Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New York State Little League Tournament Preview (2016)

Wow. We're back. I missed the entirety of the 2015 Little League season because work just doesn't allow me to be Little League Insider anymore. I guess being an adult can stink sometimes. Who knew?

Anyway, I've been out to a few games this season around the New York and New Jersey area and I'm pumped up for all the state tournament action. Even though the blog itself isn't nearly as active as it used to be, the Little League World Series Discussion Group is always firing on all cylinders. Seriously... join it. There's Little League fans (1000s of them) across the country giving updates every single day. It's a great community.

I've done state tournament previews for New York and New Jersey in the past and its always one of my favorite posts to write, so I decided to give NY a shot this year since I've seen a couple of the teams so far and I'm incredibly excited to see Maine-Endwell this season, a team that could be historically good in New York. We'll see this week.

The state tournament is being hosted by Van Nest Little League and Bronxchester Little League in District 22 in the Bronx. The two fields are in walking distance of each other and will showcase the best the state has to offer.

Without further ado, here's this year's state tournament preview. Remember that most of this is based on simple research and I did it all in a couple hours. If any names are wrong, spelled incorrectly, or didn't showcase enough or the proper players, I'm deeply sorry. I'll get it right once the tournament starts today. Finally... come say hello if you see me. I'll be there on Wednesday and Thursday for sure.

Section 1 West: Penfield (District 4)
Recent History (2000-2016): 4 district titles, first section title since 1979

Penfield National rolled through the sectionals by averaging 14 runs per game. The last time PLL played a close game was the District 4 championship when they knocked off Fairport, 6-4. Noah Rogoff, Matt Salina, Jake Lipani, and John Scoenhardt are just some of the names to watch from the Rochester-area squad.

Section 1 East: Maine-Endwell (District 7)

Recent History (2000-2016): 8 district titles, 5 section titles, 2 state titles

Maine-Endwell are the defending state champions. Normally, this doesn’t mean much… new crop of kids, right? Wrong. M-E had six 11-year olds on that state championship team and they’re bigger and stronger this season. This group also won the state championship when they were 10-year olds. M-E is led by Michael Mancini, Conner Rush, Jude Abbadessa, et al. The boys in blue and gold have been as dominant as you can be, winning by mercy rule in every game thus far.

Section 2 North: New Hartford (District 10)
Recent History (2000-2016): 2 district titles, first section title

New Hartford won its first section title in the long history of its league and the Utica-area squad is excited to take its show to the Bronx. NH is 10-1 through the tournament so far and topped a strong Rotterdam-Carman squad in a Best-of-3 series to reach the state tournament. Roman Kimball has been the staff ace and one of the team’s top hitters. Tyler Potocki has shown some big time ability on the bump as well including a 12 strikeout performance in the district championship game. Will Gall and Kyle Philipkoski have had big hits in recent victories.

Section 2 South: Town of Wappinger (District 17)
Recent History (2000-2016): 7 district titles, 2 section titles

Wappinger has become the defacto leaders of District 17 since becoming one charter and this particular group is experienced. They reached the state tournament last season as 11-year olds, so they will be experienced. The group is young with some 11s mixed in this year, but Shane Heinemann, Sean Camacho, Ben Tullo, and Parker Nevins have been great leaders thus far.

Section 3 North: Pine Bush (District 19)
Recent History (2000-2016): 4 district titles, 2 section titles

Pine Bush enters the state tournament at 13-1. They’ve won 13 straight games. The offense for the Bushmen has been relentless. PB has scored less than 10 runs in a game just three times in their run to the Bronx. They put up 20+ runs four different times as well. The team has 54 home runs in total, an astronomical number. Joe Croce leads the way for an offense that puts them up in bunches. He homered three times in the district “if” game, the second straight year he’s hit three in a title-winning performance. Watch out for Will Pitt, Ethan Velanga, and Gunnar Meland as well. Nick Scala provided an epic 6th-inning homer in Game 1 of the district final.

Section 3 South: Mid-Island (Staten Island) (District 24) Recent History (2000-2016): 4 district titles, 3 section titles, 1 state title, 1 regional title

Mid-Island reached the LLWS back in 2006 and is ready for another run. MILL comes from one of the toughest districts in the entire Eastern Region and is battle-tested. MI has some big boppers at the top of the lineup and strong arms.  Matt Rupp has been the team’s most dominant starter and one of the big sticks. Matt Polemeni, Eric O’Neill, and Chris Field are also major home run threats every time they step in the box.

Section 4 West: Port Washington (District 28)

Recent History (2000-2016): 9 district titles, first section title

Like Wappinger and St. James/Smithtown, Port Washington played in the 11-year old state tournament last year. So they have some experience at this level. They went 2-2 with wins over the other two teams in the tournament. Chris Chang and Jake Spiryda are two players to watch for PW.

Section 4 East: St. James/Smithtown (District 35)

Recent History (2000-2016): 2 district titles, first section title since 1999

Smithtown had an interesting road to the Bronx. In one of the worst and wildest tournament formats you’ll see, St. James/Smithtown went 1-2 in pool play of its sectional tournament, placing third. All four teams make the semifinals though and SJSLL promptly won the semifinal and then beat the 0-3 team in the championship. They obviously worked the tournament the right way. It’s no accident though that Smithtown is in. They were in the state tournament last year as well, falling twice in mercy-rule shortened games. James Ackerman and Tyler Lawrence are two of the guys who should be on your radar.


