By Matt Williams
---- — LYNN — Beverly Little League put a late scare in the Peabody West all-stars in the Section 4 tournament opener for both teams at Wyoma. The Tanner City kids, and relief pitcher Josh Cerretani, recovered to come away with a thrilling 7-5 victory.
Beverly trailed 7-1 heading into the final frame, but wouldn’t go down with a whimper. Catcher Joe Ward led off with a solo smash and, after Jon Gilbride reached on an error, Ryan Barror smashed a 2-run homer of his own. By the time Matt Cross followed with a back-to-back dinger (all of the 200 feet to left-center), the Garden City kids were thinking comeback.
“We showed a lot of fight,” said Beverly all-star manager Jim Cross, whose team faces North Andover East (1-0) today at 5:30 p.m. “Thsoe homers got the guys up, energized and excited. This team doesn’t quit.”
Peabody West summoned Cerretani to get the final three outs of the game, and he calmly did just that. West is in a good spot at 1-0 and playing Weston (0-1) tonight at 7:30 p.m.
“We didn’t feel comfortable (at 7-1). Beverly is a very good team, we knew there was a reason that they’re here and they showed that in the last inning,” Peabody West manager Frank Benea said.
Beverly’s late fireworks made the effort of Peabody West started Nick Iannuzzi that much more impressive. The right-hander struck out 10 and scattered four hits while working into the fifth inning. He was lifted after throwing 50 pitches to keep him available to pitch in Saturday’s championship game should Peabody advance.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the state,” Peabody West coach Ed Aiello said. “This is the way every game should be in this tournament; every team here is going to try everything they can to win.”
Ward led off with a single, but Iannuzzi proceeded to strike out the side in the first. He fanned two in the second and the side again in the third, but got into some trouble when Barror and Cross singled in the fourth. Beverly appeared to score on a passed ball, but the runner was sent back for leaving early; Iannuzzi then picked him off at second to end the inning.
“Hats off to the Iannuzzi pitcher, he had us on our heels all night,” said Cross.
Peabody West took a 3-0 lead in the first. Cerretani doubled to lead off, Chris Kwmuntis singled and Jon Polignone was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Iannuzzi had a sacrifice fly to open the scoring and Cooper Jacques’ two-run single opened the lead.
Iannuzzi and Jacques each scored on passed ball in the third and Kwmuntis added an RBI as West moved ahead, 6-0. Polignone then drove in Cerretani with what proved to be an important insurance run in the sixth.
Dan Marshall also had a hit and scored a run for Peabody, which finished with five hits and worked four walks with two hit batsmen.
“We got some timely hits. This team is starting to come around at the plate,” said Aiello.
Beverly used four pitchers: Gilbride, Kyle Camara, Brayden Clark (who allowed one baserunner and struck out three in 1 2/3 innings) and Matt Collins. Peabody West threatened to break the game wide open in the second and third, but Gilbride and Camara limited the damage to keep their team in it. All of Beverly’s hurlers kept their pitch counts moderately low to give themselves options going into the rest of the tournament.
“We have lots of guys available. We feel like we’re in pretty good shape,” said Cross. “We’re going to play a good North Andover team, so we’ll get a good night’s sleep and be back ready to go.”
Marshall threw 20 pitches for Peabody and Cerretani (“A 12-year-old that’s confident that you can count on,” Aiello said) only threw 14, so they’ll both be able to pitch tonight if needed.
“We needed them, tonight and hopefully for later on,” said Benea. “The way the pitch counts worked out, especially for Iannuzzi, were awesome.”