Amherst Little League blanks Longmeadow for 12U District 2 championship

  • The Amherst 12U baseball team captured the Little League District 2 title on Wednesday night with an 11-0 win over Belchertown at Mill River Recreation Area in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/HANNAH BEVIS

Staff writer 
Published: 7/13/2022 9:19:34 PM
Modified: 7/13/2022 9:19:20 PM

AMHERST – When Brady Klaes stepped to the plate on Wednesday night, he was focused on one thing and one thing only – smashing the next pitch he saw as hard as he could. 

In his first at-bat, Klaes demolished the ball and sent it to the corner of left field, picking up an inside-the-park home run. Not content, in his second trip to the plate he one-upped himself, crushing the ball over the fence and bringing his teammates to their feet as they rushed to congratulate him at home plate.

“Everybody went crazy – it was just the cherry on top of the game,” Amherst’s Kodey Camp said on Klaes’ homer. 

Amherst cruised to an 11-0 victory at Mill River Recreation Area, completing a perfect season en route to the Little League 12U District 2 championship. Klaes also struck out six and allowed just one hit on the mound in the shutout win. The title will send Amherst to the double-elimination sectional tournament, which will begin on July 19.

“We had a lot of confidence, but Longmeadow’s got a great team and a lot of tradition. So you have to come to play to beat them,” Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki said. “They've got a tremendous program and we did what we needed to do.”

The top-seeded home team continued doing what they’ve been doing all season – Amherst went into Wednesday’s game undefeated, which gave them a confidence boost.

Longmeadow gave them a scare early, though. 

In the first inning, Amherst looked like it had things under control; Klaes recorded a strikeout and stuck his glove out to snag a line drive drilled right at him for out No. 2. But an error and a single put two runners on, giving the visitors an opportunity to get on the board first. Nobody panicked, and Klaes was able to snag another strikeout to get his team safely out of the inning. 

“He's just been tremendous,” Gromacki said of Klaes. “He’s a great athletes. So we were counting on him today and he came through, so we’re really excited for him.”

The home team shined brightest at the plate on Wednesday. Amherst collected 15 hits in three innings, notching four runs in the first inning and three in the second before tacking on four more in its final at-bat.

The top of the lineup was lights out for Amherst to start; Henry Drinker smacked a ground-rule double, Camp walked and Derek Gromacki drilled a single that plated Drinker before Klaes stepped up and unloaded his first home run.

It wasn’t just the top of the order that came through with a strong performance – eight different batters had at least one hit for the home team, including three late substitute players: Cyrus Arwade, Jack Cisz, and Gus Garrett-Pelitier. 

“It puts pressure on the other team,” Gromacki said on his team’s depth. “And so it's a joy to coach when you have a lot of options.”

After it hit the 10-run threshold in the third inning, all Amherst needed to do to advance was get three more outs in the top of the fourth to capture a run-ruled victory. It took just three batters for the home team to get the ‘W’ – Klaes made a throw to first and struck out a batter before first baseman Camp made the final play, fielding a grounder and stepping on the bag to secure the victory. 

Now the team will turn its sights to the sectional tournament, where they’ll face tougher competition than they have all season. It will be a difficult test for the undefeated squad, but they are more than up to the task. 

“Our goal was to win the district, and now our goal is to win the sectional,” Gromacki said. “So we're taking (it) one step at a time.”


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