ASHBURNHAM — Anyone watching the Orange Little League All-Stars take pre-game batting practice had to be in awe as shot after shot jumped off their bats. But Pepperell pitcher Cam Gouldrup used a well-placed, riding fastball to diffuse the Orange offense by not allowing them to make contact as Pepperell rolled to an 8-1 win.
Gouldrup was immense as Pepperell prevailed in the winner’s bracket match-up, to join Leominster American as the lone unbeatens left in the tournament. The hard throwing righthander allowed just two hits in a route-going effort, just sneaking under the pitch count limit with 86 pitches. But the story of the game was his 16 strikeouts, that made for an easy day for the Pepperell defense and a long day for the Orange hitters.
As they have done throughout the tournament, Pepperell batted first and made it pay off in a big way with a six-run explosion. Mike Chase and Josh Mihill set the table by leading off the game with singles. Gouldrup reached on a fielder’s choice with Mihill being forced at second base. Chase hustled in to score the game’s first run on a passed ball. Joshua Cushion was inserted as a pinch-runner for Gouldrup and raced to third on Brandon Cole’s double. Chris Canning ripped a two-run double into the left field corner to make it 3-0. Joe Dolciotto then plugged the right center field gap with a triple to make it 4-0. Before the inning was over, Dolciotto scored on a wild pitch, and Jamie Breen, who had walked, came around to score on an error, putting Pepperell in control with a 6-0 lead.
Gouldrup came out firing bullets, retiring the side in order on three strikeouts.
Pepperell loaded the bases with one out against Orange starting pitcher Trevor Borey in the second inning when Gouldrup walked, Cole singles and Chris Canning was hit by a pitch, bringing Ryan Tripp on in relief for Orange. He did a good job of putting out the fire by getting a strikeout and flyout to escape unscathed.
Tripp led off the bottom of the inning with a mammoth blast deep into the trees over the center field fence to get Orange on the board, but Gouldrup maintained his poise and regrouped and struck out the next seven hitters he faced.
Pepperell frittered away scoring chances in both the third and fourth innings, stranding runners at second and third in both frames to give them seven left on base over a three-inning span.
Orange mounted their first threat of the game in the bottom of the fourth when Joe Whitman walked and Borey was hit by a pitch, but Gouldrup got an inning-ending strikeout.
Both teams were scoreless in the fifth inning, before Pepperell finally got a clutch hit to extend the lead in the top of the sixth. WIth one out, Chris Canning singled and Cushion walked. After a strikeout and a wild pitch that advanced the runners to second and third, Nick Chapas lined a single to left to plate both runners and make it 8-1.
Orange refused to go quietly and tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the inning, but a solid Pepperell defensive play kept them off the board. With one out, Matt Richard walked. Whitman lined a single to center that rolled to the fence. Pepperell center fielder Kyle McDermott picked up the ball near the fence and fired a strong throw to third, which third baseman Breen scooped out of the dirt and applied the tag on a sliding Richard for the second out. Fittingly, Gouldrup struck out the next hitter to end it, and send Pepperell into a matchup with Leominster American on Wednesday.
Chris Canning (two runs scored, two RBI) and Cole (run scored) each paced Pepperell with a single and double while Chase did a superb job from his leadoff slot in the order by reaching base in all four plate appearances with two singles, a walk, an error and a run scored.