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Local AAU Team Shines on the Big Stage

Members of the Central Mass Phantoms U13 team that won the New England Super Division this summer are, l-r: Top Row_Coach Tobin, Coach Valentine, Steven Stuppiello, Luke Cowen, Devin Beroth, Kevin Valentine, Billy Barrett, Head Coach Hanna and Coach Decina. Bottom Row-Chris Speroni, Matt Hanna, Matt Decina, Drew Wilde and Greg Tobin. Contributed photo


Most high school teams in Massachusetts play a 20 game schedule. The teams that are fortunate enough to qualify for post-season play might find themselves playing another game or two. A lucky few might advance to the district finals or beyond and windup with a 25 game season.
The Central Mass Phantoms AAU team played three times as many games as the typical high school squad, and dominated most of the tournaments they entered on the way to a memorable summer on the diamond.
The 10-player team is comprised of all Milford area talent, including four players from Milford and two more from Hopedale. They posted an impressive 48-17 record, and took home the championship in four of the tournaments in which they played.
The highlight of the summer came in July. The Phantoms rolled through the regional tournament in Windham, N. H., winning five straight games to advance to the national tournament. They started their run with an 8-1 victory over a squad from Worcester behind a strong outing on the mound from Milford native Kevin Valentine. The Phantoms knocked off a team from Connecticut and another from the South Shore to move into the semi-final round. There they beat a New Hampshire team behind a three home run performance by Millis' Billy Barrett. He capped off his incredible night by launching a grand slam over the 340' fence. The Phantoms went on to win the regional finals and booked their ticket to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the nationals.
The other teams who descended on the Palmetto State were from cities quite a bit larger than Milford. The Phantoms scored victories over AAU squads based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Newport News, Virginia, Denver, Colorado, and Yorba Linda, California.
The Phantoms roster includes four players from Milford: Drew Wilde, Chris Speroni, Matt Hanna, and the aforementioned Valentine. Luke Cowen and Steve Stuppiello represented Hope-dale. Hopkinton's Matt Decina, Medway's Greg Tobin, Franklin's Devin Beroth, and the team's slugger Barrett from Millis rounded out the roster.
What the Phantoms lacked in numbers, they more than made up for in skill. They allowed just five runs through the regional tournament and turned 16 double plays. They also won tournaments in four different states. In their final tournament of the season, the Phantoms lost in the championship game of the Plymouth tourney. Down a run and to their final at bat, they were able to load the bases before lining out on three straight plays to end the game.
Despite ending on a loss, this small group of talented local ballplayers put together an impressive summer, and seem to have set the table for some great high school careers in a couple of years. After 65 games in three and a half months, the 20 game high school season may seem like a walk in the park.




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