ATHOL — For the second straight game in this Massachusetts District 3 Little League All-Star Tournament, the Leominster boys let their bats do the talking.
Boosted by an 11-run second inning, Leominster again racked up double-digit hits as they beat host Orange/Chuck Stone Athol Little League 17-1 in a shortened four-inning affair at James H. Salevan Field.
With the win, Leominster wraps up pool play 2-0 and advances to a two-of-three championship round against Lunenburg (1-1). That series kicks off Tuesday night at Ronnie Bachand Memorial Field in Leominster. Game 2 is Thursday at Powell Field at Marshall Park in Lunenburg. If a third game is needed, it will be played on Saturday at a location to be determined by a draw on Thursday evening.
Chuck Stone finishes 0-2 and is eliminated from the championship with the defeat.
“Our sticks were exceptional today, but what impressed me the most was how much respect these kids have for the game and the way they behave on and off the pitch,” said coach- Leominster leader Rob Lora, whose team recorded 16 hits on Saturday. “Our hits and throws were great, but the respect aspect is what I was most proud of from these kids.”
In two games, Leominster had 35 runs on 29 hits after beating Lunenburg 18-4 Thursday at Desantis Field in North Leominster.
Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Thursday at Salevan Field with the “if necessary” contest scheduled for July 16 at Leominster.
On Saturday, Leominster’s attack picked up where it left off on Thursday. Leominster slugger Ricco Lora wasted no time putting the guests on the board at the top of the first. Lora (4 for 4), who hit for the cycle on Saturday and had seven RBIs, dropped a 1-0 fastball over the fence to left center field for a two-run homer to give Leominster a lead quick 2-0. Lora’s outburst put Leominster starting pitcher Will Connors in front of him after Connors opened the game with a hit to right field.
Jonah Babcock followed up Lora’s bombshell with a brace down the right field line. Babcock scored on a shortstop error to make it 3-0.
In the home half of the opener, Chuck Stone’s Luke Connors threw the frame on a high note for the hosts as he showed he was capable of swinging for the fences when he fired a ball at the outfield wall for a solo home run to cut. Leominster lead 3-1.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game against a really good Leominster team, their lineup, one to nine, hits the ball and is really talented,” Chuck Stone head coach Steve Ringer said. “I think our children have done a good job. There was a lot to do. Leominster was hitting the ball hard and finding gaps. I’m proud of our kids and the effort they put in not just today, but all season.
After giving up the long ball to the first batter, Will Connors settled in, striking out six of the next seven batters he faced in the two innings he worked on the bump. Connors finished with four strikeouts and a walk in his two innings on the mound.
Leominster opened things up wide in the top of the second when he sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 11 times on nine hits to take a 14-1 advantage after an inning and a half. The highlight of the 11-run stanza for Leominster was Babcock’s two-run homer to right-center field. Mason Laundry, Davin Hjelm, Jackson Mazzaferro and Ricco Lora also delivered RBI hits in the sleeve for Plastics City tourists.
Ricco Lora came in at the top of the third inning to pick up Connors on the mound and threw the final two frames for Leominster. Lora allowed only one base runner in his two innings when he walked Luke Connors to open the third inning. Lora struck out four batters on her outing.
Leominster added three more runs in the fourth on an RBI single from Mazzaferro and a two-run RBI triple from Lora.
Chuck Stone’s Owen Baril got the start on the mound for the hosts, going two innings before Freeland Ringer ended the game on the hump, pitching the final two innings.