Friday, August 1, 2014

2014 New England Regional Tournament Preview

Check out the 2013 New England Region Preview right here to see how I did last summer. Like the Mid-Atlantic last year, I correctly picked both finalists. In New England? I had the champion picked from the get-go. As usual, I whiffed on one semifinal team. This year feels like it will be tougher to gauge. Let's get into it.

Check out the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Tournament Preview right here

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Okay, enough peddling... The preview comes after the jump....

Tournament History: New England and the Mid-Atlantic split in 2001 when Little League moved from four regions to eight. Since the split, Massachusetts and Connecticut had each sent a team to Williamsport four times. Connecticut sent three in the last four years though. Massachusetts on the other hand has been way down. Rhode Island is right on the cups with three titles themselves in a regional that absolutely has a "Big 3." New Hampshire and Maine have each sent one team to Williamsport in the last 13 years. Vermont has yet to make it ever.

2014 League Pedigree: Fairfield American (CT) is on one of the biggest rolls in the country. This is Fairfield American's fourth trip to regionals since 2010 and they went to Williamsport twice in that time including 2010 and 2012. This group won a state championship as 11-year olds as well. Cumberland American (RI) has done well in Rhode Island despite facing some quality competition, especially from its own district and rival Lincoln. Cumberland has recent Williamsport history as well though. CALL beat FALL in the 2011 semifinals and then Cumberland won the regional championship. This team won the state title last season as 11-years olds.

In a weird coincidence, Goffstown (NH) was ALSO in the 2011 New England regional and a solid favorite, but they bailed out in the semifinals that year. Goffstown won the state title in 2000 though when it was still the East Regional with 12 teams, and the boys from the Granite State still advanced to the World Series. This Goffstown group played in the regionals as 10-year olds.

Falmouth (ME) hasn't won a state title since 1992, it's only championship. Barnstable (MA) is a recently condensed league, but has never won a state championship regardless. Williston (VT) won its lone state championship in 2008. This group has experience winning the Vermont title as 10-year olds, however.

Team Previews (Overall 2014 Tournament Record in Parentheses)

Fairfield American, CT (13-1): Fairfield has come into Bristol with a ton of fanfare in the past. They were expected to win championships in 2010 and 2012, and even in 2011 they had big personality. This year's edition seems to have the lowest expectations of the four. It doesn't mean they're not potential champions. Vince Camera, Brian Howell, and Jamie Flink are the bash brothers of Fairfield with home runs leaving the yard left and right. Camera and Howell each have nine homers in 14 games. Flink had a 3-homer game himself. P.J. Egan is the team's trusted right-hander on the mound, but Sam Davenport is coming off a two-hit shutout in the state finals. This is a team with potential.

Falmouth, ME (10-2): It's not a great sign when you lose a pair of games in the state of Maine if you want to make noise in Bristol, and it's doubly alarming when the team gives up a lot of runs. Falmouth allowed five or more runs in every game during the state tournament including 10+ over the last two games. The good news is that Falmouth hits the ball too. Nate Rodgers isn't one of the team's regular sluggers, but he bashed two home runs in the state title game. His first two ever. Alex Smith, Brady Douglas, and Mike Simonds are all excellent hitters along with Jackson Quinn.

Barnstable, MA (7-1, not including district): Barnstable kind of came from nowhere to win Massachusetts, but its not for lack of talent. The Mass tournament structure is one of the toughest to navigate because of time crunch and single elimination. Barnstable found a way to do it though, and they did it by scoring a ton of runs. Brian Freih has a lot of pop in his bat and big Wyatt Scotti is a good hitter at the top of the order and a solid pitcher to boot. He shut down a very good Holden team. Colby Burke and Nick Wilson hit gap-to-gap as well.

Goffstown, NH (7-0): Goffstown was a scary team up in New Hampshire this year leaving mouths on the floor, especially in Portsmouth, the team Goffstown crushed in a Best of 3 series. Connor Husjak proved to have a big time fastball on the mound and a big time bat in the box. Myles Green, Liam Kibreth, and Brett Padnode all had big hits in the final, but according to Portsmouth there is no rest period for opposing pitchers in that lineup.

Cumberland American, RI (7-0): Cumberland comes out of Rhode Island unbeaten and swinging a hot bat. They team has hit over 20 home runs in seven games, but they've also found ways to win tough ones with walkoff wins over Lincoln, Coventry, and the state championship game over Cranston Western. Jayden Struble is hitting well over .500 with six home runs and 21 RBI in seven games. Nick Croteau is no slouch in the leadoff spot with seven home runs in seven games.

Williston, VT (3-0, not including district): Williston knocked off South Burlington in its district championship and then cruised through the state championship including a 27-0 victory over Bennington in the state championship game. Griffin McDermott is the team's top pitcher and he launched a pair of homers in the state title game. Paul Angstmann, Storm Rushford, and Ben Herskowitz are all players to watch.

Prejected Records

Connecticut             3-1

Rhode Island           3-1

New Hampshire      3-1

Massachusetts         1-3

Vermont                 1-3

Maine                     1-3

Semifinals: Connecticut over Massachusetts 9-3, Rhode Island over New Hampshire 5-3.

Final: Rhode Island over Connecticut 7-6

Day 1 Predictions: New Hampshire over Maine, 9-6. Connecticut over Vermont, 9-3.

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