Another day, another 'W': Pittsfield American advances to winner's bracket final of Little League New England Regional

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BRISTOL, Conn. — The task before the Pittsfield American Little League All-Stars was simple. Simple, however, is not the same as easy.

Evan Blake and Owen Salvatore each had three hits and three runs batted in, and Blake hit his first home run of the New England Regionals as Pittsfield American beat Saco-Maremont, the Maine state champions, 9-4 Monday night at Breen Field on the campus of the Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center.

Cam Sime gave up four runs, three unearned, on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. Antonio Scalise came on to pitch 1 1/3 innings of shutout baseball to pick up the save.

"It's amazing to be here and all. A lot of people are watching, as are a lot of kids thinking they could be here right now," said Sime.

It's the second consecutive day that Pittsfield American got a quality performance out of a starter. Blake had shut out Goffstown, N.H. on four hits before running out of pitches after five innings Sunday night.

In two days, Blake is now 5 for 6, with three doubles, four runs batted in and a sixth-inning, two-run home run that gave the kids from Berkshire County enough of a cushion.

"I was really confident in the team this year," said Blake. "I wouldn't have said we'd have made it this far, but we just have to keep playing our game."

Coventry, R.I., meanwhile, earned its way into the winner's bracket final with a 10-0 win over South Burlington (Vt.) in Monday's second game. It was Coventry's second consecutive 10-run rule victory. Monday's win took five innings.

So, Pittsfield and Coventry will now play in the winner's bracket final, set for Wednesday at 4 p.m. The winner of that game then sits by until Saturday's 1 p.m. championship contest.

Pittsfield was the designated visitor in Monday's game, and took the lead right off the bat.

Nick Brindle, becoming known far and wide as "Nicky Singles," led off with a solid base hit to left. After Maine starter Mac Lowe hit Ben Jacob, Blake hit one off the fence in center field. The double scored Brindle. Jacob made it 2-0 on a fielder's choice bunt by Tommy Mullin.

"I was worried that we wouldn't come out strong after two days of heat down here," Pittsfield manager Joe Skutnik said. "They came out real strong, right off the bat. Putting up the two-spot, that was great."

It could have been worse for the kids from Maine, save for a great defensive play by first baseman Matt Kimball. Sime hit a grounder to the first baseman, who tagged the bag and threw home as Blake was sent from third base. Catcher Henry Lausier slapped the tag on to end the inning.

Pittsfield was playing some small ball early as Salvatore hit a leadoff double in the second, was sacrificed to third, and tried to score on Walker Abdallah's grounder to short. Once again Kimball threw a strike home, just getting Salvatore. Skutnik asked for a video appeal, and home plate umpire Eric Stonesifer upheld the call.

"I'm 0 for 1 on my challenges," Skutnik said, quickly adding that "You want to put the pressure on them as much as you can."

Ryan Camire's RBI single in the bottom of the second inning cut Pittsfield's lead to 2-1. Then Camire took a run away from Pittsfield in the top of the third. Blake had walked with two outs and Camire made a diving grab of a sinking liner by Scalise.

The next inning was a different story.

Lowe walked Anthony Frieri and Sime to open the fourth and Salvatore hit the first pitch he saw to center for a two-run triple. It was Salvatore's second triple of the tourney.

Pittsfield extended the lead to 7-1 with three runs on three hits, but the Maine state champions were far from finished.

Saco-Maremont sent 9 hitters to the plate, scoring three unearned runs on four hits. Three consecutive singles by Kimball, Lausier and Justin Labelle chased Sime. Scalise, who was ready, came on and struck Brady Kezal out on a 3-2 pitch.

"I was just looking to get the out," the Pittsfield reliever said. "I knew we could make the play if it was in an area where our guys could handle it."

Scalise admitted he was set to come in, but with the bases loaded?

"Not in that situation," Scalise said, when asked if he expected to pitch. "I knew eventually, Cam was going to finish up the game himself or I was going to come in."

So the score was 7-4, and the outcome was far from settled. It took Blake three batters to settle it.

With one out, Jake Duquette walked on four pitches from Josh Ney, the fourth Maine pitcher. One pitch later, Blake launched one into the night sky in right center field for a two-run home run. It was his sixth since the start of the state tournament and his first in Bristol.

"It feels awesome" to get his first home run here, Blake said. "No better feeling because it was definitely my goal."

The pitch he hit?

"It was a fastball," he said. "It was a fastball on the plate, and I took care of it."

That home run also took care of any residual nerves the Pittsfield American players and coaches might have had. That five-run lead looked huge.

"It definitely helped," said Scalise, "but I was just going to go out and pitch my game."

Camire worked a leadoff walk, was sacrificed to second and took third on Josh Penney's base hit. But Scalise struck Jeremiah Chessie out on three pitches and Mac Lowe flied to Ben Jacob in left to end the game, and send Pittsfield American into the winners bracket final.

It will be a challenge for Pittsfield to play Coventry.

The Rhode Island state champion have, by virtue of their its two results, made itself the favorite in the New England Regional.

In the first game, a 10-0 win over Fairfield (Conn.) American, Coventry only needed 3 1/2 innings to run rule the defending New England champions.

Coventry needed a little more time on Monday afternoon, but not by much.

Winning pitcher Jake Mather put his team ahead for keeps with an RBI single in Coventry's two-run first inning.

Coventry scored in every inning but the second, and made it 10-0 with three runs in the top of the fifth.

Mather got two outs in the fourth before he was relieved by Lama. Lama issued a walk and struck out Andre Bouffard to end the game.

As is the case with many Little League teams, the top of the Coventry order has been powering this team. They have scored 20 runs and the top four hitters in the lineup — Tyler Simon, Tommy Turner, Mather and Lama — have scored 14 of them.

In two games, Turner is 4 for 5 while Mather is 4 for 7. Lama is 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles and a team-best four RBI.

———

Second Game

Pittsfield     200     232     —     9     9     1

Saco     010     030     —     4     7     1

Cam Sime (4 2/3), Antonio Scalise (1 1/3) and Scalise, Evan Blake. Mac Lowe (3 1/3), Henry Lausier (2/3), Mark Kimball (1), Josh Ney (1) and Lausier, Justin Labelle. W — Sime. L — Lowe. Sv — Scalise. 2B — P (Blake 2, Owen Salvatore). S (Josh Penney). 3B — P (Salvatore). HR — P (Blake).

First game

Coventry     203     23     —     10     13     1

South Burlington     000     00     —     0     3     0

Jake Mather (4 2/3), Logan Lama (1/3) and Anthony Colucci. Andre Bouffard (2 1/3), Lucas Van Mullen (2/3), Kiefer McGrath (1), Kevin Dowling (1) and McGrath, Van Mullen. W — Mather. L — Bouffard. 2B — C (Lama, Sammy Fuetes).

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


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