BRISTOL, Conn. — Give Pittsfield American Little League manager Joe Skutnik credit for knowing the opposition.
After Wednesday's win over Rhode Island at the New England Regional, Skutnik was asked about Pittsfield's success against the top of Rhode Island's lineup.
Skutnik was quick to reframe the conversation.
"And the Fuentes kid, he's a good little stick," Skutnik said. "They hide [Sammy Fuentes] down there in the eight hole."
As Coventry, R.I., showed on Friday afternoon, you cannot sleep on the bottom of its lineup.
Little Rhody came up big in the bottom of the sixth, scoring six times to stun New Hampshire, 6-5, and earn the right to face Pittsfield on Saturday afternoon for a regional title and a berth in next week's Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The dramatic comeback was kept alive when Fuentes, again hitting eighth in the lineup, drew a two-out walk. No. 9 hitter Dylan Mourao then hit a single up the middle to load the bases in a game telecast worldwide on ESPN.
After an RBI walk to make it a 5-4 game brought New Hampshire's third pitcher of the inning, Rhode Island's Tommy Turner singled up the middle to drive in Fuentes, the tying run, and Mourao, who slid under the tag at home to send New Hampshire home.
In fairness to the reporter who asked Skutnik about the top of Rhode Island's order, it's been pretty darn good at this regional.
Turner, the No. 2 hitter, has gone 8-for-12 with five RBIs in the Coventry's four games. Cleanup man Logan Lama has a slugging percentage of 1.000, going 5-for-10 with three doubles and a triple.
As a team, Rhode Island is hitting .389 with 27 runs in four games -- the first two games cut short because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Pittsfield, meanwhile, is hitting .348 and has scored 23 runs while going 3-0 to open the tournament.
To the surprise of no one, Evan Blake leads the offense with a .889 batting average (8-for-9) and a 2.11 slugging percentage for an other-worldly 3.02 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Those are the only kind of numbers that could eclipse the performance posted by Owen Salvatore at the regional. He is hitting at a .750 clip (6-for-8) with a 1.50 slugging percentage and 2.28 OPS.
Nick Brindle also has an OPS over 1. The player they call "Nicky Singles" is 4-for-8 at the plate, and his one walk and two hit-by-pitches give him an on-base percentage of .636.
Antonio Scalise, who won the state championship game with a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the sixth, broke out of a self-described "slump" at the regional in a big way on Wednesday with a home run against Rhode Island.
"I've been in a slump lately, not doing very well hitting," he said. "But I think that got me out of it."
The regional tournament is played under what is described as a "modified double-elimination" format. Basically, it means that although the Pittsfield Americans made it through the first six days without a loss, they have to win Saturday afternoon's game in order to extend their season.
Everyone else who lost a game this week dropped down into the "elimination bracket," where the losers played one another to get one survivor, Rhode Island, to face Pittsfield, the survivor of the winner's bracket.
The flip side of having no margin for error is that Pittsfield has had two days off to recuperate from Wednesday's winner's bracket finale.
"It will be nice to have a little bit of a break because we've been playing pretty much every day," Scalise said on Wednesday evening. "But I also think we need to stay in that groove we've been in and keep going."
"Like Antonio said, if you have too much time not doing much, you tend to get a little lackadaisical in your playing," he said. "But I think two days off will be good because it gives us time to rest and prepare for the upcoming game."
Pittsfield also has something perhaps more valuable than rest: rested pitching.
Rhode Island, which has a team earned run average of 3.90 at the tournament, burned its two best pitchers, Mather (1.44 ERA) and Turner (3.13 ERA) in Friday's win over New Hampshire.
The Pittsfield AL, meanwhile, goes into Saturday's regional final with Blake, its Game 1 starter, available for the first time since Sunday's opener. In that 4-2 win over New Hampshire on Sunday night, Blake struck out 10 and scattered four hits while allowing no runs in five innings of work.
If he does need help, Skutnik can turn to either of the pitchers who worked in Monday's 9-4 win over Maine: Scalise (no runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings of work) or Cam Sime (3.38 ERA).