It’s hard to predict how teams will pitch a double elimination tournament, so instead of straight picks, I’ll give you the teams ranked in order… Remember that I’ve only seen two (Pine Bush and Mid-Island) play in person.

1. Maine-Endwell

2. Mid-Island
3. Pine Bush
4. Penfield National
5. New Hartford
6. Port Washington
7. Town of Wappinger
8. St. James/Smithtown

I’ll be at Van Nest and Bronxchester Little Leagues on Wednesday and Thursday for sure. Join in on the conversation for the Road to Williamsport at my LittleLeague World Series Discussion Group on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jackie Robinson West (Chicago) stripped on U.S. Little League World Series Title


Well... this finally came to a head. I generally ignored this the whole off season because it's like beating a dead horse. It was obvious they were cheating from the beginning, but nobody wants to hear about cheating in Little League because almost everyone that is successful is doing it in some form. It's always considered "sour grapes" though. Well, in my experience, where there's smoke, there's fire, and it was billowing in Chicago.

Here's my problem though. What Jackie Robinson West did was blatant, flat-out cheating. They deserve to lose all their wins. But, they haven't lost any of the glory. They still went to the White House, went to the World Series, had parades, etc... Little League was too concerned with the great publicity this specific team gave them. This needed to be handled way earlier. Little League needs to get out in front of these major issues. LL is trying to bring charters back from Cal Ripken, so they're allowing larger populations. It's no coincidence that huge urban areas were represented in many of the regions this year.

Here's another problem, while Little League isn't littered with blatant cheaters at every turn, there's A LOT of cheating going on. Teams in California and Georgia were disqualified after winning sectional and state titles. There's always something fishy going on with perennial state championship teams. It's everywhere.

Taney Youth Baseball Association (Mo'ne Davis' team) is not in the same boat as JRW because they didn't actively cheat, but Little League knows they had kids from all over Philadelphia, it was part of their chartering deal. They "grandfathered" in all the kids who played in the league previously for life, no matter where they lived. They had authorization from Little League to do it though, but it was still unfair to all the leagues in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region.

Jackie Robinson, on the other hand, secretly added kids from outside their boundaries with the help of their corrupt district administrator. Completely unauthorized. Both leagues had "super teams" but only one was allowed to do it.

So how does Little League fix their problem of "super teams" (because there is a definitely a problem)?

For starters, the paperwork checking for tournament teams needs to start earlier. Everyone knows that Little League is all about the tournament. Drop the stupid June 15th or two weeks before rule. Everyone is playing together all year long. Just make sure everyone is of age and of residency. Otherwise, let teams play and practice together as much and as early as they want. International teams are doing it because their seasons run on different schedules.

District Administrators are the only line of defense against cheating until the teams reach regionals. There's not enough time to check the validity of teams until they're already eliminating teams and once a team is a media darling (like Danny Almonte's team in 2001, Harlem LL the next year, Jackie Robinson West, or Taney), they're going to let it play out because they don't want negative publicity during the tournament.

Little League needs to figure out this gerrymandering problem real fast though because they're biggest test in years and years if not history is coming up and it's this age change that everyone hates.

The real 12 and 12 1/2 year old kids are going to be playing in an anonymous 50/70 World Series in northern California and 11 year old kids will be on national TV in Williamsport with home runs and 70mph pitching being way down (i.e. not good for television). This is a massive change to how Little League is run and perceived. Meanwhile, Cal Ripken's WS will still be 12 and 12 1/2 year old kids playing 50/70 in a beautiful ballpark. I'm not if sure Little League is making itself more attractive or less attractive with these wholesale changes.

Let's end today with some positives of Little League though... Dave Belisle's speech to his team after being eliminated in Williamsport.

Join the Discussion: Little League World Series Discussion Group

Like our page: Little League Insider

Follow us on Twitter: @LittleLeaguePro

Follow us on Instagram: @LittleLeagueInsider

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Little League World Series Preview (2014)


Jackie Robinson West (Chicago), Illinois

Overall 2014 Record: 14-0
Great Lakes Pool Play/Dbl Elim Record (Since 2002): 11-24

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 1.80
Team K/6: 9.4
Team Batting Avg: .473 (12 of 13 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 0.83

Key Players: Marquis Jackson (.600, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 11 R), Pierce Jones (.750, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R), Trey Hondras (.474, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 9 R)

Overview: Jackie Robinson West puts a ton of pressure on teams with its base running up and down the lineup, but the big three hitters are scary good. Six players took the ball out of the yard during regionals, and five different pitchers started games. Brandon Green has big strikeout ability (11 K in 5 innings) and Jackson is a beast in relief (mid-70s fastball). This team has the potential to be the best Great Lakes team in a decade or more and one of the most fun to watch.


