BRAINTREE, Mass. -- On Friday night, Ben Sykes started a sixth-inning rally that gave the Pittsfield Little League American Division All-Stars a win in their opener at the state tournament.
On Saturday afternoon, Sykes started a sixth-inning rally that did not change the outcome of the game but could give the Americans a lift going into Sunday morning's elimination game.
Gavin Gillpatrick struck out 11 and allowed just four hits in leading Middleboro to a 3-1 win over Pittsfield American.
With the win, Middleboro gets to sleep in on Sunday and await the winner of the 11:15 game between Pittsfield American and Wellesley, a winner over Reading earlier on Saturday.
Gillpatrick struck out the first eight batters he faced and allowed just two hits through five innings.
Hit No. 3 was a single up the middle by Sykes to give Pittsfield a leadoff runner in a 3-0 game.
Sebastian Herrera singled to left to put two runners on with nobody out.
Then Brendan Merwin, a hero of the winning rally in Friday's 1-0 win over Reading in the tournament opener, launched a fly ball deep to right field.
Sykes tagged and sped around the bases to score from second on the sacrfice fly and give Pittsfield American its first run of the game.
But Gillpatrick got the next hitter on a called third strike and ended the game with Herrera on second with a fly ball to center.
"I think it was very important to get a few hits there and score a run," Pittsfield American coach Ty Perrault said. "We're gonna need momentum for tomorrow.
"We're going to need to come out hard right from the get-go, because Wellelsey is a good team, too."
After falling to Middleboro on Friday night, Wellesley advanced to Sunday's game with a 10-4 win over Readig on Saturday morning.
Although Pittsfield struggled offensively for the second straight day (it had just three hits in Friday's win), it continued to play strong defense behind starter Merwin and reliever Mason Daley.
In the top of the first with a runner on third, catcher Daley jumped up to grab a pitch that got to the backstop and fired to Merwin, who was alertly covering and got the tag down to deny a run.
In the bottom of the second with a man on first, center fielder Aiden Arseneau fielded a sure single and fired to shortstop Herrera at second to catch the runner and make it a fielder's choice.
Merwin ended up leaving the bases loaded in the second and stranded five through the first three innings.
But Middleboro broke through in the fourth. Reece Trottier reached on a field'ers choice and moved up on a pitch that got to the backstop before scoring on Jacob Landers' RBI single to give the designated home team all the offense it needed for Gillpatrick.
In the bottom of the fifth, Mike Marzelli led off with a double and Gillpatrick singled to start an eventual two-run inning. But Pittsfield American's Ben Sykes limited the damage on a groudball with one out and a runner on third.
Sykes fielded the grounder and ran at the runner, firing to Jack Wendling at third for the out as the runner attempted to get back.
"That was a beautiful play on the infield," Perrault said. "We made a couple of great plays.
"I call it the bang-bang play. You play infield in, field it, check the runner and that time he wa almost halfway [to home]. Ben ran right at him and made him commit one way or the other and he ade the throw to Jack. Beautifully done.
"That's what you practice for, for games like this when everything is huge."
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