DANVERS— Gloucester American's Williamsport Little League baseball team made sure it put Middleton into a deep enough hole that it could not dig itself out of in Saturday's knockout round matchup.
Gloucester American plated six runs in the first and opened up an 8-0 lead after two innings and held on for a 12-8 win at Brown Field in Danvers.
It turned out Gloucester needed all of the runs it scored in the first two innings as Middleton caught fire at the plate late in the game and made things interesting with eight runs in the final three innings.
Gloucester American's win Saturday ensures that a Cape Ann team will be playing for the District 15 title. In earlier action Saturday at Brown field Manchester Essex topped Beverly West 10-4 and will now meet Gloucester American Tuesday at Harry Ball Field in Beverly (7:30 p.m.). The winner gets a berth in the District 15 championship game on Friday.
Saturday's loss does not mark the end of the road for Middleton, who will play Amesbury on Monday at Harry Ball Field (5:30 p.m.) in a losers bracket showdown.
Gloucester American manager Chip Smith was quick to credit the play of his team as a whole, particularly starting pitcher Eric Chalmers, who allowed no hits through three innings and threw just 47 pitches in the process, meaning he will be available to pitch again on Tuesday.
"Eric shut them down early," Smith said. "He could have went the distance but we chose to save him. He shut them down in the early innings and it took a total team effort to close them out, they are a good team and they didn't go down quietly."
Middleton manager Mike Hurton credited the play of both teams and said the early deficit was just too steep.
"We got off to a tough start against a good hitting team," Hurton said. "(Gloucester American) played a phenomenal game and I liked the way we battled back. It's do or die for us now on Monday but we have a good team and we are going to give it all we got."
Sal Costanzo got the scoring started for Gloucester with a two RBI triple to right field. Matt Smith followed Costanzo with an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-0. Two batters later Will Moore delivered the big hit of the inning with a three run blast to left center field making it 6-0.
Gloucester was not done there as they plated two more runs in the second on a fielding error and a heads up play where pinch runner Ben Oliver got caught in a run down between first and second allowing Jake Horrigan to score from third base.
"Getting up early was key for us," Smith said. "And it turned out we needed most of those runs."
Gloucester American extended its lead to 12-2 in the fifth when Middleton made things interesting plating five runs in the fifth to cut the lead to 12-7.
Middleton took advantage of some wild Gloucester relief pitching drawing six walks over the final two inning of play. Andrew Manne had an RBI single in the inning while Patrick Kelly drove in two with a single; Middleton scored its other two runs in the frame on wild pitches. Middleton would add another run in the sixth but the rally was too little too late as Gloucester took home a 12-8 win.
"We are a disciplined hitting team and we won't swing at many bad pitches," Hurton said. "I loved the way we fought to the finish and made it a game."
Gloucester now turns its attention to Manchester Essex, who is on fire at the moment bating Amesbury 20-1 on Friday and Beverly West, one of the favorites in the tournament, 10-4 on Saturday.
"(Manchester Essex) has just been pounding the ball," Smith said. "They are a team to be reckoned with."