BRISTOL - After reaching the U.S. semifinal at the Little League World Series in Williamsport last year, a return trip this summer for the Fairfield American (CT) all-star team wasn’t to be.
New Hampshire eliminated Connecticut 9-3 from the New England Regional Thursday afternoon at Breen Field.
“I’m proud of them,” Connecticut coach Jeff Gouley said. “We had a goal that at the end of the year [and] it wasn’t about what we did this year, but the future. Whether it be high school baseball or whatever, [our players] were going to learn, they were going to have fun and this run - I don’t want to say was unexpected because once we started playing I could see that they had it in them but we’re just super proud of them - they came together as a team. That was our main goal to play really good baseball as a team and I thought they did that all year.”
New Hampshire got off to a fast start, putting up three runs in the bottom of the first inning highlighted by a solo home run from leadoff hitter Ryan Strand, who finished the game 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI and runs scored.
“I had a good game but thanks to all my teammates getting on base, I was able to drive them in,” Strand said. “And we just kept getting on base and running the pitch counts up and that led them to bring new pitchers in and we just kept hitting them.”
Four of the next hitters behind Strand also recorded hits. Logan Simmons, Braeden Lambert and Cam Hujsak each had hits. Max Ouellette added a pair of hits with 2 RBI.
Simmons start on the mound, paired with Strand’s solo shot, helped get the momentum in New Hampshire’s favor right away. In the first and second innings Simmons struck out the side.
“As a coach you can’t even ask for anything better,” New Hampshire manager Ryan Simmons said. “He goes in two innings and strikes out both sides. And then Ryan hit a huge home run to start it off after a long at bat, it was awesome.”
Connecticut’s offense finally got going in the third inning with a pair of runs driven in on a double by Robbie Donahue, pulling Connecticut within one run at the time.
Over the next two innings, New Hampshire outscored Connecticut 5-1 and the offensive firepower was the difference for New Hampshire.
Charlie Yates and Pierce Cowles both struggled on the mound for Connecticut.
Yates started the game and lasted just 1/3 of an inning. He gave up a pair of hits, walked one and allowed three earned runs before giving way to Cowles. He allowed five earned runs, seven hits, struck out eight and walked one batter.
Cowles, Yates, Donahue, Timmy Domizio, Aidan Gouley, Liam Grady, Dustin Walters and Eli Balkan all had hits in the game for Connecticut.
With its win, New Hampshire will face Rhode Island today at 1 p.m. with the winner moving on to the championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Massachusetts.
New Hampshire has a few options for pitchers today.
“We’re pretty deep with pitchers so we’re still going back and forth and trying to play it game by game,” the manager Simmons said. “We haven’t discussed it yet. We have a couple in mind but we’re not sure 100 percent.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org