Pacific (Lynnwood), Washington

Overall 2014 Record: 16-2
Northwest Pool Play/Dbl Elim Record (Since 2002): 20-18 (Without Hawaii, 15-16)

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 1.45
Team K/6: 9.4
Team Batting Avg: .341 (7 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 1.67

Key Players: Tyler Durbin (.667, 1 HR, 8 RBI)

Overview: Pacific isn't a team that is dominant by any stretch and they certainly don't have any dominant individual players. Pacific is also a singles hitting team. They only had three home runs in the regional (nobody with more than one). Pacific relies on Ian Michael on the mound along with Logan Kruse, but the rest of the staff performed well during the regional. Eastlake, Washington was a huge surprise in Williamsport last year. If this team matched that 3-2 performance, it would be a surprise as well.

Canyon Lake (Rapid City), South Dakota
Overall 2014 Record: 12-0
Midwest Pool Play/Dbl Elim Record (Since 2002): 4-30

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 4.26
Team K/6: 7.3
Team Batting Avg: .431 (9 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 0.67

Key Players: Dylan Richey (.667, 5 HR, 22 RBI), Bridger Nesbit (.522, 1 HR, 4 2B, 7 RBI), Matthew Hegre (.500, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 14 R)

Overview: The Midwest is the weakest region in the United States by far with just four wins in 12 years. Canyon Lake rolled through the Midwest regional (without beating Minnesota) and they did it with their offense. Dylan Richey is on fire at the plate and he has some table setters ahead of him. The pitching staff didn't get it done, but the defense behind them did with only four errors total in the regional. That's impressive. With the type of pitching Canyon Lake expects to see in Williamsport, I can't see them making a run at all this year, however.


Mountain Ridge (Las Vegas), Nevada

Overall 2014 Record: 14-0
West Pool Play/Double Elim Record (Since 2002): 32-9

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 1.23
Team K/6: 8.2
Team Batting Avg: .338 (9 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 1.33

Key Players: Austin Kryszczuk (.429, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 12 R. 19 K, 1.09 ERA)

Overview: Kryszczuk is the type of player that could enter LLWS lore. He carries Mountain Ridge with his arm and his bat. Add in big time players like Brennan Holligan and Bradley Stone and you have a potential World Series champion. Kryszczuk and Holligan are both big and strong and have the goods to lead the way. While Jackie Robinson West is expected to be strong, historically this is an easy path to the U.S. title game for a West squad.


Taney Youth Baseball Association (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania

Overall 2014 Record: 17-2
Mid-Atlantic Pool Play/Dbl Elim Record (Since 2002): 15-22

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 2.72
Team K/6: 8.0
Team Batting Avg: .336 (7 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 0.67

Key Players: Jahli Hendricks (.611, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 9 R), Jared Sprague-Lott (.533, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 7 R), Mo'Ne Davis (2-0, 1 SV, 17 Ks in 12 IP)

Overview: The story of the regionals was Mo'Ne Davis and her dominant pitching performance in the championship game, but she actually has a higher ERA than the team average. The staff is deep with Sprague-Lott and Richardson as capable starters. Lipson and Cummings are solid in relief. Offensively, this team has good home run power with Zion Spearman looking to get on track. Leading up to the regional he was the scariest hitter on the team. Statistics and history don't back up a deep run for Taney in the World Series, however.


South Nashville, Tennessee

Overall 2014 Record: 11-1
Southeast Pool Play/Dbl Elim Record (Since 2002): 25-14

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 4.25
Team K/6: 9.0
Team Batting Avg: .337 (6 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 0.83

Key Players: Sam Slaughter (.533, 3 HR, 12 RBI), Blake Money (.385, 1 HR, 4 RBI), Robert Hassell (.385, 1 HR, 2 RBI)

Overview: Statistically, this is not the greatest Southeast team. The ERA is through the roof, and the offense is ranked one of the lowest in the LLWS. This is still a team that was here a year ago with experienced coaches and two players back. Money and Hassell are both solid on the mound and Slaughter has been hitting the heck out of the baseball. An opening game against the media darlings could go either way. The result will be a big determination of this team's fate.


Pearland East, Texas East

Overall 2014 Record: 15-0
Southwest Pool Play/Dbl Elim Record (Since 2002): 23-12

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 2.14
Team K/6: 7.71
Team Batting Avg: .307 (4 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 1.8

Key Players: Clayton Broeder (.500, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 9 R), Jonathan Newman (8.2 IP, 11Ks, 0.00 ERA)

Overview: Pearland was the best team in the Southwest Region and played the toughest schedule, possibly of anyone in the country. Maybe that's the reason they don't have great statistics because this team is not impressive on paper except for the where they come from. As a team they barely hit .300, they didn't hit for a ton of extra base hits, and they made almost two errors per game. Jon Newman didn't allow a run in two victories, but had less than 1 1/2 strikeouts per inning. Bryce Laird, Brandon Sliwinski, and Broeder each hit over .500 to lead the team. Michael Groover led the team in XBH with four, all doubles. He also had nine RBI to lead the team.


