Mele's Mashes Lift Pittsfield Americans to District Title
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Home Run Derby usually is reserved for those other All-Stars, the ones who get paid.
But Simon Mele turned Friday’s final of the Donald Gleason District 1 10- to 12-year-old Little League Tournament into his own personal derby, launching three round-trippers to left and lifting the Pittsfield Americans to a 15-1 win over Great Barrington in four innings.
Mele hit a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw in the top of the first. He finished the game 4-for-4 with seven RBIs. And he scored a run in each inning for Pittsfield AL, which moves on to the sectional tournament next week.
“I haven’t seen three home runs in a game, but believe me, I’ve seen him hit like that where he gets in his little groove,” Pittsfield AL manager Matt Stracuzzi said. “Man, I thought he missed the last one, but he didn’t miss it.
“You could see that he was picking the ball up really well, and he was finishing his swings. We preach: Have good at-bats, have good at-bats, have good at-bats. Don’t cheat yourself.”
And Mele was hardly the only one following that advice.
Jason Codey, Jack Reed and Cam Harrington each doubled in a 21-hit Pittsfield American attack.
Stracuzzi’s squad had eight hits and scored seven times batting around before Great Barrington took its first swing.
“We haven’t been home,” Stracuzzi said. “I think we’ve been home once in this tournament. So I told the kids, ‘Listen, just jump on them. Let’s get a couple of runs.’ And again, not only the top of our order, but the bottom, too, they hit the ball.
“We’ve been working hard, though. … We do cage work, and we do live hitting, which we did for the past three weeks, and yesterday was part of that.”
Jack Abel led off the game with a single up the middle, the first of six straight hits before the Americans made their first out. That stretch included Mele’s three-run homer and doubles by Reed and Harrington, who made it 5-0.
He came home on a single by Connor Devine, who moved up on an infield single by Dave Wildgoose, who got to second on an error. Abel’s sac fly to center scored Devine to make it 7-0.
Pittsfield tacked on three runs in the second, when Devine’s two-run single did most the damage.
Mele added two-run homers in the third and fourth to help stretch the lead.
Great Barrington got its run in the bottom of the second.
Chris Paul led off with an infield single and came all the way around on a two-out hit to right from Dominic Calalutti.
Other than that, Pittsfield starting pitcher Codey did a good job of limiting the damage done by Great Barrington’s five hits. He stranded four runners and held the South County squad to one run despite not getting a clean inning into the bottom of the fourth, which included one of Codey’s two strikeouts.
“Compared to his first game, he didn’t have his good stuff tonight,” Stracuzzi said of Codey. “But he was good enough because he was just around the plate. He threw strikes. And we made plays behind him for the most part.”
Wildgoose made a big play on a line drive at second base to end the first inning, which also saw Harrington come in to spear a line drive.
Stracuzzi figured he would need an all-around effort from his club to get past Great Barrington.
“The first game we played against [Great Barrington], I know they didn’t throw all their best pitchers and went 20 pitches apiece,” Stracuzzi said. “But they showed a lot that game, which made us work even harder because we knew that we’d be facing a really good team.
“Because of the team that they have and well they’re coached, they pushed us, and we worked even twice as hard.”
And although this year’s Pittsfield Americans are not getting ahead of themselves quite yet, Stracuzzi said that his squad did draw some inspiration from last year’s squad, which won a state championship and came within a game of going to Williamsport.
“I think them watching those players last year -- who they played with -- I think [they learned] that with hard work, anything is possible,” he said. “And I’m not saying that we’ll ever get there, but like I told these guys, we can’t get to the next round unless we take care of business today.
“Our goal is to get back to the states, where we were last year [as 11-year-olds] and to go further than what we did last year. The hard work that they’re putting in, as long as we keep doing what we’re doing, it pays off.”