By John Mitchell
“She may be small, but she can hit the ball!” was the cheer of the day, as Bedford’s U12 team proved fierce competitors in Babe Ruth Softball’s Eastern Massachusetts State Championship, held in Lawrence this weekend. The team, posting the youngest average age in the competition with no players older than eleven, notched a 2-1 record in pool play to advance to the championship round, before losing a tight semifinal to Raynham, 10-5, under the lights on Saturday night.
Click each image to see larger photo
In the semifinal, Bedford struck first, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a 1-out double by Gianna Mici, which scored Cassidy Schuman from first. Raynham quickly answered with two runs in each of the following three innings, to take a 6-1 lead. Unwilling to rest, the Bucs roared back in the top of the fourth, plating five runs on a series of walks to close within one. Both teams were held scoreless in the fourth until Raynham broke it open in the bottom of the fifth, tacking on four more runs and securing a spot in Sunday’s final vs. Plymouth.
Bedford was helped by strong pitching throughout the tournament from Mici (13 strikeouts), Schuman (12 strikeouts), and Kaylee Grace (1 strikeout), over 21 total innings. The team enjoyed offense up and down the batting order, led by Mici (.625 tournament batting average), Laney Mead (.429), and Ellie Mitchell (.400).
Manager Paul Schuman was proud of the girls’ performance. “We were known as the team with no 12 year olds and a bunch of 9, 10 and 11 year olds,” he said after the semifinal, “but we left the tournament known as a good softball team!” He also pointed out that this is the first year in recent memory that Bedford Softball has even sent a team to the Babe Ruth tournament, and he is encouraged by his team’s prospects for 2016. Every player on the team will remain age-eligible for U12 in 2016, and Schuman expects Bedford to be even more competitive. “The head of Massachusetts Babe Ruth Softball said that we were the talk of the tournament, and asked me to make sure we enter again next year,” he said.
This year’s team included Maggie Carluccio, Kaylee Grace, Lily Hill, Monique Lyons, Laney Mead, Gianna Mici, Gianna Missiti, Ellie Mitchell, Sydney Poor, Cassidy Schuman, and Nicole Steele. Roster members Jillian Mici and Lindsey Steele were unable to play due to illness. Manager Paul Schuman’s coaching staff included Chris Grace and John Mici.
Along the way to the semifinal were matchups with Westford (W, 19-2), Winchester (L, 19-7), and Lawrence (W, 10-5), who hosted the championship. The team played Friday night and all day Saturday, beginning at 9am and ending just after 8pm, and enjoyed lunch on the lawn as League President Steve Mead worked the grill. Team parents looked forward to a good night’s sleep and a restful Sunday for their daughters and themselves, before getting back to summer softball on Monday evening.