|Pittsfield Little League Goes 2-0 at New England Regional|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports|
09:37PM / Monday, August 06, 2018
|The Pittsfield American Little League All-Stars head to the field at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center in Bristol, Conn., on Monday.|
BRISTOL, Conn. -- The Pittsfield American Little League All-Stars brought the lumber on Monday night.
Evan Blake and Owen Salvatore combined to go 6-for-6 with a home run, a triple and three doubles as the Pittsfield AL defeated Saco, Maine, 9-4, in the winners’ bracket of the New England Little League Regional Championship at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center.
The Americans move on to Wednesday afternoon’s winner’s bracket final against Coventry, R.I., for a berth in Saturday’s regional final, where the New England representative for the Little League World Series will be decided.
Blake, who cleared the fence five times in the state tournament, hit his first round-tripper of the regional in the top of the sixth, providing two big insurance runs after Saco trimmed a six-run deficit down to three runs in the bottom of the fifth.
“It feels awesome,” Blake said of the booming homer to right-center. “A little bigger field. That was definitely my goal.
“It was a fastball down the middle of the plate, and I just took care of it.”
“I thought his at-bat before that was better,” added Pittsfield manager Joe Skutnik. “He hit the slider, pulled the slider down the line. We just told him to be patient on that, and he stayed on it really well.
“I thought all the kids did. We had a lot of tough at-bats tonight.”
PIttsfield collected eight hits, and the Americans looked collected throughout, making the most of their experience on Breen Field against a Maine team that sat out the first round of games on Sunday.
“I thought [Maine] looked a little nervous at the start, and who wouldn’t be?” Skutnik said. “We were. It takes probably an inning to get the jitters out.”
Pittsfield was able to jump on top before Saco was able to settle in.
Nick Brindle led off the game with a single and ended up scoring one of the Americans’ two first-inning runs.
Ben Jacob was hit by a pitch to move Brindle into scoring position, and Blake’s double off the fence in center field scored Brindle and sent Jacob to third. Tommy Mullin then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to make it a 2-0 game.
Pittsfield nearly extended its lead in the first, but Saco recorded a double play with men on second and third and two out. First baseman Matt Kimball fielded a ground ball, stepped on the bag and fired to Henry Lausier to get Blake attempting to score from third.
In the top of the second, the Americans again sent a man home from third on a ground ball, but this time, Kimball pivoted on a 6-3-2 double play to end the inning.
“Hey, this is the regional,” Skutnik said. “They’re going to make those plays. You hit a ground ball to second base, nobody is booting it. They’re going to make the play.
“You want to put the pressure on them as much as you can,” Skutnik added about the decision to send the runner in each case.
Saco got a run back in the bottom of the second, but Pittsfield scored two in the fourth and three more in the fifth, threatening to make it a runaway.
Owen Salvatore tripled to the right-center gap to bring home a pair of runs in the fourth after Anthony Frieri and Cam Zerbato each reached on a walk.
In the fifth, Blake led off with a double down the left field line to ignite a three-run rally. Antonio Scalise and Salvatore each had an RBI single before it was over, and Pittsfield had a 7-1 lead.
Saco rallied for three in the bottom of the fifth, using two unearned runs to chase Sime and draw within three.
Sime finished with four strikeouts and allowed just two earned runs in 4-⅔ innings to earn the win
“I just kept throwing fastball and then off-speed to get ‘em off,” Sime said. “And if it was 3-2, I’d usually give them a knuckle curve to get ‘em off. If I was ahead, I’d give ‘em fast ball inside/outside. It was good.”
Sime departed with the bases loaded and two out, but Scalise got the third out on a swinging strike to end the threat.
Jake Duquette drew a one-out walk, and Blake tattooed the first pitch he saw over the fence in right-center to start the sixth inning, giving Scalise a little bit of breathing room.
He allowed two base-runners in the bottom of the inning before getting a strikeout and a fly out to Duquette in left to end it.