Cumberland American, Rhode Island

Overall 2014 Record: 12-1
New England Pool Play/Dbl Elim (Since 2002): 18-19

Regional Stats
Team ERA: 3.74
Team K/6: 6.2
Team Batting Avg: .380 (7 players over .300)
Team Errors Per Game: 0.83

Key Players: Addison Kopack (.474, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 10 R), Jayden Struble (.619, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 12 R)

Overview: Coach Belisle said before the regionals that this team would need to hit its way to a regional title and it did. The top seven hitters all hit .333 or better and six of them are well over .400. The only reason Cumberland isn't the best hitting team overall is because the subs and the starters who get subbed out have all struggled. The five of them have a total of four hits. Cumberland can win a few games if the bats get deep into some pitching staffs, and the top two or three starters are definitely serviceable.


Opening Round: Great Lakes over Northwest, West over Midwest, Southeast over Mid-Atlantic, Southwest over New England.

Winners Bracket: West over Great Lakes, Southwest over Southeast

Losers Bracket: Northwest over Midwest, Mid-Atlantic over New England

Losers Bracket Round: Southeast over Northwest, Great Lakes over Mid-Atlantic

Winners Bracket Final: West over Southwest

Losers Bracket Semis: Great Lakes over Southeast

Losers Bracket Final: Southwest over Great Lakes

U.S. Championship: West over Southwest

World Championship: Japan over West

Random Thoughts: This has potential to be a great World Series. There's plenty of storylines and intrigue. The West Region is the favorite, but Nevada has NEVER been the LLWS before. South Nashville is back for a second straight year and neither time did they dominate on the road to Williamsport, but they're always solid. The West has won five of the last six US championships and six overall since 2002. They've appeared in 8 of the 12 since the field expanded to eight US teams. Southeast has won four titles over those 12 years with the Northwest (Hawaii, who's no longer in Northwest) and Great Lakes each have one. The Mid-Atlantic and Midwest have never reached the U.S. championship game since the field expanded in 2002. New England has reached the final three times including last year.

Join the Discussion: Little League World Series Discussion Group

Like our page: Little League Insider

Follow us on Twitter: @LittleLeaguePro

Follow us on Instagram: @LittleLeagueInsider

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Taney Youth Baseball is Headed to Williamsport

Courtesy of Paul Alesse,
Commentary by John Malone


There's not much else to say about the Taney Youth Baseball Association and its rise to the Little League World Series.

I heard about this team during its run through districts because they knocked off the 10-year old state champions, Media. The immediate though was, "Cool. We don't get to see city teams do well in Little League too often." Then, I started reading up on the team. I started following Taney's games on GameChanger. The Dragons looked like a team of destiny, but they didn't thoroughly dominate everyone. In a state as tough as Pennsylvania to get through, it was easy to think they'd be tripped up somewhere.

They made it to the state tournament with powerful teams. Everyone in the area, and a few more who follow the blog, knew that they had Mo'Ne Davis and that she supposedly had some talent. Between the big bats of Red Land, the dominance of Collier Township, the coaching of Mike Mussina and Montoursville, there was no way I wasn't going to take the chance to drive over two hours from home in New York to see the first day or two of the Pennsylvania State Tournament.

I immediately was blown away by most of the teams at Lower Perkiomen Little League. I hadn't seen a ton of baseball admittedly this year, but two or three teams looked worthy of a regional run. I wasn't sure if Taney was even one of them that first day, a 9-3 victory over Clarion, with Mo'Ne on the mound and not showing great command.

I heard about her being the best pitcher in the state of Pennsylvania in the news. I heard about her throwing 70 miles per hour. What I saw in just a couple innings didn't support that. It certainly didn't feel that way when I saw Jared Sprague-Lott, her own teammate, throw and the big arms of Kai Cummings and Joe Richardson. Boy.. or should I say, girl was I wrong.

I got to see Mo'Ne pitch against the defending regional champions during pool play with four very good hitters back with Williamsport experience. She completely dominated for five innings. She was throwing harder than I remembered. She had command of all her pitches, and wow her swagger was on point. Nothing bothered her. Meanwhile, the boys in the batters box did not look comfortable at all. She was lights out.

She allowed two home runs in the sixth inning of that game against Delaware. Then, she picked up the save in the semifinal against Colonie, New York, but gave up a two-run homer in the process. That plus seeing her for six innings earlier in the week should've erased any mental edge she had over Delaware and based on the swings I saw in the championship it did. It also didn't matter. She flat out dominated the game once again on the back of her talent and watched her cool and calm defense make play after play until the final double play ended the game.

I didn't buy into the Taney hype in the beginning. There were murmurs about the kids being from all over Philadelphia. They're not. They're from a couple neighborhoods in and around Center City. They all go to the schools in the same area and they've all been playing Taney Youth Baseball (plus their various travel ball including the NJ Arsenal and Anderson Monarchs) for years together. After seeing them play for three weeks and getting to know parents and players. I bought in.

Taney is a team. They have table setters at the top. They have two big time starting pitchers with a crafty reliever along with two powerful right arms in the pen. They are scary hitters throughout the lineup especially the murderers row of Jahli Hendricks, Sprague-Lott, and Zion Spearman, and they have a defense that doesn't make many mistakes. They could easily go two-and-out in Williamsport or they could find themselves in the U.S. Championship game. The rest of the road doesn't matter. They reached the promised land and it was unreal to watch.

