Pittsfield American beats New Hampshire 4-2 in Little League New England Regional opener

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BRISTOL, Conn. — One down, three to go.

The Pittsfield American Little League All-Stars jumped out to a four-run lead, but had to hang on to defeat Goffstown (N.H.) 4-2 in the opening game of the New England Regional Tournament at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center.

Owen Salvatore, whose RBI triple keyed a two-run fourth inning, saved the win for Evan Blake when he struck out Isaac Morin with the tying run on first base in the top of the sixth.

"It's awesome," said Salvatore. "We needed to win today to have a better chance of winning, which is the goal."

With the win, Pittsfield will play Monday night at 7 against Saco, Maine. The teams from Maine and Vermont both had first-round byes.

In that first game in the afternoon, South Burlington (Vt.) will play Coventry (R.I.), a 10-0 winner over Fairfield (Conn.) American in a game stopped after 3 1/2 innings by the 10-run rule.

Blake's pitching line was good as he struck out 10 Goffstown hitters. However, the Pittsfield right-hander pitched out of jams in the third, fourth and fifth innings. He loaded the bases in the third, but struck out Braden Lambert to end the inning. Goffstown also had runners on in scoring position in the fourth and fifth against Pittsfield's tall right-hander, but did not score.

"None of the teams are easy here. We all knew that," Pittsfield manager Joe Skutnik said. "We thought we would be in the game with Evan, and we were. He pitched really, really well and came up with some big hits for us. But you know what? New Hampshire's tough. They came back and didn't make it easy for us.

"Overall, we really, really wanted this game — and we got it."

In five innings, Blake gave up four hits and two walks.

"My off-speed pitches, definitely the slow slider" were working, said Blake. "My knuckle ball wasn't too good, but the fast slider was pretty good and just pounding the zone, I guess."

For Pittsfield American, Nick Brindle and Blake each had two hits and an RBI against three Goffstown pitchers. Starter Will Perkowski went the first 1 1/3 innings, followed by losing pitcher Logan Simmons and Max Ouelette.

The nightcap was the first game of the day's contests to be a real game in the last inning.

Pittsfield had scored a run on two hits in the third, two runs on two hits in the fourth, and a run on two hits in the fifth, to make it 4-0.

Blake used up his final pitches to strike out Logan Simmons on what turned out to be an unusual double play. Goffstown had runners on first and second with two outs when Simmons swung at a 2-2 pitch for the strike out. The ball got away from catcher Antonio Scalise and Simmons took off for first. But with a runner already at first, he was out. Unfortunately for Goffstown, Will Patenaude took off from second and was out easily when Scalise threw to third baseman Roshan Warriar to complete the double play.

That was Blake's 87th pitch, so his night was done.

In came Cam Sime, who walked Jake Klardie and gave up an RBI double to Cam Hujsak. Hujsak took third when Sime's throw home was wild. Hujsak scored on Perkowski's ground out. But Ouelette reached on an infield single and with two out, Sime hit James Baggs. The tying run was at first and Morin represented the go-ahead run.

That was it for Sime, and Salvatore came on for a little lefty-on-lefty battle.

"It was something that I really hoped wouldn't happen, because we were going to get it done earlier with Cam," Salvatore said. "They called on me. I had to go in and get the job done, and I got it done. It worked out perfectly."

Morin worked a 2-2 count, but he swung at a slider to end the game.

Pittsfield never trailed in the game, but had little to show for the first two innings. In the third, Walker Abdalla worked a 3-2 walk, went to second on the first of Brindle's two hits, and then scored on Blake's two-out base hit.

Pinch-hitter Cam Zerbato got a one-out walk in the fourth and scored on Salvatore's triple to left-center field. The ball one-hopped the wall. That, Blake said, really got the Pittsfield bench fired up.

"Every time you get a hit, the bench gets up," said Blake. "We're always up anyhow."

Salvatore actually had a chance to regroup during his at-bat. He hit an 0-2 pitch for a foul that took out the camera lens of ESPN's camera behind home plate. Once that got cleaned up, the lefty ripped his triple.

"It takes your mind off of what's going on a little bit because it's delaying" the at-bat, said Salvatore, "to get your head back in the game, which I managed to do.

"I just found a pitch that I needed to hit, and I hit it."

Salvatore scored on Brindle's RBI single to make it 3-0. Blake hit a leadoff double in the fifth and scored on a two-out single by Sime, making it 4-0.

That set the stage for Goffstown's comeback, a comeback that fell short.

In the first game, Coventry knocked last year's New England champions for a loop, scoring six runs in the second inning and knocking Fairfield starter Pierce Cowles from the mound.

Winning pitcher Tommy Turner's two-run single was the key hit in the second inning.

Turner threw four innings of perfect baseball to get the win. He struck out six, including Charlie Yates, whose strikeout in the fourth inning ended the game.

"It's only his second start of the entire post-season," Coventry manager Lou Simon said. "You could see his poise on the mound today, getting up early and throwing strikes."

Jake Mather had two of the six hits registered by Coventry, and he drove in two runs.

Simon said that while Vermont has a first-round bye and he won't see them, the Rhode Island manager did say that it is important to watch Pittsfield and Goffstown.

"It's good for them to see the different pitching and the different approaches that their pitchers have," said Simon. "We really like to look at what pitchers do, where they like to be in certain counts and what they like to throw."

———

Goffstown     000     002     —     2     6     0

Pittsfield     001     21x     —     4     6     1

Will Perkowski (1 1/3), Logan Simmons (2 2/3), Max Oulette (1) and Braeden Lambert. Evan Burke (5), Cam Sime (2/3), Owen Salvatore (1/3) and Antonio Scalise. W — Burke. L — Simmons. Sv — Salvatore. 2B — P (Blake). 3B — P (Salvatore).

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.


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