PEPPERELL — Pepperell came into Tuesday’s Major-60 11U Western Mass. state championship game with Marlboro touting a 5-0 record in pool play.
Pepperell, which was the home team, entered the sixth inning with a 6-1 lead.
Marlboro put a scare into the hosts with a three-run sixth, but pitching staff ace Colby Gouldrup slammed the door shut to lift Pepperell to a 6-4 championship victory over Marlboro at Bartelson Field.
“I knew Marlboro was going to be tough,” said Pepperell manager Scott Littlefield. “We had their bottom of the order up to their top due up in the sixth. We had our big guy (Gouldrup) out there on the hill. He’s our ace. We knew that if we were going to live and die — we were going to do it with his arm.”
Pepperell and Marlboro both advance to next weekend’s New England Regional Tournament in Skowhegan, Maine.
Tuesday’s win marks the first state championship in any division of Pepperell Youth Baseball.
“We will get a little bit more rest before regionals,” said Littlefield. “We are really excited to be able to go up to regionals. This is a very special group that is going to go up there and represent Western Mass very well. These kids have played together since they were six-and-seven years old. The progress that they’ve made and the effort that they bring day in and day out has just been incredible. As a coach, you can’t ask for anything more from your team.”
Michael Archambault led the way for Pepperell offensively, as he went 3 for 3 with two doubles and 3 RBI.
Pepperell struck first in the second inning on a two-out RBI single by Mason Livezey that scooted through the right side of the infield to score Archambault (single) from second.
That is the only run Marlboro starter Adam Cronin would allow in the inning, as he induced a pop-out to retire the side.
The Marlboro offense found its spark in the third on a sacrifice-fly to deep center field by Cam Ginnetti, which brought across Ryan Taylor, who singled to leadoff the inning to tie the game at 1-1.
The Pepperell offense tacked on three runs on two hits and an error in the third. Nine-hole hitter Andrew Peterson led off the inning with a line drive to left field and later scored alongside Dylan Littlefield (walk) on a two-run double by Archambault that tucked just inside the line to put the Patriots out in front 3-1. Gouldrup reached on an error and later scampered home on a sacrifice-fly to right field by Max Riordan (1 for 2, 3 RBI) to give Pepperell a 4-1 lead after three.
That is where the score would stand until the bottom of the fifth inning. Pepperell padded its advantage on a two-run single to left by Riordan. Riordan single scored Archambault and Gouldrup to make it 6-1.
Gouldrup, despite surrendering three runs in the sixth, never wavered. The hard-throwing right-hander recovered nicely after allowing a two-run double by Braden Deckers.
Those two insurance runs in the fifth proved to be the difference.
“We had some very timely hitting today,” said Littlefield. ‘Our top of the order guys: Dylan Littlefield, Brian Morse both did their job and got on base. Our three through five hitters really knocked home some crucial runs when we needed it. Marlboro was really loud and into the game over there, but we quieted them down quickly with a lot of swings of the bat.”
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