Pittsfield American, Coventry, R.I. take the long road to the Little League N.E. Regional winners bracket final


BRISTOL, Conn. — David Belisle, who managed the Cumberland, Rhode Island Little League All-Stars into the World Series in 2014, is perhaps best known for a speech he gave to his players after a final loss in Williamsport, Pa.

Belisle, who is working for ESPN at the New England Regional, said that if he had his druthers, his team would have a first-round bye in the regional. Unfortunately for the two teams that got first-round byes this year, both were beaten by teams that had already won a game.

One of those winning teams was the Pittsfield American All-Stars, who knocked off Saco-Maremont, Maine, 9-4 in Pittsfield's second game in Bristol.

"I thought [Maine] looked a little nervous," Pittsfield manager Joe Skutnik said after Monday's win. "Who wouldn't be? We were, yesterday."

Both Pittsfield and Cranston, R.I. played games on Sunday's first day of the New England Regional. Both teams got wins, Pittsfield beating Goffstown, N.H., 4-2, while Cranston knocked off Fairfield (Conn.) American 10-0 in 3 1/2 innings.

"Rhode Island's going to be a tough team," Pittsfield catcher Antonio Scalise said after Monday's win. "We're just going to have to go out there and play."

The winner of the Wednesday game jumps into Saturday's New England Championship game here at 1 p.m. The winner will play the champion of the elimination bracket. that bracket kicks into high gear Thursday with Connecticut playing the winner of Tuesday's Vermont-New Hampshire game at 1 p.m. There was a rain delay in Bristol for the Goffstown-South Burlington contest. The winner of that game will play the loser of Pittsfield-Coventry on Friday at 1 p.m.

Local baseball fans can go to the Beacon Cinema for a 4 p.m. watch party. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Beacon officials announced that tickets will be given away starting at 3:30 p.m.

Pittsfield and Coventry both had Tuesday off, while elimination-bracket games were being played.

Skutnik said a consistent schedule over the first couple of days helped his team.

"Really, probably, the 7 o'clock game was good because we had the same exact routine as " Sunday, the Pittsfield manager said. "They kind of got in that routine. Nothing was different."

The only thing different now is that Pittsfield and Coventry will both play at times they're not used to. The Rhode Island team, winners of consecutive 10-0 games against Connecticut and Vermont, played its first two games at 1 p.m. Pittsfield, on the other hand, played the late games.

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When the teams meet, it will be a battle of squads that have won twice in different manners.

Coventry got run-rule wins with consecutive 10-0 wins over Fairfield and South Burlington (Vt.). Pittsfield's first two games were far closer.

In the opener, Goffstown, N.H., loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the sixth inning before Pittsfield reliever Owen Salvatore struck out Isaac Morin to preserve a 4-2 win.

Then on Monday, Scalise pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth inning before getting some insurance in a two-run home run by Evan Blake in the sixth en route to a 9-4 win over Saco.

The Rhode Island team has been pretty top heavy when it comes to runs and hits. Coventry has scored 20 runs on 19 hits, and the top four in the batting order have scored 14 of those runs and had 13 hits.

Tommy Turner and Jake Mather each have had four hits for Coventry, while Logan Lama has three hits, two doubles, and a team-best four runs batted in.

Turner threw four innings of perfect baseball in the win over Connecticut. He struck out six. Mather went 4 2/3 innings against Vermont, giving up three hits and a walk, striking out eight. Logan Lama, who could be the starter, finished up with a walk and a strikeout.

For Pittsfield American, Evan Blake and Owen Salvatore have had the big bats. Blake is 5 for 6 with three runs scored and four RBI. All of his hits have been for extra bases, four doubles and a home run. Salvatore is 4 for 5 with a run scored and four RBI. He has a double and a pair of triples.

Both teams have been perfect since the postseason began, and that could make for a competitive game.

"Rhode Island's tough," said Skutnik. "They have some guys who can throw. I think we've seen three of them that can throw. That's going to be a tough game.

"That'll be a low-scoring game."

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


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