Mark Bettencourt might as well pitch a tent at Gonsalves Park in Woburn this weekend.
As the manager of both the Peabody Little League Juniors and Majors softball all-star teams, he's going to have at least four games there between Saturday and Sunday.
The Peabody Juniors, made up of 14 and 15-year-olds, defeated Wakefield in two straight games to earn a trip to the state championships, while the Peabody Majors won all three of their games in round robin competition with East Bridgewater and Woburn. For the 12-year-old Majors team, it's the opportunity to defend their state championship and return to Bristol, Conn. for the Eastern Regionals.
"I feel real good about both teams," said Bettencourt, who is assisted by Mike Alperen and Jeff Roach with the Juniors, while Shaun Coburn and Ryan Lomasney help coach the Majors. "Both teams have been working so hard and putting the time in during practices to get ready."
Peabody did not have a Juniors team last summer, but two years ago this core group was state runner-up to Jesse Burkett Little League of Worcester — the same opponent they'll face in a doubleheader this Saturday starting at 10 a.m. If the teams split the two games, they'll play a one game, winner-take-all finale on Sunday (time TBA).
The Majors will also have a doubleheader against Joe Scwartz of Worcester, the Section 1 champ. They'll play those two games on Sunday, with a potential one-game playoff set to take place on Monday (time TBA).
Heading into their respective state tournaments, both Peabody teams cruised through District 16 and Section 2 play unbeaten, with the closest game being the Juniors' 6-4 win over Wakefield to advance.
The starting battery for the older girls is pitcher Abigail Bettencourt and her sister Isabel behind the plate — two of the three Bettencourt sisters playing. Shortstop Emma Bloom and first baseman Gina Terrazzano both started for the Peabody High varsity squad this past season, while outfielder Paige Ritchie saw action with the Tanners.
Hailey Roach is the team's starting shortstop and Michaela Alperen is at third base. Outfielders Maisie Dunn (CF), Penelope Spack (LF) and Jaleila Aupont (RF) round out the starting lineup. Danielle Mulready, Payton Petrillo and Julia Fure also play in the outfield.
Aupont, who is one of two additions to the squad from Salem, is also a pitcher. Having two experienced girls in the circle will be huge for Peabody with the Saturday doubleheader because rules limit a pitcher to 12 innings a day; if one goes more than seven innings, she cannot play the following day.
Having two pitchers is huge," said Mark Bettencourt. "Unfortunately, we only have one on the Majors."
The Majors team for Peabody relies on hurler Avery Grieco, who didn't allow a single hit in her club's 10-0 victory over Woburn to clinch the sectional title. All season long, said her manager, Grieco has done an excellent job.
Kiely Doolin catches for the 12-year-olds, with Sophia Coburn at first base, Alanna Sweeney at second, Logan Lomasney patrolling shortstop and Lizzy Bettencourt at third. Jessica Steed anchors the outfield in center, with Adrianna Lassus in left and Irene Caron in right.
The team has great depth with Ava Divola, Christina Izaguirre, Mya Jagodynski and Jaelyn Emerson.
Lizzy Bettencourt powered the offense with three hits and three RBI in the last game, but the Tanners can hit up and down the lineup.
One thing is certain: both teams will be running and stealing bases whenever they can, since Bettencourt wants them to be aggressive on the basepaths.
"It's going to be tough with all the games — along with the 10-year-old baseball team I coach that's in the sectionals at the same time," said Bettencourt, who is also the head coach of the Peabody High football and baseball teams. "If I have to miss any games, my assistant coaches are ready to step in and do a good job. A lot of the girls on both teams have been to states before, so they know what to expect.
"We teach the girls to be aggressive and try to erase the force play, We'll focus on winning one game at a time."