.m. and not ending until 1:15 the following morning.
The Rams started out by beating Mass Pride, 6-1, with Sullivan on the mound for the first four innings. He was taken out with his team ahead by five runs to rest up for his next appearance.
Next, the local boys bested a pair of teams from Georgia, blasting the No. 1 seeded Grayson Rams, 8-3, and then handling the Wills Park Titans, 10-8. That enabled the Rams to advance to the championship game at Champion Stadium, a beautiful facility that is the spring training site for the Atlanta Braves.
Sullivan, who started four of his team's 10 games, got the nod against Orlando and allowed only two earned runs in five innings. But the heat and exhaustion bothered the local club, which made a couple of costly errors that cost them. Going into the seventh inning, they trailed, 5-1, but with two outs mounted a comeback.
"They never quit and fought back to make it a 5-4 game," said Mejia, who owns the Rams' program. "We had the bases loaded, and one of our boys had a hard hit, but unfortunately it was right at their left fielder. That game ended over 18 hours after we arrived at the park.
"All of our batters really got the job done, starting with leadoff hitter Kyle Lynch (a Peabody West Williamsport all-star teamer last year) and No. 3 batter Chris Hopkins (of Malden). Ethan Harris (Middleton) had some big hits on championship day.
"Overall, our defensive play was excellent, too, especially Jeff Mejia (the coach's son) in center field and Bobby Tramondozzi (Peabody American Little League grad) at first base. Ben Irvine (another Peabody West all-star) really helped us out by catching the first game of the day against Mass Pride. He and Sullivan really clicked; they work so well together."
Team members include Sullivan, Lynch, Irvine and Tramondozzi from Peabody; Harris, Spada and Tyler Reid from Middleton; Mejia and Griffin Beal from North Reading; Webb from Rockport; Cunha from Lynn; and Hopkins from Malden. Bobby Barret coached the squad, and Bob Sullivan was the scorekeeper. Ryan Webb was the batboy and Dylan Webb was bellboy.