BRISTOL - With a trip to Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series on the line, New York starting pitcher Gregory Bruno was perfect.
Bruno didn’t give up a hit in six innings to go along with his 12 strikeouts to lead New York to a 4-0 win over Maryland and win the Mid-Atlantic Region Sunday afternoon at Breen Field.
“I didn’t really think about [the perfect game] that much,” Bruno said. “I just kept focusing on throwing strikes. That’s all I was worried about.”
Bruno finished the game with 64 pitches, allowing him to pitch in the first round game of the Little League World Series. If he went over 65 pitches, Bruno would not be able to do so.
“The object was to pound the strike zone, get ahead and try to minimize his pitch count,” New York manager Joe Calabrese said. “He struck out 12 batters and somehow, someway he managed to stay under 65, and I can’t say enough about him. He’s been on my in-house team for four years, three years with all-stars, and to me he’s the best overall pitcher on the planet right now.”
Steven Martinez finished his impressive tournament with a 3-for-3 day at the plate highlighted by a two-run double in the top of the third inning, which scored Robert Cavalieri and Bruno.
Martinez finished the tournament with a .833 batting average, including a home run, seven singles and two doubles.
“My performance was dominant, but I’m more focused on my team’s offense and my team’s defense to help me out,” Martinez said.
Bruno, Derek Mendez, Logan Castellano and John Calabrese added the other hits for New York in the game.
Menedez’s single in the top of the fifth brought in Chris Bedford to make it 3-0, while a Maryland error in the sixth allowed New York to score its fourth run of the day.
In the field, New York was perfect and made a pair of big plays in the fifth inning, a diving play on a ground ball by first baseman Calabrese and as Maryland’s Nate Berzonkski hit a liner to right field, he was thrown out at first base by the right fielder Cavalieri.
“Before I every game I ask them a question,” manager Calabrese said. “I ask them who’s the best player on the field and they all respond, ‘I am.’ And to me that confidence, the more we say that, they look me in the eye with conviction and they believe it. And it shows on the field.”
Owen Knerr and Adam Gardner combined on the mound to allow four earned runs for Maryland. Knerr struck out five and Gardner struck out three.
While the win secured New York a spot in the Little League World Series, just getting to Williamsport isn’t enough for this group.
“We’re going to Williamsport and we’re happy,” manager Calabrese said. “Are we satisfied? Absolutely not. We’re going in with the intentions that we’re going to win four more games to be the U.S. champion and then we’ll hopefully win that World championship game as well.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org