|Little League Notebook: Pittsfield Faces Tough Task Wednesday Against Rhode Island|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports|
12:05AM / Wednesday, August 08, 2018
BRISTOL, Conn. — On their roads to Williamsport, Pa., the Little League all-star teams from Pittsfield and Coventry, R.I, have combined for 22 wins and just one loss.
They have outscored their competition by a combined margin of 188-35.
And by the end of the day on Wednesday, one of them will be one loss away from seeing its season come to an end.
The Pittsfield American Little League All-Stars take on the Rhode Island state champs at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the winner's bracket final of the New England Regional.
The winner Wednesday advances to Saturday's regional title game, where one team will punch its ticket to the Little League World Series.
The loser Wednesday drops into the elimination bracket and a game on Friday afternoon to earn a rematch in Saturday's winner-take-all final.
The Americans have no illusion about the task they face when they return to Breen Field on Wednesday.
"Rhode Island's tough," Pittsfield coach Joe Skutnik said. "They've got some guys who can throw. I think we've seen three of them who can throw.
"That's going to be a tough game against Rhode Island. That will be a low-scoring event, I think."
Coventry has yet to allow a run at the regional, dispensing with defending the defending regional champs from Fairfield, Conn., and South Burlington, Vt., by identical 10-0 scores via the mercy rule.
Owen Salvatore gets the start on the mound for the Pittsfield AL against a Rhode Island squad that pounded out 13 hits in five innings against the Vermont state champions on Monday.
"They're big, they're good, but I think we can still beat 'em," Pittsfield pitcher/shortstop Evan Blake said. "I think we have a chance."
By winning in the winner's bracket semi-finals on Monday night, the Pittsfield Americans guaranteed themselves at least one appearance on ESPN this week.
Although the entire regional tournament -- including Wednesday's -- is being telecast on the cable giant's "ESPN+" service, two games are scheduled for the "flagship" station: Friday's elimination bracket final and Saturday's 1 p.m. regional title game.
Whoever loses Wednesday goes to the loser's bracket final to face the other survivor of that half of the draw.
Pittsfield's Monday night win in its second game in Bristol gave Sunday's winners a 3-1 record on Day 2 at the site.
Along with the New England Regional, Bristol is home to the Mid-Atlantic Regional, which is held concurrently.
Both tourneys have six teams and are structured such that two teams have a bye on the first day of competition.
In New England, the byes went to Vermont and Maine. Rhode Island and Pittsfield, respectively, handed those teams losses on Monday.
In the Mid Atlantic, Pennsylvania and New Jersey got the extra day of rest. New York, which beat Washington, D.C., on Sunday, handled the Keystone Staters on Monday morning.
Only New Jersey took advantage of the bye -- and, presumably, having all its pitching available -- to win on Monday, beating Maryland.
Like Pittsfield, the other three teams that won their second game on Monday did so by jumping on top of the "bye" team runs in the top of the first inning.
Pittsfield got to play its first two games at the regional in the same time slot, the 7 p.m. game, which Skutnik said was an advantage on Monday because it allowed his team to follow the same routine two days in a row and get into a rhythm.
That changes on Wednesday when the Americans take the field at 4 p.m. against Rhode Island. And, win or lose, the last two games in the regional on Friday and Saturday are 1 p.m. starts.
None of the teams appear to be getting any respite from Mother Nature this week. The forecast calls for continued temperatures up near 90 degrees and humidity of about 70 percent.
Skutnik had a ready answer Monday night when asked how his team was going to spend Tuesday's off day at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center.
"We're going to hit the pool," he said. "We haven't been to the pool yet."