By Jean DePlacido
---- — The Peabody Little League Fastpitch Softball program has come a long way in three short years.
Peabody’s Majors Williamsport all-star team earned a berth in the state finals after beating District 13 winner Woburn in two straight games to take the sectional crown.
The Peabody all-stars, made up of two 11-year-olds and 10 12-year-olds, are just two wins away from representing Massachusetts in the New England tournament at Bristol, Conn.
Peabody will play Charlton at Jimmy Pedrini Memorial Field in Winchendon tomorrow at 6 p.m. in their best 2-of-3 series. The second game will be played Saturday at 11 a.m., and the “if necessary” contest is set for Sunday.
“We were down, 4-1, in the bottom of the sixth and final inning in the first game with Woburn and scored four runs to win,” said Peabody manager Keith LeBlanc, who is assisted by coaches Tom Rossignoll and Todd Buckley. “They beat East Bridgewater to face us again and took an early three-run lead before we came back to score four times in the bottom of the third.”
In the rematch Woburn tied it up in the top of the fifth, but once again Peabody answered with two runs in the home half to win, 6-4.
Peabody had previously won District 16 by beating Swampscott twice, 8-0 and 11-2. The 12-member squad consists of best players from the three Peabody LL softball teams. Players voted for the top eight all-stars and coaches picked the other four.
Four members are back from last year’s team that won District 16 but lost in sectionals: pitcher Olivia Keane, Mallory LeBlanc, Kristina Rossignoll and Sydney Lowry.
“We have a wonderful group of girls and they all get along great,” said LeBlanc. “Those sectional games with Woburn were a battle between two evenly matched teams. (Now), the girls are very excited about going to states.”
Keane, who has a 6-0 record, is the team’s regular pitcher, but will be unable to go on Saturday because any pitcher with over three innings needs a day of rest before returning to the mound.
“We’ll go with Mallory on Saturday, but she hasn’t pitched at all so it’s a difficult spot for her. She’s practicing to get ready,” said LeBlanc. “Hopefully we’ll win the first game; the best part is we have Keane ready to go if there is a deciding Game 3. A lot of the families are staying in Winchendon, too.”
Amanda Crawford was an all-star for Little League baseball as an 11-year-old, but decided to switch to softball this year. She has a rocket for an arm and does a very good job blocking balls behind the plate. She’s also a threat at the plate as Peabody’s cleanup hitter.
Leadoff batter Kaycie Groom, always a threat to steal, sees action in center field and has one of the best on-base percentages on the team, said the coach. LeBlanc’s daughter Mallory plays third base while Kristina Rossignoll is the shortstop and Mikayla Iannalfo is at second base.
“We have a very strong infield,” said LeBlanc, who has been coaching with Tom Rossignoll for the past seven years, starting in the slow pitch league where many of the girls still play. “Kristina Rossignoll had the game-winning hit against Woburn and also had an RBI double.”
Janine Goggin starts in center while Kirsten Buckley and Alycia Gillen handle left field. Elizabeth Curcio and Molly Staunton are the right fielders. All of them cover a lot of ground and get to most fly balls.
“Our outfielders all have good gloves and are able to make the big catches. The talent is so equal that I alternate starts for my left and right fielders,” said LeBlanc.
“It’s a good mix. All the girls are contributing every game either in the field or at the plate.”