By Matt Jenkins
---- — WEST ROXBURY — Standing on the gravel parking lot of the Guy Cammarata Complex of Parkway Little League, Peabody West manager Frank Benea and assistant coach Ed Aiello were still pondering how they could have pitched to Hanover’s Mike Simon last night.
Simon blasted a pair of homers — a game-tying, solo shot in the bottom of the sixth inning and a two-run, walkoff bomb in the bottom of the seventh — to lift Hanover to a 5-3 win over Peabody West in seven innings in the opening game of the 2013 Massachusetts State Little League Tournament.
Now, Peabody West has a little work to do if it hopes to get another shot at Simon and Hanover.
West will play Holden today (2 p.m.) and a win would go a long way toward keeping it in the hunt for the state title.
Peabody took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from Chris Kwmuntis, but Hanover’s Jackson Butler immediately responded with a solo shot of his own to get the run back.
In the sixth, Simon smashed the first pitch of his at-bat way over the Praught Field right-center field fence to tie the game.
West couldn’t manufacture a run in the seventh and Hanover put some pressure on in the home half of the inning when A.J. Costanza reached on an error with one out. Dan Marshall buckled down to get the next batter and even worked an 0-2 count on Simon.
Moments after blasting an up-and-away fastball deep but foul, Simon hit a tough pitch for a screaming line drive home run.
“I don’t know what to throw him. That was a curve ball low and outside,” Aiello said. “He hit the fastball in the bottom of the sixth out. He’s a really good player.”
Peabody West started quickly, scoring twice in the first inning. Josh Cerratani singled and Kwmuntis doubled to put runners on second and third. A passed ball scored Cerratani and Nick Ianuzzi added an RBI groundout for the two-run advantage.
Hanover got on the board in the fourth inning on an Andrew Carroll RBI single.
“They’re a tough team; they can really hit,” Benea said. “They substituted their pitchers and their pitchers shut us down. They kept us from scoring and that was the difference.”
Ianuzzi started and pitched well for Peabody, but Benea and Aiello elected to pull him before he reached 50 pitches to keep him eligible for the final, should they advance
Jonathan Polignone and Marshall also threw for Peabody, and everyone but Ianuzzi is eligible to pitch today against Holden.
“You’re not going to win a lot of games scoring three runs. Still, we’re a resilient team,” Aiello said. “They had second and third and one out late and a man on second (in another inning) and couldn’t score.”
Even with the loss, the Peabody West coaching staff remains confident that they can bounce back today.
“I think we can win (Saturday) and I think we can win again on Sunday,” Aiello said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see us in the finals still. I have confidence in this team. We didn’t give up, they had to knock us off the field.”