Lincoln skipper Matt Netto congratulates Steven Andrews as he rounds third base after hitting a home run in a recent Major Division All-Star contest. Lincoln suffered its first defeat at the New England Regional Tournament on Monday, falling to Burlington, Vt. by an 8-1 count. Now 2-1, Lincoln will look to conclude pool play on a high note when it swings back into action on Wednesday against New Hampshire. The 1 p.m. game will be aired live on NESN. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
BRISTOL, Conn. â Lincoln All-Starsâ assistant coach Marty Gaughan Sr. had a feeling his team would face South Burlington, Vt. ace Sammy Premsagar in the third game of this Little League New England Regional Tournament on Monday afternoon.
Thatâs why he took all necessary measures to prepare the kids offensively.
âThey say heâs a real fireballer; thatâs why I just spent the last hour pitching batting practice to them,â he said perhaps 40 minutes before the tilt. âI was throwing them 100-mph heaters so theyâd be ready.â
Premsagar, however, was more than prepared to face the superb Lincoln lineup. He tossed 5 2/3 frames of four-hit ball while walking just two and fanning six to propel South Burlingtonâs best to a stunning 8-1 triumph over the Rhode Island champions at Breen Field.
The tall, lanky righty also helped himself at the plate, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, though he wasnât alone in that department. No. 3 batter Chance OâConnor went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI and a run; clean-up hitter Ethan Klesch 1-for-4 with two RBI; Nick Liscinsky 1-for-3 with a run scored; and Max Plunkett 0-1 with two walks and a pair of runs.
âSammy was awesome,â South Burlington manager Sean McGrath grinned after the win, one that pushed the Vermont champs to 2-1 overall with one preliminary contest left (against Maremont of Saco, Me. at 1 p.m. today, and that will be televised live on NESN).
âHe was really dominant, but heâs been the same way all season, both on the mound and at the plate,â he added. âStill, this wasnât easy. Lincoln is very explosive offensively, and they have some great arms. They can pound the ball, so I wasnât comfortable at any point.
âLittle League Baseball is a momentum game, and that momentum can change at any moment. Thatâs a very well-coached group they have there, and theyâre good kids who know how to play the game. Theyâve had success before.
âThe way I looked at it, we wanted to go into the TV game with a victory. Our goal was to get the win (Monday) so weâd go into (today) with a little breathing room. We thought the guys would be more comfortable and confident if we could beat a team like Lincoln.â
It was the first defeat Lincoln had suffered since opening this playoff run at 11-0. Those previous verdicts came by a combined score of 127-22.
The Vermonters improved to 11-2 after dropping its Friday opener to Westport, Conn. (9-2) before mustering a 12-2 âmercy-ruleâ triumph over Rye, N.H.
âWhat can you say? We lost the game,â Lincoln skipper Matt Netto shrugged before hustling his players off to some interviews with NESN. âWe were on a great run and ran into a great pitcher, and just didnât play that well. Itâs baseball, and the ball bounced the other teamâs way.
âWeâll come back; I know it,â he continued. âThese kids have too much talent and confidence to let a loss like this affect them.â
Offered Gaughan Sr.: âWe were bound to have a bad day sometime, and Iâm just glad it happened now as opposed to later. We still have a lot of life in us, and I know weâll get our bats going again.â
Premsagar wouldnât say exactly what pitches were working best for him, but did admit, âI just felt it. My arm felt good, I wasnât sore at all and I was prepared to pitch a good game. Coach had been telling me to keep the ball down because Rhode Island could really bomb it. I went with a lot of off-speed stuff.â
Amazingly, he didnât allow a single, as all four hits went for extra bases.
He did get into a bit of a jam in the first when he walked Steve Andrews and moved to third when Kyle Marrapese drilled a double to the right-center gap, but Connor Benbenek grounded out to the hill to end the threat.
South Burlington didnât need long to record its first run. Righty starter David Bordieri issued a walk to leadoff batter Max Plunkett, and he raced to second on a wild offering and third on Liscinskyâs groundout before OâConnor plated him with a single to right.