I enjoyed meeting everyone from every team in Bristol this year. The success of this blog has made it a lot of fun to hear from players, coaches, and parents every day on the Road to Williamsport. The Taney kids are a big part of that. When Taney gets the bulk of the media coverage in Williamsport just remember that it has nothing to do with the kids or even their adults. It's the culture we live in. Just have fun with it. I'm telling you this group is worth watching and getting to know.

Join the Discussion: Little League World Series Discussion Group

Like our page: Little League Insider

Follow us on Twitter: @LittleLeaguePro

Follow us on Instagram: @LittleLeagueInsider

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mid-Atlantic Region Semifinal Recaps

No. 2 Taney (PA) 6, No. 3 Colonie (NY) 5

What a game between Pennsylvania and New York. Colonie shocked the heavy favorites with a
Courtesy of Paul Alesse,
three-run lead early thanks to double after double by Colin McDonough, Jakob Lemperle, and Ian Parker. Jimmy Davis added an RBI single in the fourth to make it 3-0. Taney wouldn't be denied for long. After Jahli Hendricks and Jared Sprague-Lott got on, Zion Spearman finally uncorked a home run to tie the game. In the fifth, Mo'Ne Davis and Hendricks both reached by error and Sprague-Lott looped a double over the bag into short right field scoring everyone. Jack Rice added an RBI single which turned out to a be huge third run.

In the sixth, Taney went to Mo'Ne Davis to close it out. After giving up a leadoff walk, she got two outs, but Lemperle continued his tear with a two-run homer to left centerfield to bring Colonie within one, but Davis got out of trouble with the third out sending Taney to the regional final.

No. 4 Newark National (DE) 4, No. 1 Toms River (NJ) 3

What a ball game.

Jack Hardcastle dominated a good-hitting New Jersey team with 5 innings of two-hit baseball. Newark led 2-0 heading to the sixth on the back of an error which scored Brett Callahan and then a Callahan RBI single in the fifth. Newark added two huge runs in the sixth against Toms River's ace, Jon Giordano. Jason Dauerty (2-for-3) had an infield single and scored on a passed ball, Brandon Sengphachanh (2-for-3) singled, and Wyatt Minner ripped a single to score the important fourth run.

Toms River to its credit didn't die. They haven't all summer long. Hardcastle walked Vinny Rose and Giordano before getting relieved by A.J. Blanchard. Connor Cino ripped a two-run double to make it 4-2 with nobody out. He came around to score on an RBI single by Christian Wood. Jason Kapp singled to put two on and two out for Kayla Roncin, but Blanchard induced a ground out to send Newark National to its third straight regional championship.

Check back for a Mid-Atlantic Region championship tomorrow morning!

Little League New England Region Championship Preview

No. 2 Cumberland American, Rhode Island (4-1) vs. No. 1 Fairfield American, Connecticut (4-1)

Courtesy of Paul Alesse,
As expected from the beginning of the tournament, we have the two tournament favorites in the championship game. While Rhode Island started the tournament like an unstoppable force, they've come back to earth a bit. Connecticut, on the other hand, is trending upwards.

Cumberland Offense vs. P.J. Egan: Connecticut's number one pitcher, P.J. Egan, should be on the hill for Connecticut to face the powerful lineup of Rhode Island. If he reaches his pitch limit, Brian Howell is available, and he throws hard. Egan isn't overpowering by any means, but he's a pitcher. He allowed four hits and one run in the walk-off victory over Rhode Island in the first meeting. His ERA this week is 3.17, but he has had great wins over very good teams like the 2-1 victory over Farmington CT and a 4-2 victory over Norwalk CT, both teams worthy of a regional final. Rhode Island's offense is really strong. Hitters 1-6 are what I would call scary. Then you add guys like Trey Bourque at the bottom of the lineup and there are no free outs.
Addison Kopack has been the best hitter in the New England Region Tournament. Jayden Struble came up big against Maine in the semifinal. Rhode Island NEEDS him to have a big game. Nick Croteau is great at the top of the order but has been on a bit of a cold streak.

Fairfield Offense vs. Nick Croteau: Rhode Island will most likely go with Croteau (or C.J. Davock). Croteau hasn't allowed an earned run yet in three appearances in the regional and started game one. Both have good velocity but aren't overpowering either. Fairfield hasn't hit for a ton of power, but Jamie "Ralphie" Flink and Howell have left the yard recently including Flink's walk-off homer to beat Rhode Island and his first-inning homer against Massachusetts. Vince Camera has been the team's slugger up until the regional. It would be a perfect time to bust out.
Courtesy of Paul Alesse,

Bottom Line: This is as even of a game as you can get. Neither team beats itself on defense. Both should pitch well. It will come down to timely hitting and getting extra base runners through patience. These two programs have been here before. This is the third time they've faced each other since 2010 in elimination games. Fairfield went to Williamsport with a victory over Cumberland in 2010. Cumberland upset Fairfield in the semis in 2011 en route to the LLWS. Fairfield advanced to Williamsport in 2012, but Cumberland wasn't part of the regional that year.

