The East Boston Little League Junior 13-14-year-old All-Star team is on the verge of making history.
Only a best-of-three series versus Quincy stands between manager Shawn Theriault, coaches Vin LePore and Leo Marchese, and the Eastie players of their goal of bringing the organization its first Massachusetts state championship in 28 years.
As Eastie’s All-Star lefthanded catcher John Gaeta has stated in what has become the team’s slogan: “Why Not Us?”
Indeed why can’t this group of unsung ballplayers, several of whom have thrived under Theriault’s leadership for the past seven years, beat the best in the Bay State and become the best team itself.
They’ve certainly played like champions up until this point. From the pitcher’s mound where fireballing ace right hander Mike Theriault, a varsity player as a freshman at Boston Latin, and super consistent hurlers John Cinelli and Kevin Sinatra have led the way – to the potent batting order where Cinelli, Joey Granara, and Alex Maghsoudi all have home runs to their credit – East Boston has defeated teams from Chelsea, Canton, Stoneham, and Gloucester to claim district and sectional titles.
Manager Theriault said the offense has been cooking in the tournament. “Joey Granara has had a coming out party – he’s been all over the baseball. He hit a shot to the right field fence on Boardman Street. John Cinelli hit a blast for a triple that landed on the pitcher’s mound on the softball field [at Noyes]. This team can absolutely hit.”
Malden Catholic freshman John DePaulo, who was a standout seven years ago for the Eastie team that won the District 12 Jimmy Fund Tournament, has anchored the infield at shortstop. “John has been solid with the glove,” said Theriault. “He’s really stepped up his game in the last couple of years. And third baseman Alex Maghsoudi has come up big the last couple of games.”
Thirteen-year-old Jerry DiVenuti has been outstanding as the second baseman. “He’s a natural,” said Theriault.
Sinatra has also excelled at first base while outfielders Nick LePore, Cinelli, and Granara have displayed quickness and dexterity in tracking down fly balls. Jason Arciero (second base/left field), Ray Albanese (second base), Steve Tauro (third base), and Christian Orlando (first base) have made important contributions to the team’s success.
Gaeta has done the majority of the catching for East Boston. “He’s a solid force behind the plate,” said Theriault. “He’s also been one of our top hitters.”
East Boston stamped its ticket to the state championship round by beating Gloucester twice in the sectionals, including a wild 16-10 victory last Friday night at steamy Noyes Park. Eastie rallied for seven runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull ahead for good.
“I told the boys that we don’t allow anybody to come into our house and beat us,” said Shawn Theriault. “This team has more heart and more grit – I’ve been coaching these kids since they were eight years old and they’re the best bunch of kids that I’ve ever come across.”
East Boston will play Quincy in the series opener Thursday at 4 p.m. at LeLacheur Park, home of the Red Sox Single A-affiliate Lowell Spinners.
“The boys are all excited about playing on a beautiful, professional baseball field – I just hope we can keep them focused once they get on that field,” said Theriault. “The coaching staff is ecstatic about how far we’ve advanced and the boys are, too. Basically the philosophy has been to play in the moment, play for that one out and one inning and don’t get ahead of yourself.”
Shawn Theriault said his players have risen to the occasion and met every challenge and he expects to return to East Boston with the big trophy.
“My feeling based on the six games we’ve played is it doesn’t matter who they put on the field against us, this team is going to bring a state championship to East Boston,” said Theriault.
And he loves John Gaeta’s call on the team slogan.
“We’re embroidering ‘Why Not Us?’ on the back of our hats for the state finals,” said Theriault.