Lincoln fought back to knot it in the second when Dominic Cunha crushed a first-pitch, two-out fastball over the center-field fence, and it seemed ready to forge some offense after Bordieri retired the side in the back half.
Andrews laced a two-out, opposite-field two-bagger in the third, though nothing came of it â not until Vermont exploded for four in the third to break the game open.
Actually, the surge (10 went to the plate) started with Bordieri fanning No. 9 batter Max Guyette, but then he walked Plunkett. When Liscinski knocked a comebacker to the mound, Bordieri wheeled and threw to second, but it was a bit off target.
Both moved up on another wild pitch, and OâConnor whacked a grounder at first baseman Cunha. The bad-hopper went for a two-run single, and Netto immediately decided to send in reliever Andrews.
âIâm pretty sure it was a 2-0 fastball, and I thought (Cunha) would reach out and get it, but he missed,â OâConnor said. âWhen I looked up, I was, like, âYessss!ââ
Still with one out, Klesch poked a grounder to short off of Andrews, and Bordieri â who had moved there â eventually gloved it but couldnât make the play. The manager later took him out with a right-pinkie injury.
âThe ball bent his finger back,â assistant Gordon Zaniol explained. âWeâre just going to rest it; heâll be fine.â
Premsagar then plated OâConnor on a ground single to left, and Ben Tate blooped a hit to center, though Klesch was thrown out at third. Greg Knowles also drew a free bag to load them, and Kevin Kevin Paparielloâs pinch-hit single to left scored Premsagar for the 5-1 lead.
South Burlington notched another two in the fourth after Plunkett blooped a hit to right and Andrews hit Liscinsky with a delivery; both advanced on a passed ball, and Kleschâs single to center plated both.
In the interim, Premsagar had retired eight of nine (including Andrewsâ third-frame double) until he yielded a walk to Tyler Santilli in the fifth. He later moved to second on Nathan Kumarâs grounder to short, but he struck out Larisa to escape the inning.
The victors registered their last run in the fifth when Papariello beat out a swinging bunt hit, and pinch-runner John Thibeault stole second before hustling to third on a wild pitch. Ryan Sargent walked, and Netto replaced Andrews with righty Blake Zaniol.
Plunkettâs fielderâs choice grounder pushed in Thibeault, though Lincoln left fielder Patrick Gribbin made a made a pair of splendid snags off the bats of OâConnor and Klesch to squelch the rally.
Andrews did start the sixth with his second two-bagger, and tagged to third on Benbenekâs long fly to right. That forced McGrath to pull Premsagar, who had reached 87 pitches (the limit per tilt is 85). He brought in Liscinsky, who walked Zaniol before getting Gribbin looking.
âI told the kids before the game that we had to get on them early,â McGrath said. âI told them to bat with confidence and go out there and have some fun. I wanted them to value each and every pitch, and â well â it worked.â
Stated Liscinsky: âThis is really exciting because Rhode Island is one of the better teams here. Now theyâre tied with us (with a 2-1 mark), but we own the tiebreaker. With the win, now we know we can play with any other team.â
The elder Zaniol admitted that third inning, with two miscues, was more than uncharacteristic for this Lincoln crew.
âIt was just one of those games that didnât go our way,â he noted. âIt was going to happen soon or later. Hopefully, the loss will put some fire into our bellies. Weâll learn from it, go back to work and weâll seal it Wednesday.â
Thatâs when it will battle Rye, N.H. in its final prelim; itâs slated for 1 p.m., and to be televised by NESN.
âIf we had played our game, it wouldâve been closer,â Coach Zaniol mentioned of Lincoln stranding five of six baserunners in scoring position. âThe kids know what happened, and they know what to do. Weâre not going to change anything, but you canât take anything away from their pitcher.
âHe was phenomenal. Like I said, weâre just going to go back to work, and hopefully weâll dial it up with more hits against New Hampshire.â
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