This year, there's no clear favorite. Neither team is dominant at all. They're both just solid ball clubs that will play a great game tonight. Pitching and defense always beat good hitting, but in this matchup there isn't a pitching advantage, at least not by much. I'm going to stick with my pre-tournament pick.

Prediction: Rhode Island 5, Connecticut 3

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New England Semifinal Recaps (2014)

No. 2 Cumberland American (RI) 13, No. 3 Falmouth (ME) 4, (8 inn.)

For Cumberland, it doesn't get much scarier than today's game against Falmouth. The Maine champions, who were ranked last in my rankings at one point this week, brought their A game for television once again. Michael Simmonds loves the spotlight. With a home run to secure the three seed earlier in the week and then an incredible pitching performance (5 innings, 2 earned runs, five hits) against a lineup like Cumberland's. At one point, he retired nine straight and 11 of 12. He also had a two-run single to tie the game in the fifth.

With the game tied 4-4, Cumberland loaded the bases in the 8th with a walk, single from Jayden Struble, and a hit batter. Tyler Provost drew an RBI-walk to break the tie and Sean Meers ripped a two-run single to break the game open, but it didn't end there. Trey Bourque added an RBI-single to his two-run home run in the second inning. Nick Croteau had an infield single and then Struble hammered a three-run homer to put the game away for good.

Falmouth played an unbelievable game and tournament. Alex Smith went 3-for-4 with an RBI. He had a huge walkoff homer earlier this week. Ike Kiely had a pair of hits, and Sam Manganello had the game-tying single in the sixth. Falmouth also took home the Bob Watson Sportsmanship Award for the entire East Region. From everything I heard and saw, it was deserved. Great group. Paul Alesse of LiSPN who takes the officials photos of the tournament captured an amazing shot of Kiely in the eighth inning.

By scoring nine runs in the eighth inning, Cumberland was able to get Croteau out of the game at the 35-pitch threshold for the final. They'll also have C.J. Davock available.

Photo Courtesy of

No. 1 Fairfield American (CT) 9, No. 4 Barnstable Tom Wallace American (MA) 0

If you had to choose one of the two semifinals that would be tough on the favorite, you would've expected it to be this one. While Fairfield has been strong all week long, Barnstable has looked tough with its ace Wyatt Scotti on the mound, even dating back to the state final when Barnstable upset Holden.

Today, Fairfield showed why the league has been to the Little League World Series twice since 2010. They bring it in the big games. Connecticut scored three runs on four hits in the first inning including another opposite field home run from Jamie "Ralphie" Flink (2-for-3). Jack Steed (2-for-3, 3 RBI) continued his hot streak with a ribbie single. In the second inning, Fairfield added five more hits, all singles. Connecticut added another pair of runs off a two-run blast by Brian Howell (3-for-4). Eight of Fairfield's 11 players had a hit. It was an impressive performance.

Defensively, Fairfield was flawless and Sam Davenport found his groove on the mound allowing no runs on three hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five. Connecticut went to Howell to get the final four outs.

For Barnstable, Nick Wilson was 2-for-2.

We'll have a complete New England Regional Championship Preview article tomorrow night. Make sure you check back for that one.

Prediction Results- For the third consecutive year, I got the final two teams in the region correct. For the third consecutive time, I've also missed just one of the semifinalists. This year, it was subbing New Hampshire for Maine. A walk-off home run in that game was the difference. I chose Rhode Island to win the region from the beginning. We'll see if that changes in the New England Regional Final Preview tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 East Region Tournament: Day 5 Recap

Live Scoring

Toms River (NJ) 10, West Salisbury (MD) 5

Coming off a no-hitter and sitting in a great playoff position win-or-lose during this game, Maryland came out hot. West Salisbury put up four in the first inning off Toms River's #2 pitcher, Phil Antoniotti. As he usually does, Antoniotti settled down and didn't allow another run. New Jersey crept back in the game and exploded for five runs in the fifth to take a 7-4 lead. A Blake Corbin home run in the fifth got Maryland back within two, but Toms River added three more insurance runs. Christian Wood was 3-for-3 with an RBI. Chris Baker came off the bench to record three RBI including a two-run single in the fifth. Connor Cino had two hits, two runs, and an RBI for Jersey as well. Wood and Nick DeRose were solid in relief.

New Jersey is now in the driver's seat for the top seed (after Pennsylvania lost) and has Wood, DeRose, Jon Giordano (1-for-1, 2 walks, HBP today) available for the game with Delaware. Maryland, but virtue of New York's victory is eliminated. West Salisbury's defense hurt early in the tournament, but Maryland was definitely dealt a bad hand by missing the sixth place team, D.C. Ryan Mitchell and Dylan Smith did a great job leading the team this week.

Falmouth (ME) 9, Barnstable (MA) 4

Maine chose the best time to put up its best performance of the tournament. Falmouth is one of the most athletic teams in the region, but sometimes they don't put it all together. Today, they did. The defense was much sharper than usual and everyone came up with big hits. Brady Douglas (2-for-4) came through with a two-run single in the sixth to break a 3-3 tie with one out. Josh LeFevre added an RBI
Photo courtesy of Paul Alesse,
single and then Michael Simonds blasted a three-run homer to left to put the game away. Francis Kiely was a spark plug in the leadoff spot with three hits including a double. Barnstable falls to 1-2 in the tournament and is basically in a playoff game with New Hampshire now.

