The Westwood 11A summer baseball team secured the championship title at the 2023 annual Summer Blast tournament held in Sandwich, MA from July 20th through July 23rd, surpassing a field of 14 teams from Massachusetts and Connecticut. This victory marks the first time a Westwood team has won the tournament at any age level since 2012. The team's remarkable performance included winning 6 out of 7 games played over 3 days, with an impressive streak of 6 consecutive wins.
The tournament commenced on Friday, July 21st, with a narrow 7-5 loss against rival team Milton National. Despite a stellar complete game pitching performance by Kenji French, the Westwood boys fell just short, starting the tournament with a 0-1 record. However, this would not be the last encounter between the two teams, and it turned out to be the only defeat for Westwood throughout the tournament.
Having rebounded from the initial setback with some team bonding in the hotel pool and a late-night game of manhunt, the boys returned to the field on Saturday. During pool play on July 22nd, Westwood secured two convincing wins. The team's pitchers, Danny Barkley and Trent Levesque, delivered strong performances, and the entire lineup demonstrated exceptional hitting abilities in a dominant 15-2 victory against Canton. The second game on Saturday resulted in a hard-fought win against a formidable Norwell team, with Tyler Phillips and James Pallotta leading the pitching effort to an 8-7 triumph, supported by crucial hits from Braden Briller and Jackson Kelleher.
With a 2-1 record in pool play, Westwood earned the 4th seed entering the single elimination stage on Sunday. In their first game, they faced Norwell once again, and the match remained tense until the final inning. Danny Barkley displayed brilliance with a complete game, allowing only 2 hits while Tyler Phillips delivered a clutch base hit, driving in Braden Briller and James Pallotta to secure a hard-earned 3-2 victory.
Their first-round success advanced Westwood to a second-round encounter against Falmouth. Pitcher Trent Levesque battled a tough lineup and emerged victorious with a complete game performance. Down 4-2 in the final inning, Westwood rallied with 3 runs to secure a thrilling 5-4 walk-off win, thanks to the game-winning hit by Simon Reeves, propelling the team to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Westwood faced an undefeated Milton National team, and the boys once again demonstrated their determination. Starting with a 4-0 lead in the first inning, the team relied on stellar pitching from James Pallotta and remarkable defense from Jack Shevory in center field, showcasing his hustle and speed on the base paths. Despite Milton's strong comeback attempt, Westwood held on for a 7-6 triumph, clinching the lead with a crucial single up the middle by Dennis Ash.
The final showdown featured the last two standing teams, Westwood and Barnstable, in a 6 p.m. first pitch. With both teams fatigued from the intense competition, Westwood knew the importance of starting strong, and they did just that by scoring 4 runs in the first inning. They maintained their momentum and dominated Barnstable with a barrage of hits, including impressive multiple-hit games from Harrison Gibbons, Braden Briller, James Pallotta, and Danny Barkley, as well as a ground-rule double by Trent Levesque. With a commanding 12-2 lead, Tyler Phillips pitched 5 strong innings, effectively sealing the championship. Drew Appel took the mound for the 6th inning, securing the victory with a stellar performance.
Head coach Brendan Reeves, along with assistant coaches Brendan Levesque, Ryan Kelleher, and Noah French, expressed their immense pride in the boys' achievements. Coach Reeves emphasized the joy of coaching youth sports and witnessing players accomplish feats they didn't know they were capable of. On Sunday alone, standout performances were noted, such as Braden Briller catching 15 innings behind the plate in sweltering heat, James Pallotta catching 9 innings after his complete game pitching performance, Danny Barkley playing 3 games at shortstop and delivering impressive defensive plays, and Tyler Phillips pitching 5 strong innings following his previous 4-inning performance. The team's four consecutive one-run victories showcased their determination and resilience. Throughout the tournament, the boys exhibited aggressive batting and strong support for each other, culminating in a well-deserved championship win.