ANDOVER — The Woburn 12-year-old Little League All-Stars did it, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to defeat North Andover, 3-2, to capture the Section 4 title, last night at Deyermond Field.
As a result, Woburn will head to the state tournament against the other three sectional winners who are Walpole, Holden and Braintree American.
Woburn will begin round-robin play against Walpole on Thursday at Field of Dreams Complex, Middleboro. The winner of the states advances to the New England Regional.
Luke Yorba pitched five innings to earn the victory on the mound. Yorba reached his pitch limit at the end of the fifth, and Brady MacCutcheon came on to pitch the sixth inning and earn the save.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Woburn coach Mike MacCutcheon, on heading to the states. “Everyone sets out goals and we keep our goals super small, right in front of us.”
Reaching the state final is nothing new to this particular group of Woburn Little Leaguers. This group of players made it to the state finals as 10-year-olds and were Section 4 finalists last year before losing to Peabody in the final. So this is merely the next step for this talented and team-oriented group.
Both Woburn and North Andover came into the final with 2-0 records. They did not play in the round robin portion of the schedule on Saturday because of the fact they had already clinched a spot in last night’s final, and because of the sweltering heat conditions on Saturday.
It was similarly hot, last night, but the players soldiered on and it was a highly-competitive final.
“The key to today’s win was resiliency,” said MacCutcheon. “We had a tough inning and we were down 2-0, and Luke Yorba came back and pitched with everything he had. Luke kept battling and battling and kept us in the game.”
The Scarlet Knights took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Jake Jackson leading off reached on an infield single, Josean Rios singled with one out, and Robert Brown, North Andover’s starting pitcher, hit into a force at second base for the second out. An error on the play allowed Jackson to score and Brown to take second base.
Cole Mullen hit a double to the fence in center but somehow Mullen only made it to third base, perhaps thinking there was only one out on the fly ball double. Brown scored anyway, soon after, on a wild pitch.
The Tanners left runners in scoring position in the first two innings, and finally broke through with two runs in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2.
With one out, Brown walked Yorba and then surrendered a double to Jack Lee to put runners on second and third. Brady MacCutcheon followed with a line drive to the fence in center that scored both runners while he stayed at first base for a two-run single.
Brown recovered in time to get the next two batters to get out of any further trouble, but not before his pitch count got up into the 70s.
Brown pitched a tidy fifth, getting Woburn in order, but he reached his pitch limit and was done on the mound for the rest of the day.
Mullen came on to relief to start the fourth. Devin Farren reached on an error, and went to second on a one-out single by Lee (2-for-3). MacCutcheon worked Mullen for a 3-0 count before Mullen suffered an arm/shoulder injury and had to leave the game.
Gabe Polonsky came on and finished the walk to MacCutcheon to load the bases with one out. Matthew Toland then hit a fly ball to left, and Farren was able to score from third on a sacrifice fly to give the Tanners a 3-2 lead.
Polonsky got the next batter to get out of further trouble and also kept Woburn from building on its lead in the top of the sixth.
Despite not having any 1-2-3 innings, Yorba was outstanding over the next four innings after allowing the two runs in the first. He allowed one baserunner in each inning, but none of the runners was able to score.
The closest call came in the bottom of the fourth after Nick Ottoviani and Polonsky drew back-to-back, one-out walks. Yorba got the second out before Jackson singled to center with two outs. Toland came up with the ball cleanly and hit Yorba with the cutoff throw. Yorba threw to catcher Thomas Doherty, who tagged out Dylan Lawrence, who ran for Ottoviani, for the third out.
MacCutcheon came on to pitch the sixth and he struck out the first batter before Lawrence reached on an infield single. The game ended on a 6-4-3 double play, the out at first coming because the runner dove into the bag headfirst, against the rules at the major little league level.
“What’s been the story for us has been our pitching and defense,” said MacCutcheon, who singled out Doherty for his work as catcher in every inning of every game thus far. “Brady came in and the fielders made the plays behind him. It was fitting that the game would end on a double play, because our defense battles and battles.”
Woburn 9, Peabody 4 — The weekend began with North Andover having won the first game of Friday night’s doubleheader, thus a Tanner victory would mean the two teams had clinched a spot in the finals and the teams might be able to skip Saturday’s round robin game.
Things did not start out well for Woburn. Peabody pitcher Noah Crocker held the Tanners to one hit over the first three innings while the other Tanners built up a 4-0 lead against Woburn pitcher Matthew Toland.
Jayce Jeanpierre hit a long home run to left to start the second inning, and when Peabody scored three more times in the third inning to take that 4-0 lead, it seemed now there was a chance the local Tanners might be gone Saturday evening.
Then came the crazy top of the fourth, where Woburn flipped the game over, scoring seven times on just one hit, albeit a major one.
With one out, Jared Simpson was hit by a pitch before Crocker walked Thomas Doherty and Finn Murphy to load the bases. Anthony Ciasullo hit a ground ball to second. The infielder threw to second for the force but the shortstop dropped the throw. Simpson was going to score anyway, but now Doherty scored on the ensuing chaos and the other runners moved up to second and third.
Devin Farren then hit a ground ball to first. The first baseman bobbled it just enough to let Farren beat him to the bag as another run scored to make it 4-3. Ciasullo scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 4-4.
Luke Yorba walked and there were runners on second and third with still only one out when Jack Lee hit a high fly ball to center field. The outfielder went back as if he had the ball in his sights, but it kept carrying up and over the fence for a three-run home run as the Woburn players and fans went wild.
That spelled the end for Crocker and James Smith entered the game with his team trailing 7-4. Smith got out of the fourth and held Woburn scoreless in the fifth, but Lee struck again in the top of the sixth.
Yorba led off with a single and Lee followed with a two-run opposite field home run over the fence in right to increase the lead to 9-4.
Toland set down the Peabody Tanners in order in the fourth before Lee came on in relief to start the fifth. Lee allowed one hit in the fifth and one in the sixth but had no trouble getting through either inning to collect the save.