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Almost eliminated in the semifinals

The never-quit team from Conventry LL now lines up against Southwest Regional champion Texas East on Thursday’s opening day in South Williamsport, Pa.

By Arnie Leshin 
Arnie Leshin

Rhode Island is going to the 75th annual International Little League Baseball World Series after winning the Mid-Atlantic Regional Sunday that was questionable on Friday in its final at-bat and down 5-0 to New Hampshire in the semifinals.

Until then, the team from Coventry LL was outplayed in every phase of the game. Then, just like that, it answered back with six runs in the 6-5 victory that carried it into Sunday’s originally postponed one-day championship game due to the weather, and began packing for Williamsport, Pa., by edging previously undefeated Massachusetts, 3-2, in Bristol. Conn.

This was the morning game of the doubleheader that had New York playing Maryland in the Mid-Atlantic Regional final, which the team from Staten Island won, 4-0, on a perfect game thrown by Gregory Bruno. The Empire State representative will line up Thursday against the Northeast champion from Idaho.

As for Rhode Island, which played in the closer, it will take the field on Thursday’s opening day versus the Southwest champ out of Texas East.

“I can’t say it’s a surprise that these kids won the title,” said Rhode Island manager Lou Simon, “because they’ve done this all season. They never quit, but they also didn’t think about Williamsport until now.”

What was remarkable was the way Rhode Island was well prepared after the Friday rally. It had to contend with a good Massachusetts out of the Pittsfield American LL that routed it 10-1 in the previous game. But Rhode Island began Regional play with back-to-back 10-0 shutouts over Conneticut and Vermont.

Then came the loss to Mass followed by these two big wins in the semis and finals. The winning pitcher was right-hander Logan Lama. He worked 4 2/3 innings, giving up the two runs and striking out six. Jake Mather hit the go-ahead home run off the top of the right field fence in the top of the fifth. Mather had a 3-for-3 game.

Pittsfield American hurler Evan Blake pitched five innings, gave up all three runs and striking out eight.

“I’m very proud of the boys,” Simon said. “They played their hearts out to the very last out.”

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