WESTFIELD – Westfield American Little League has enjoyed a memorable summer in 2015, making the District Two championship at all four levels, winning three finals and advancing to the sectionals at both the 10-year-old and 12-year-old levels.
In the first year having a district final, the 7- to 9-year-old All-Stars from Westfield American sealed the city third’s championship, scoring six runs in the first inning and withholding a late rally to defeat Agawam, 8-5, at Ralph E. Sanville Memorial Field at Cross Street Tuesday evening.
“It’s an honor,” said Head Coach Mike Dunn, a native of Tolland. “With last year being the first year Westfield Little League opened the league for kids from Granville, Tolland and Southwick and this year being the first year that Little League opened a tournament like this, the timing couldn’t be better for my son and his friends.
Westfield’s got such a good tradition of baseball (and) I’m just happy to be part of and put another notch on Westfield’s (belt). They’ve done a lot of firsts and multiples, so that’s something to be really proud of.”
Playing without their cleanup batter and starting shortstop, the second-seeded Westfield offense struck first, piling on six runs in their first at-bats to take a big lead early. Five different batters recorded a RBI in an inning that saw Westfield send 10 batters to the plate.
Eli Perez and Ryan Garvey both walked to start the game and advanced on multiple wild pitches by Agawam starting pitcher Mike Plakias. Ted Dunn and Frank Maffia drove in Perez and Garvey on infield singles to either side of second base to give Westfield their first runs. Nate Pudlo ripped a double down the third base line, scoring Dunn and a throwing error brought in Maffia. With one out, Nick Gauger flared a bloop single over the head of the second baseman to score Pudlo and Gauger would score one batter later on a line drive down the first base line by Lenox Green.
“I thought of crunching my lineup down and I saw that Frank Maffia was one of the guys with the highest on-base percentages,” said Dunn. “He’s also my best bunter and a great base stealer. I put him as the cleanup hitter with the thought process of getting as many batters on base that I could for Nate (Pudlo).
That was what I hoped to do in the first inning and (Pudlo) came through. That first inning was a big spark plug, but I was hoping Frank would get on and score enough runs to squeak one by Agawam.”
Agawam rallied in their final inning by plating five runs, but the Westfield pitching and defense proved to be a major bright spot, led by the starting pitching of Ted Dunn for the second straight game. After pitching just over three innings in Westfield’s semifinal victory over Easthampton Saturday, Dunn threw another quality outing, pitching five complete innings and striking out seven batters for the second straight game.
Agawam scratched out two hits during the five innings and a 1-2-3 inning helped Dunn finish his final inning within the designated pitch count.
“In this league, eight runs in pretty average,” said Dunn. “I think where we excelled was the pitching and the defense. That’s more of the key, not so much the offense. Ted was able to pitch five full innings on his 75 pitches and he only had 11 pitches to get through that fifth inning. You get that first strike and then (you) get them to start swinging.”
The summer season will end at Cross Street for Westfield American, as there is currently no tournament beyond the District Two championship, but the Westfield American squad will remain as the first district champions in the age level’s history.