The smallest state in the country is sending its fifth team to the Little League World Series since 2011, as Coventry Little League beat Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the New England Regional Championship this weekend.
They opened the tournament in fashion, with a 10-0 win off of a perfect game, and closed out with an insane comeback in the semifinals and a clutch home run in the championship game.
Tommy Turner threw four perfect innings in the mercy-rule victory in day one over Connecticut, and they followed up the next day with another 10-0 victory over Vermont- this one lasted five innings. Jake Mather had eight strikeouts over 4.2 innings, and also had an RBI in the game. Mather led the team with 11 hits in the tournament, and hit the only homerun.
Coventry set out to play Pittsfield, Massachusetts in their third game- a play-in for the championship round. They sent out Turner again- however the magic wasn’t there again. He went an inning and a third, giving up three earned runs and eventually taking the loss. Coventry fell 10-1 to Pittsfield, earning themselves another game before they could compete for the trip to Williamsport.
After New Hampshire topped Connecticut 9-3, they matched up with Coventry to determine Pittsfield’s contestant in the championship. They were down 5-0 before heading into their final at-bats. Turner, with some of the magic left from his perfect game, started the rally with a single and Mather followed in his footsteps. Logan Lama brought them both home with a triple, and then was brought home with a single in the next at-bat.
The score was 5-3 when Coventry loaded the bases with two outs, and Tyler Simon worked himself a seven-pitch walk to bring the game within a run. Turner came up again to finish what he started, driving home a two-run single to win the game for Coventry.
Two days later, after the boys had battled back to win when down to their final out, they stepped onto the field with a trip to the Little League World Series on the line. Neither aces, Turner and Mather, were available, so Lama was handed the ball for the win-or-go-home game. Meanwhile, Pittsfield started their ace and had a fully rested bullpen behind them after enjoying three days of rest.
Lama threw 4.2 innings with two earned runs, coming out of the game in a 2-2 tie. Mather came up to bat later in the inning, and fell behind to an 0-2 count. The next pitch he saw was driven high off of the left field light post, putting Coventry ahead 3-2. In his first appearance of the tournament, Anthony Colucci held onto the slim lead and closed the game out, officially sending Rhode Island to the Little League World Series.
Coventry marks the fourth Little League from Rhode Island to compete in Williamsport in the last five years, and the fifth in the past eight. Cumberland won the New England Region in 2011 and then again in 2014, with David Belisle and his famous speech. In 2015, Gary Bucci brought Cranston Western Little League to the tournament. Warwick North took the trip the following year before Fairfield, Connecticut broke the streak in 2017.
The boys will represent New England and open up play against Post Oak Little League from Houston, Texas representing the Southwest Region this Thursday, Aug. 16. Should they win, they’d face the winner of Staten Island, NY and Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 19. Coventry would then need to win one more game before advancing to the U.S Championship on Aug. 25.
It’s easier said than done, however Coventry knows they have an entire state behind their backs- it’s a Rhode Island thing.
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