By Jean DePlacido
---- — NAHANT – Peabody West is the only unbeaten team remaining in the District 16 Williamsport Little League all-star tournament.
They’ve won games in a variety of ways, but their thrilling come-from-behind 9-5 victory over Lynnfield in the winners’ bracket final at Nahant yesterday afternoon is one they won’t forget.
Lynnfield had a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning before Peabody West sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven times to completely change the momentum.
“We did it the hard way,” said Peabody West manager Frank Beana after his team posted its fourth straight win, advancing to Thursday’s District title game. “Lynnfield is a good team and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them again (in the final).”
Whichever team emerges from the loser’s bracket to face Thursday would have to beat Peabody West twice (including Friday) to wrestle the district crown away from them.
Christian Cummings made the defensive play of the afternoon with a great leaping catch in left field to end the game. Lynnfield had runners on second and third with two down after a baserunning mistake. Lynnfield’s Jon Luders hit a long fly ball that appeared to be going over the left field fence, but Cummings leaped up to make a spectacular catch to wrap up the Peabody West win.
“I thought that ball was going out, but the wind was swirling around and kept it in,” said Lynnfield manager Bob Relihan. “Peabody West is the best team I’ve seen in this tournament. They are well-disciplined and well-coached. We’ll see them again on Thursday (if Lynnfield wins its next game tomorrow).
“We made every mental and physical mistake we could possibly make in that fifth inning. Guys that don’t ever make errors did today. We had Peabody on the ropes, but they came back.”
Peabody West took an early lead with a run in the first inning when Jonathan Polignone singled and later scored on a wild pitch.
Polignone started on the mound and retired six of the first seven batters he faced until he walked Will Garofoli to start the third. Aiden Kelly followed with a single that scored Garofoli when the ball got by the outfielder and Luders reached on an error. Matt Relihan then delivered a two-run single and later scored on Jagger Benson’s double to give Lynnfield a 4-1 lead. They tacked on another run in the fourth on an RBI single by Luders.
Dan Marshall replaced Polignone on the mound for Peabody West and was outstanding in relief, earning the win. He retired the first five batters he faced before giving up a single to Cole DiSilvio in the sixth.
Peabody scratched out a run in the fourth Lynnfield starter Colin Simoneau walked three before being relieved by DiSilvio. Dom Lewis drew a free pass and later scored on a wild pitch to make it a 5-2 game.
Pinch hitter Chris Ruggiero, who was given the game ball, had the key hit for Peabody West in its big fifth inning, an RBI double down the right field line. Other big hits in that inning were run producing doubles by Marshall and Polignone and an RBI single by John Mulready.
“We felt confident throughout the game that we could come back and win,” said West coach Eddie Aiello. “We made some errors earlyand Lynnfield took advantage. In that fifth inning they made the errors that opened the floodgates. Our bench really came through, and Ruggiero had the big hit that got us going.
“In a tough tournament like this you have to have a lot of luck, and you need a game like this. We’re not taking anybody lightly, but we like the position we’re in. And we have all our pitchers available for Thursday.”
Nick Iannuzzi doubled and also made some terrific plays at shortstop for Peabody West. Catcher Chris Kwmuntis led off the big fifth inning with a single and later came around to score.