Salvatore allowed all the other arms to rest by throwing a complete game gem on Wednesday in the 10-1 win over Rhode Island.
Admission to Saturday's regional final, as all the games at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center, is no charge. The city of Pittsfield is making two buses available to ride to Bristol. Each bus seats approximately 50 and are first come, first serve. Pickup location is Wahconah Park and buses will depart at 10:30 a.m.
But if you cannot make the trip down for the 1 p.m. start, the game will be telecast live on ESPN.
If you want to watch as part of a crowd, Pittsfield's Beacon Cinema will be showing the game live on the big screen at the North Street venue. "Tickets will be free, and issued starting at noon Saturday on a first-come, first-served basis. As seating is limited, you must be present to receive a ticket," according to the theater's Facebook page.
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Markey Speaks at Last-Minute Rally in Park Square
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Markey is running for a second full term and has visited the Berkshires several times during the campaign.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Edward Markey drove straight from Washington, D.C., to Pittsfield on Tuesday at the tail end of his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate to condemn the Republican administration and promise better days if Democrats win next week.
"This is the birthplace of freedom, right out here in the Berkshires," he said. "In 1776, they declared independence. ... well, our declaration of independence is on Nov. 3, 2020, from Donald Trump."
He was greeted by more than a dozen supporters as he spoke about the importance of the general election just a week away. The Democrat is seeking a second full term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
Markey said the Democrats are in a revolution to rid the United States of President Donald Trump by voting for Joe Biden on Nov. 3. By doing this, he said, voters will be protecting health care for hundreds of thousands of Americans with pre-existing conditions, fighting for a livable wage, taking action to save the planet, having a future where where leaders believe in science
The progressive, who is known for proposing the Green New Deal with New York's U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was supported by Mayor Linda Tyer, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and City Councilors Patrick Kavey, and Helen Moon.
Tyer said she was notified on Monday evening that Markey would be driving from Washington to Pittsfield for this last-minute rally.
"What we all know is that this election is a train running down the tracks," Tyer said. "And for all of us that share the values that Senator Markey has exhibited in his time in the Senate, is important for us to come and recommit ourselves to all of those values and to stand with him today and with all Democrats who share these values because this election is probably going to be the most important election for many of us in our lifetimes."
On Monday, Markey was at the Capitol to vote against Amy Coney Barrett's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett was confirmed 52-48 by the Senate along party lines, with the exception of GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who is in close race for re-election in Maine.
Markey opposed Coney Barrett, saying her appointment puts civil liberties on the chopping block, including marriage freedom, reproductive freedom, and voting rights for already disenfranchised communities. Democrats also believe that she will help gut the Affordable Care Act; the court is expected to hear arguments on its constitutionality on Nov. 10.
Referring to the protection of the Affordable Care Act, Markey got a chuckle from the crowd when he said. "We know that we can have the ACA, we can have the ACB, but we cannot have both, we cannot have the ACA and Amy Coney Barrett at the same time."
"In order to see this future we need to elect Joe Biden and usher in a new wave of diverse progressive leadership," Markey said. "And we need to remove the most racist and incompetent President in American history from the White House."
In a statement on the Senate floor on Monday, Markey said Coney Barrett's philosophy of originalism, which is looking back to what the Founding Fathers meant in 1787, is dangerous for the United States. Originalism is racist, sexist and homophobic, he said, and will lead to the pretense that allows the overriding of Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, Civil Rights and civil liberties that have progressed over generations.
"Yesterday, Trump and his Republican lapdogs steamrolled Amy Coney Barrett onto the U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, Republican leadership violated their own rule which was that the Senate would not consider nominations for our Supreme Justice in the last year of a presidential term," Markey said, referring to the Republican-led Senate's refusal to consider President Obama's court choice in 2016. "Hypocrisy is too weak of a word to describe the sham that [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Republicans have made out of this appointment process, any senator so blatantly breaking his or her own word on such a profound appointment is just plain wrong."
He was greeted by more than a dozen supporters as he spoke about the importance of the general election just a week away. The Democrat is seeking a second term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
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