WESTWOOD >> In a game that looked destined to be a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair, Pittsfield American reliever Bo Bramer had the perfect pitch to keep Fairhaven off balance. The crafty 12-year-old used his knuckleball to throw four scoreless innings, leading Pittsfield to a 7-4 win Saturday at Morrison Park, clinching a trip to the Massachusetts 11-12 Little League state championship.
"I could spot my knuckleball. My slider was working nice and I could spot my fastball," Bramer said.
Bramer added that he's been throwing the knuckleball for the last two years, and it's clear he has confidence in the pitch.
Leading 6-4 in the bottom of the fifth, Bramer used the pitch to strand runners on second and third, helping American maintain the lead.
Pittsfield coach Ty Perrault said players at this level can hit fastballs very well, but having a reliable offspeed pitch makes a big difference.
"We've been working on [the knuckleball] since All-Stars began. ...Little by little, by little." Perrault said. "I've caught that — and I'll tell you — it moves like a big league knuckleball."
Offensively, Pittsfield did most of its damage early. Luke Mele led off the game with a walk and came around to score on a passed ball. Owen Kroboth added a RBI double, putting Pittsfield up 2-0. Fairhaven answered with three runs in the bottom of the first, but Pittsfield responded again, tying the game at 3-3 on Mele's RBI ground out in the top of the second.
Starter Kieran Coscia did a good job of regrouping after a shaky first inning, holding Fairhaven to just one run in the bottom of the second. A strong relay started by Bramer in center field cut down Josh Nichols at second base as he tried to stretch his RBI single into a double, ending the inning.
Things got a little wacky in the third inning, as Pittsfield looked to have tied the game on Bramer's bunt single, but the umpire ruled that Kroboth left the base too soon, sending Brendan Stannard back to third, Kroboth to second and Bramer to first. Kaden Codey followed, and heads-up base running allowed Stannard and Kroboth to score on a passed ball. Kroboth's run proved to be the winner. Codey added an insurance run with a RBI single in the sixth.
Kroboth led the offense, going 3 for 3 with a RBI. He was intentionally walked in his final at bat. Shane Bernardo, Nolan DeGroff and Patrick Rindfuss all had singles. Stannard hit a double in the third inning. Dylan Trova hit a double in the fifth.
The win gives Pittsfield its second comeback win of the tournament.
"They've been a loose group and a never-say-die group," Perrault said. "Even last night down 11, they were still up on the fence. That's one of the special characteristics of this team. They play right to the end."
The win sets up a rematch against Wellesley South, which beat Beverly 1-0 in the other semifinal, Sunday for the state championship. Wellesley beat Pittsfield 12-1 on Friday night in pool play. Sunday's championship game is scheduled to begin at noon back at Morrison Park.
Pittsfield 213 001 — 7 11
Fairhaven 310 000 — 4 10
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252