BRISTOL, Conn. — One down, two to go.
The Cumberland Major Division (ages 11 and 12) all-star team took its first step towards what it hopes will be the program’s first-ever Eastern Regional championship and a spot in the Little League World Series on Wednesday afternoon by capturing its quarterfinal-round game with ease.
How easy was it? Cumberland didn’t break a sweat in copping a 4-0 lead after an inning-and-a-half of play. The all-stars also bashed a tournament-best 14 hits, received a combined one-hitter from three pitchers, and again got the job done defensively, and the end result was a 10-1 rout of Warrington, Penn.
The performance was arguably Cumberland’s finest of the tournament, and the New England’s second seed did it against a third-seeded Mid-Atlantic team that impressed in pool play and stormed out to double-digit victories in its first two games of the tournament.
Did the lopsided victory come as a surprise to Cumberland manager Ken Jalbert?
“Nothing that these girls do surprises me,” said Jalbert, whose squad is now 12-1, 4-1 in this tournament. “I think everybody on this team can hit, they’ve been in the cage – they’ve been hitting basketballs before our games to develop their power – and they’re all coming through, and I don’t think there’s another team here that plays better defense than us.
“If we can throw strikes, play good defense, and hit like we’ve been hitting, I think we can beat any team in this tournament.”
If Cumberland is to move on to Friday’s 7 p.m. Eastern Regional championship game, it will need to knock off the tournament’s lone unbeaten team, Robbinsville, N.J., in today’s 4 p.m. semifinal-round contest.
Robbinsville, which defeated Scarborough, Maine in its quarterfinal-round matchup, earned the top seed in the Mid-Atlantic by going 4-0 in pool play and outscoring its opponents, 21-3.
But that pales in comparison to what Cumberland has done. In its four pool play contests and Wednesday’s triumph, the all-stars have outscored (40-15) and outhit (45-17) its opponents by an almost 3-to-1 ratio.
Cumberland got to improve on those numbers thanks to a potent offense that was sparked by No. 5 batter Maddison Leite, who went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles. She is currently leading Cumberland with a .500 average in the tournament that includes three doubles and two triples among her nine hits.
Leadoff batter Julianne Ross also added a double and a triple, and Emily D’Abrosca and Jocelyn Bodington each contributed a pair of hits.
“And I don’t think anyone struck out today,” offered Jalbert. “I have faith in all the girls. All 13 can put the ball in play, and they’ve been doing that throughout the tournament.”
“In Tuesday’s game [against Swanton, Vt.], we wanted at least 10 hits and no errors, and we wanted to do that again today,” admitted Kailey Brodeur, who played in three different positions (catcher, third base, and center field). “And in our next game, we want to go for 15,” Sam Jalbert said with a smile.
Speaking of Jalbert, she teamed up with starter Sydney Provencal and reliever Katie Calabro to handcuff Warrington on one base hit and three walks. And for the second game in a row, three pitchers each saw two innings of work, as Provencal fanned three of the six batters she faced in the first two innings, Jalbert threw the next two, and Calabro finished off the game.
While Provencal was mowing down Warrington’s lineup, Cumberland was hard at work putting together its 4-0 command.
With one gone, singles by D’Abrosca and Brianna Frankina put runners on the corners for Provencal, who lofted a sacrifice fly to right to plate D’Abrosca. Leite then drove in Frankina with a bloop single to center that just fell in front of a diving attempt to catch the ball by center fielder Lauren Crim.
Cumberland scored both of its second-inning runs with two gone and no one on base, as a walk by Jalbert was followed by a long triple by Ross (that she smacked into the gap in left-center) and a hard-hit single up the middle by D’Abrosca.
Cumberland added to its lead in the fifth when Provencal led off with a walk, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on a double by Leite that she belted over the head of Crim.
One out later, Leite took third on a wild pitch and promptly scored on a safety squeeze bunt by Bodington. An error and a wild pitch soon put Bodington on third, and she made it a 7-0 game when she came home on Emily Anderson’s grounder to shortstop that was misplayed for an error.
A run-scoring groundout by Ross later in the inning drove in Anderson, and an error on an infield grounder by D’Abrosca (Warrington’s fourth miscue of the inning) scored Jalbert.
Warrington broke Cumberland’s shutout and no-hit bids with two outs in the fifth on a line single to right-center by Crim, the No. 9 batter, that drove in Alexis McConomy, who scored from second on a very close play at the plate. But Cumberland got that run back in its final swings, as a pair of two-out errors allowed Brodeur to cross the plate.