BRISTOL, Ct. — Must-win game? No problem for Cumberland American.
CALL shook off the sting from back-to-back shutout defeats in pool play and earned a spot in today’s semifinals of the New England Regional Tournament by pounding winless Barre (Vt.) Community, 12-4, on Wednesday morning at sun-drenched Breen Field.
CALL, which totaled just six singles in losses to Goffstown (N.H.) Junior two nights earlier and defending New England champ Fairfield (Conn.) American on Tuesday, struck for 13 hits off three Barre pitchers to raise its overall mark to 11-2, with six of those victories coming by eight or more runs.
“It was nice to see the boys respond the way they did hitting-wise,” admitted CALL manager Dave Belisle, whose team wrapped up pool play at 2-2. “This was a big win for us, and now we have to start all over again.”
While Cumberland American had its ticket to the semfinals punched, the team had to wait out the afternoon contest between Andover (Mass.) National and Goffstown Junior to see what its seeding will be in today’s semifinal round.
Goffstown, which topped Andover by a 5-2 score, earned the top seed based on its 4-0 record in pool play, and Fairfield, which was idle yesterday, copped the No. 2 seed with its 3-1 mark.
Andover, like Cumberland American, ended up with a 2-2 mark, but received the No. 4 seed, while CALL earned the third seed because CALL owned the head-to-head tiebreaker, thanks to its 5-3 win over Andover in last Saturday’s tournament opener.
That means today’s semifinal-round twinbill will pit CALL against Fairfield, which topped the locals by a 3-0 score, in the 3 p.m. opener, while Goffstown will renew acquaintances with Andover at 7 p.m. The games will be televised live on NESN.
After a day off on Friday, the survivors from both contests will battle for the New England championship and a berth in the Little League World Series on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a game that will be aired live on ESPN2.
“We’re ready to play any of the three,” said Belisle. “I think we are all pretty much equal. I know that New Hampshire beat us 8-0, but if we can combine what we brought today hitting-wise with the way we have been pitching and playing defense, we have a very good chance. I’m very confident.”
The top two batters in CALL’s lineup, Ryan McCormick and Jake Glod, and No. 5 batter Chris Wright led the way offensively with three hits each, and of that trio, McCormick had the biggest day by reaching base five times, socking a double and a solo home run, and scoring three runs.
“He’d be the first to tell you that he’s struggled a little bit in this tournament,” Belisle added of McCormick. “But we need him. He’s our go-getter at the top of the lineup, and he got us going and he had a great game.”
Glod added a double and two runs scored, and Wright also scored twice and highlighted a five-run rally in the top of the fourth inning with a long three-run homer to straightaway center field.
Speaking of Glod, he started on the hill and pitched brilliantly in 3 1/3 innings of work to pick up the victory. Glod struck out five batters (including the side in order in the third) and allowing only two hits, two runs, and two walks. He threw 32 of his 49 pitches for strikes.
Before Glod took the mound in the bottom of the first, he found himself with a 2-0 lead under his belt.
McCormick led off the game with a ringing double that clanged off the fence in right-center field and was just inches away from leaving the field, and Glod followed with a line single to center to quickly put runners at the corners.
After Glod stole second base without a throw, McCormick raced home when Connor Mastin’s grounder to second was misplayed for an error. Glod then scored with ease when Max Hanuschak slapped a fielder’s choice grounder that erased Mastin at second.
“Those runs were big,” added Belisle. “We could breathe out and say, ‘Hey, we’re back in this tournament.’ We haven’t hit the ball (the last two days), but today, we did. The kids hit some nice shots and I knew they could do it.”
Glod made it a 3-0 game in the second with another line single to center that scored James Belisle, who walked with one out and went to second on a two-out free pass to McCormick.
And CALL added another run to its lead in the third. Wright got things going by lining the first pitch of the inning into center for a single, and pinch-hitter Cam Rosa reached on a bad-hop infield single.
After starting pitcher Chandler Phillips uncorked a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position, Colin Cannata delivered a long sacrifice fly to center to plate Wright.
In the fourth, CALL knocked Phillips out of the game and put the contest out of reach by erupting for its five runs.
McCormick led off with a line single up the middle and Glod followed with a long double along the right-field line that right fielder Connor Gillander nearly gloved with a diving catch.
Barre head coach Tom Renaud then gave Phillips the hook and brought in J.T. Blanchard to pitch, but Blanchard’s second pitch bounced in the dirt and went to the backstop, and McCormick hustled home and scored without a throw.
Three pitches later, Mastin ripped a sharp single to left to score McCormick, and after Hanuschak reached base on an error, Wright crushed the first pitch he saw from Blanchard over the fence in center for his home run.
Glod’s morning on the mound was done in the fourth, when with one gone, he gave up a double to right by Phillips and a walk.
Wright then took over on the hill, but after giving up an infield single to Brad Romeo that loaded the bases, he surrendered a bloop hit to shallow right to Brandon Bedard that plated Phillips with Barre’s first run.
After Elliot Nelson followed with a sharp two-run double down the right-field line to make it a 9-3 game, Belisle brought in McCormick to pitch and put out the fire, but Barre was able to scratch out another run when Bedard was able to score on a two-out infield error.
But McCormick shut down Barre the rest of the way and tossed 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief that saw him issue two harmless walks and strike out a pair.
McCormick also concluded his splendid day at the plate in the fifth by turning on the first pitch he saw from Blanchard and cranking an opposite-field homer to deep left.
In the sixth, Hanuschak and Wright led off with base hits and eventually went on to score CALL’s final runs. Hanuschak scored on a groundout by Lavallee, and Chris Dugas, who pinch-ran for Wright, raced home on a throwing error.