When a team outscores its opponents by an incredible 103-19 runs over eight games, it's a good bet that club is going to finish first.
That's just what happened at the Cal Ripken Nationals at Myrtle Beach when the Legends AAU baseball team won the championship at the U14 level for the second straight year.
The local team with a new facility in Middleton was best in the field of 20 teams from across the country.
"I don't know if its scoring over 100 runs or letting up fewer than 20 in eight games that impresses me more," said coach Mike Costantino, who grew up in Salem and later played at Endicott College. He now runs the Legends programs along with his brother, Dave.
"I knew this was going to be special when we scored 16 runs in the first inning of our first game. I've never been part of something like that before."
That first game turned into a 28-1 rout over Tri-Valley Phantoms of Ohio. The Legends then blanked the Long Island Falcons, 14-0. The locals scored 14 runs again in the next game against York Spartans of Pennsylvania (14-3 win), and exploded for 15 more while allowing only four to beat the Eagles of Atlanta. In that contest against the Eagles, Beverly's Alex Toomey pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts.
In the fifth and final game of pool play, Legends defeated Tidewater Tornadoes from Florida, 16-4, to earn the top seed in the single elimination playoffs.
Their bats continued to be red hot in a 19-2 win over Baltimore Chop behind hurler Mike Driscoll of North Reading, who is an incoming sophomore at St. John's Prep. He pitched five strong innings with eight strikeouts and only allowed one run.
The closest game of the entire tournament for Legends came in the semifinal round against Detroit Metro Stars. Legends won, 3-1, behind the solid pitching of Trevor Massey, who saw some action with the Swampscott Big Blue varsity as a freshman last spring. He allowed only one run over seven innings and struck out six.
"(Detroit Metro) were the best team in the tournament, but Massey outdueled their big, strong left-hander," said Costantino. "We found a way to get out of some huge jams and were able to hang onto the lead."
In the championship game, Legends downed the Norsemen of Minnesota, 8-4. The Norsemen took an early 1-0 lead, but Legends answered with four in the bottom of the second inning. The Minnesota team threatened with two runs in the fourth, only to see Costantino's boys strike for two in the fourth and add a pair in both the fifth and sixth to take the title.
The coach said the MVP for Legends was Massey, who was an unbelievable 20-for-23 (.870 average) at the plate with three doubles, three triples, 10 RBI and five stolen bases.
"In my 15 years of coaching experience, that was the most unreal hitting display I've ever seen," said Costantino.
"We had several other fine performances during the tournament, too. Jordan Pallazola (from Gloucester and going to St. John's Prep) was 11-for-20 with three doubles, a triple, and a grand slam that measured about 410 feet. He drove in 12 runs and had eight homers for us this season. He's a big-time athlete who can hit the ball a long way and is an unbelievable catcher."
Driscoll was 11-for-22 at the plate and 2-0 on the mound, while Toomey picked up a win and made a spectacular catch in the Detroit game to save three runs. Dylan Dodge of Danvers, who will be a freshman at Bishop Fenwick, and Peabody High's Rob Crovo each collected seven hits.
Will Twiss of Middleton, who will begin his freshman year at St. John's Prep next month, was 1-0 on the mound with a victory over Long Island and did a superb job at second base. Another Prep player, Devin Hemeon of Rockport, and Ryan Boucher of North Reading also contributed to the championship.
Legend finished the season with an incredible 53-12 record.
"It's a lot of fun playing the best teams from all over the country," said Twiss, who has been in the Legends program for three years. "Everybody hit well and got on base. Massey is a really good player, and Pallazola stopped so many passed balls. Without him we might not have won it all.
"Detroit was by far our toughest game, and we faced a really good pitcher who threw around 80 (mph). They were just as talented as our team, and we were lucky to beat them and get to the championship game."