BRISTOL - In the bottom of the fifth inning against Rhode Island on Wednesday, Massachusetts shortstop Evan Blake launched a mammoth solo home run over the scoreboard in center field to put an exclamation point on a 10-1 victory for his team, as it secured its spot in Saturday’s New England Regional championship game.
Through three games, Blake has an .889 batting average to go with two home runs, five doubles, a single and seven runs scored.
Blake isn’t focused on his individual achievements, but the stats do the talking for him.
“I think the team has been doing awesome,” Blake said when asked about his performance. “I thought from day one we were gonna make it really far. So our team confidence is just up. We’re just playing our game.”
It wasn’t just Blake’s performance that led Massachusetts to the Little League regional title game.
Antonio Scalise, the cleanup hitter behind Blake, launched his first home run of the tournament after a 1-for-7 start. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I’ve been in quite a bit of a slump lately, not doing very well hitting,” Scalise said. “But I think that got me out of it.”
Coming into Wednesday, there was talk of the top four Rhode Island hitters that had driven in more than half the team’s runs, but Scalise and Blake stole the show.
“Some people told me that,” Blake said. “But I didn’t really get nervous. We just played our game and did the job.”
While Massachusetts had its best offensive performance of the tournament, Rhode Island had its worst after scoring 20 runs combined in its first two games.
Massachusetts’s starting pitcher Owen Salvatore pitched the complete game, with one earned run and six strikeouts.
Logan Lama drove in the only run of the game for Rhode Island, a double to left field scoring Jake Mather.
Hitting in the No. 3 spot, Mather continued his strong tournament with a 3-for-3 day. He’s hitting .700 through three games.
Tommy Turner, the ace for Rhode Island, had started the first game of the tournament and pitched a perfect four innings with 10 strikeouts against Connecticut. But something was off in his return Wednesday.
“He just didn’t look right to me early on,” Rhode Island manager Lou Simon said. “His control wasn’t where it was and it looked like his velocity was a little off. He looked uncomfortable when I went to talk to him. He just seemed like he wasn’t 100 percent today.”
Massachusetts will play in Saturday’s championship game at 1 p.m.
Blake is the probable starter for the championship game after earning the win pitching in the team’s opener against New Hampshire, in which he pitched five scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts.
Rhode Island will face the winner of today’s 1 p.m. game between Connecticut and New Hampshire on Friday at 1 p.m. The winner of Friday’s game will face Massachusetts in Saturday’s championship.