Saturday, August 9, 2014

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

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