Falmouth at 2-2 will wait for other games to shake out to find out its position. Barring anything crazy with Rhode Island losing a second time, Maine should be in. There's a small chance of a four-way tie for three spots right now.

Fairfield American (CT) 5, Cumberland American (RI) 3
The best game of the day was a probable championship preview. Connecticut started its ace PJ Egan. He went three innings giving up one run on four hits. Brian Howell allowed just two hits in his 1 1/3 innings of relief and no earned runs. Ian Bentley closed it out and actually grabbed the win with 1 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball. All of those numbers are incredibly impressive considering how imposing Rhode Island's offense has been.

Cumberland took a 3-2 lead in the fifth, but Bentley hit a two-out double and then Jack Steed (3-for-3) drove him in to tie the game. In the sixth, with two outs again, Jamie Flink lofted a two-run walk-off homer to left centerfield.

Colonie (NY) 5, Taney (PA) 3

It looked like yet another Taney victory early on. Joe Richardson was dominating the Colonie lineup with an overpower fastball and a nasty off speed pitch. Jack Rice, Richardson, and Carter Davis each hit an RBI double in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead. It took just one inning to swing the momentum. Zane Nelsen settled in on the mound for New York and continued to let his "gravity ball" just tickle the paint on the outer corner. He had a 14-pitch third inning with no hits against the meat of the order and then Richardson walked a pair in the bottom of the inning. With frustration setting in, Richardson took something off his fastball and left it in the zone for Jakob Lemperle to hammer the other way for a game-tying three-run homer.

Taney never figured Nelsen out and it stayed that way until the fifth inning when Lemperle ripped an RBI triple and then scored on a passed ball to take a 5-3 lead into the sixth. Nelsen got through 5 2/3 innings including strikeouts of Taney's ultra dangerous four and five hitters in his final two batters. Lemperle came on for the final out and got it easily. The victory clinched a playoff spot for New York and shook up the seeding for everyone.

East Region Rankings after Day 4

1. New Jersey (3-0)

2. Pennsylvania (2-1)

3. Rhode Island (2-1)

4. Delaware (2-1)

5. Connecticut (3-1)

6. New York (2-2)

7. Maine (2-2)

8. New Hampshire (1-2)

9. Vermont (1-2)

10. Maryland (1-3)

11. Massachusetts (1-2)

12. Washington D.C. (0-3)

Random Thoughts: The four spots are set in the Mid-Atlantic. We just don't know the order. If New Jersey beats Delaware and Pennsylvania beats D.C., it'll be New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware. If Delaware wins or Pennsylvania loses... things get a little crazy. Pennsylvania didn't go for the jugular today and they could've. That may cost them a significantly easier semifinal opponent. On the New England side, Connecticut is the one seed. The winner of New Hampshire and Massachusetts is in essence a play-in game, assuming Rhode Island beats Vermont. If Williston can knock Rhode Island off that would create a four-way tie for second, third, fourth, and the odd team out at 2-2.

Home Run Meter: 20 (Last Year: 18, Previous Year: 21)

Strikeout Meter: 243 (Last Year: 267, Previous Year: 235)

Prediction Record: 1-3 (Overall: 14-6, clinched a worse record than last year (25-5) with that performance)

Wednesday's Predictions: Delaware over New Jersey 7-5, New Hampshire over Massachusetts 6-4, Rhode Island over Vermont 13-3, and Pennsylvania over D.C. 11-1. 


Join the Discussion: Little League World Series Discussion Group

Like our page: Little League Insider

Follow us on Twitter: @LittleLeaguePro

Follow us on Instagram: @LittleLeagueInsider

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2014 East Region: Day 4 Recap/Predictions


Newark National (DE) 9, Northwest Washington (DC) 4

Newark got a pretty solid scare from D.C. today when Northwest scored four runs in the fourth inning without the benefit of a ball hit to the outfield. In fact, Northwest doesn't have an extra-base hit this entire tournament. The D.C. pitching and defense continue to keep games close though and today was no different. Dylan Waldner kept Delaware in check for most of the game, but Newark's bats woke up a bit. Brett Callahan was 3-for-4 with a two-run double. Brandon Sengphachanh was 2-for-3 with a home run, double and two RBI. It was his second home run of the tournament, tying him for the lead. Jason Dauerty cranked a triple, and David Hawtof added an RBI double in the sixth to create some breathing room. Neither team is in, neither team is out.

Barnstable (MA) 7, Williston (VT) 2

I'm sure Massachusetts feels much better now after Game 2. The 25-5 drubbing at the hands of Rhode Island certainly wasn't indicative of this team's talent.

"We took one on the chin in districts, almost took one in sections, and took one on the chin in states. (Against Rhode Island), we took it on the chin, torso, and the legs. It was brutal," Barnstable manager Joe Burke said. "I don't know what it is that makes us need to wake up."

