Wednesday, June 25, 2014
SOUTHAMPTON — With an enthusiastic bench and consistent hitting, Easthampton took down Southampton 13-3 in four innings on Tuesday in a Little League District 2 Tournament matchup at Conant Park.
Nick Lloyd and Nick Jolicoeur led the Easthampton 9/10-year old team with two hits apiece, while Mike Mason and Jolicoeur each scored three runs in the win. Ryan O’Leary, Matt Damon, and Gabe Johnson also recorded hits for Easthampton.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids,” Easthampton coach Dan Perrault said. “They’ve put in a ton of work over the last week, and we’ve practiced every day that we didn’t have a game, working around regular season playoffs.”
Jolicoeur started for Easthampton, allowing one earned run over 31/3 innings, striking out five.
Nicholas Quenneville, Austin Bush and Gary Helman each recorded hits for Southampton in the loss. Quenneville drove in two runs from the leadoff spot, while Helman also drove in a run.
“It comes right down to fundamentals,” Southampton coach Scott Cebula said. “We didn’t do that so well today. Our throws were off the mark, and when they were on the mark, we weren’t catching it, so we could’ve got some putouts that we didn’t get because of some breakdown of fundamentals.”
Easthampton walked seven times and used a number of Southampton wild pitches and passed balls to take extra bases on Tuesday.
“What we practiced was running, taking advantage of walks, stealing, and how to defend that,” Perrault said. “You can see the kids really jelling and understanding the game of baseball a little bit more, so I’m super proud of them.”
Both teams are made up of all-stars from the regular seasons of their respective town-based leagues. While the regular season started for both towns in early May, neither all-star team was finalized before June 15th, the first day for official district tournament team practices.
“They’ve been doing great (at coming together),” Cebula said. “They’ve been working well together, but this is their first look at a solid team who’s going to run on them. There are some different rules in the all-star season than in the regular season, so when you’re in the tournament, it’s a wake-up call for some of these kids.”
Perrault said that, although the Easthampton team didn’t have an official meet-and-greet until June 15th, his team first started to form this past winter.
“This was a team that, over the winter, we started doing batting cage work with the kids,” Perrault said. “It started as a group of friends, and then as this team came together, they just jelled beautifully. We have one or two kids from every team in our town, so it’s not like we’re loaded from one team. I think a lot of them go to school together too, and they just jelled great. This is such a fun team to coach, they really are excited and they love to be here, so it’s exciting to watch.”
Cebula noted that many of the kids on these all-star teams are accustomed to playing more central positions, such as pitcher or shortstop, for their regular season teams.
“You’ve got to check your egos at the door, which is tough for some kids,” Cebula said. “You could’ve been the star on your team, and then when you come in and you’re playing with all the best kids in your league, sometimes you need to play a different position, and some kids aren’t used to that. Hopefully over the course of four games, we’ll start to get used to it.”
Pitchers in the district tournaments are limited to a maximum of 75 pitches in one outing. If a pitcher throws 65 or more pitches in a game, they are required to take four days of rest before taking the mound again.
“In a tournament like this where you’re playing every couple of days, you have to be really smart about how you rest your kids,” Perrault said. “That’s why, with our pitcher today, Nick Jolicoeur, we knew he was at 62 pitches and getting close to that threshold of more than three days rest. We play Saturday, so (taking him out at that point) allows him to be eligible if we need him. As a coach, you’re thinking when our next game is, when I’m going to sub them, so that was a constant thought we had with Nick today.”
Perrault and Cebula both mentioned that pitching is affected significantly by the stronger hitting lineups in tournament play.
“Pitchingwise, as far as all-star caliber pitchers go, we’re gonna find out (how many we have),” Cebula said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who pitched during the regular season, and you never know whether some off-speed stuff can really mess with a team that’s used to hitting faster pitching.”
Other tournament teams from Hampshire County include Amherst, Belchertown, Gateway and Northampton. Amherst and Belchertown both played on Tuesday, while Northampton will play its first game Wednesday, with Gateway opening on Thursday.
Each team in District 2 will play four games in pool play before the teams with the top records advance.
“We’re pretty lucky in Easthampton,” Perrault said. “We have tremendous support with the sides lined up with parents and friends, and we have a Facebook page for our team.”
Even if teams do not advance in the district tournament, there are several other little league tournaments this summer in Easthampton, Belchertown and Turners Falls.
“We’re looking forward to playing three more teams, and if nothing else, we’ll get some better experience,” Cebula said. “There are a lot of tournaments this summer, so we’d like to keep this group together.”
The District 2 Tournaments for 11/12 year olds, Juniors and Seniors also start this week.
In the 11/12 division, Gateway, Northampton 1 and Northampton 2 will play in Pool A, while Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton and Southampton will play in Pool B.
In the Junior division, Northampton and Southampton are two of four teams.
In the Senior division, Gateway is one of three teams.