Having ace Wyatt Scotti on the mound certainly helped. Scotti was almost perfect with 4 1/3 innings pitched, no runs, one hit, five strikeouts, and no walks. Barnstable pulled him at 50 pitches for the semifinals with a 7-0 lead. He added an RBI double at the plate. The substitutes all reached base at least once and scored including a huge two-run triple from Jack "Babe" Ruth, who wears number three.

For Vermont, Aidan Johnson and Griffin McDermott had RBIs in the sixth, but never truly threatened against Scotti. Both teams are still alive.

West Salisbury (MD) 5, Colonie (NY) 0  (NO-HITTER)

Maryland needed a win in the worst way and much like Massachuetts, West Salisbury found comfort in its ace. Dylan Smith looked unhittable against Colonie and he was. After a shaky first inning or two with control issue, Smith settled into a groove and went 4 2/3 innings of no runs, no hits, eight strikeouts, and three walks. Ethan Peterman came in and finished the no-hitter with four straight outs to end the game. The win puts New York's playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. Maryland, on the other hand, has the inside track at a semifinal spot now, even with a loss.

Maryland took a 1-0 lead in the third with a double from Jacob Long (3-for-3, two runs) and an RBI from Ryan Mitchell. Then in the fourth, Mitchell added a three run triple with two outs to break the game open.

The win certainly calms some of the turmoil from two tough losses, and really puts Maryland in charge of its own destiny. New York on the other hand has had a really rough week at the plate. Colonie scored 50+ runs in three games in the state tournament against two quality teams, but all of a sudden can't even hit the ball hard. Now, New York needs a win over unbeaten Pennsylvania to stay in it.

Cumberland American (RI) 10, Goffstown Jr. Baseball (NH) 0, (4 inn.)

Courtesy of Paul Alesse,
Despite winning 10-0 in four innings, Cumberland showed its first signs of slowing down with just three runs over the final three innings. The hard-hitting boys from Rhode Island put up a seven spot in the first inning with laced line drive after line drive including a double from Addison Kopack that bounced over the six-foot fence. That's how hard it was hit. Kopack hit a solo homer in the second inning into the trees and added a double in the fourth. Cumberland's solid pitching staff allowed just three hits.

They're far and away the best team in New England. If anyone else wins the region it'll be a travesty. We still need to see Rhode Island hit against an ace pitcher and it's not clear if their pitching can hold up at the next level, but the bats seem legit 1-9.

East Region Rankings After Day 4

1. Pennsylvania (2-0)

2. Rhode Island (2-0)

3. New Jersey (2-0)

4. Delaware (2-1)

5. Connecticut (2-1)

6. Massachusetts (1-1)

7. Maryland (1-2)

8. New Hampshire (1-2)

9. New York (1-2)

10. Vermont (1-2)

11. Washington D.C. (0-3)

12. Maine (1-2)

Random Thoughts: It's incredible what your ace on the mound can do for your team's confidence. Massachusetts and Maryland looked completely different from their previous outings and not just because of the pitching itself. Everything about them looked better. The television games begin on Tuesday for New England which has Massachusetts and Rhode Island playing three games in three days with the semifinals to follow on the fourth day. That's a terrible schedule. Hopefully it doesn't burn anyone.

Home Run Meter: 16 (Last Year: 13, Previous Year: 17)

Strikeout Meter: 203 (Last Year: 206, Previous Year: 200)

Prediction Record: 3-1 (Overall: 13-3, Last Year: 12-4 after a 1-3 day)

Tuesday's Predictions: New Jersey over Maryland 9-3, Massachusetts over Maine 8-4, Rhode Island over Connecticut 7-5, and Pennsylvania over New York 7-1.

Join the Discussion: Little League World Series Discussion Group

Like our page: Little League Insider

Follow us on Twitter: @LittleLeaguePro

Follow us on Instagram: @LittleLeagueInsider

Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 Eastern Region: Day 3 Recap


Courtesy of  Paul Alesse,

Taney (PA) 8, Newark National (DE) 4

The first game of the tournament between two teams that can win this thing had an excitement in the air on Sunday morning. It could've had something to do with the fact that Mo'Ne Davis was getting the start against a team with Little League World Series veterans. Davis looked cool and calm during her warm up routine and that unflappable swagger continued right into the game. Davis induced a pop up and struck out Delaware's two best hitters to start the game and she did it with a fastball that gets into the mid to upper sixties and a curveball that she puts where she wants. She took a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts into the sixth inning as Taney dominated the game with an 8-1 lead. Davis lost some zip on her fastball by the sixth inning and the third time through the order Jack Hardcastle and Brandon Sengphachanh hit back-to-back homers to make it 8-4. Joe Richardson came into get the final out of the game though and preserve the 8-4 victory. Jared Sprague-Lott blasted his tournament-leading second home run. Jahli Hendrick was 3-for-3. He's now 6-for-6 in two games. Newark National committed four errors. Three of which were pretty uncharacteristic. One was a rocket by Zion Spearman that anyone would've had trouble getting in front of at shortstop. Spearman, Taney's most feared hitter, is actually hitless this weekend so far.

Check out the rest after the jump!