Manger Kevin Lavigne gets Bedford ready to play against Coventry, R.I., at the Little League New England regional in Bristol, Conn. (Brandon Barrett/Replay Sports)
BRISTOL, Conn. - Bedford manager Kevin Lavigne and his 11- and 12-year-old all-stars aren't concerned with earning style points for their wins at Little League baseball's New England Regional.
That's a good thing. The team's second win, while valuable, wasn't pretty.
From Timmy Saltzman's first pitch to Grant Lavigne's game-ending strikeout, Bedford labored in a 17-9 win over Coventry, R.I., Monday at Breen Field. The teams combined for 28 hits, 10 walks and four errors in a 5 1/2-inning contest that took 2 hours, 31 minutes to complete.
'I think the recipe that we had during the state tournament was utilized again today, in terms of requiring pitchers to throw a lot of pitches against us. Many, many deep counts. Quite a few walks,' Kevin Lavigne said. 'And when we did get pitches to drive, we were able to put them in play.'
Bedford (9-0 overall, 2-0 N.E.) cracked 13 hits, two fewer than Coventry (9-2, 1-2). But Bedford's batters, known for their discipline at the plate, worked eight free passes.
'We just couldn't find the rhythm on the mound today,' said Coventry manager Mark Barter, who used five pitchers during his team's five innings in the field.
Leadoff hitter and winning pitcher Connor Collins (seven strikeouts, walk, five hits) proved critical to the outcome. He tossed 3 2/3 innings in relief, allowing just three runs. Coventry erupted for six runs through two frames.
'I think, pitching, I did pretty well. There were definitely some times I could have located my fastball a little bit better,' said Collins, who surrendered one of Coventry's three homers. 'But Rhode Island has some pretty good hitters.'
Coventry learned Collins (2-for-3, four runs, three RBIs) can swing the stick, too. After drawing walks in his first and second plate appearances, he went 2-for-3.
Before collecting a fifth-inning base hit, he delivered the dagger: a three-run, third-inning triple. It was the highlight hit in Bedford's six-run barrage.
The three-bagger helped Bedford build a 12-7 lead through three innings. New Hampshire's champs faced a 7-6 hole - their third deficit of the game - at the start of the inning.
'The first game of this tournament, we were also behind. I think we just believe a lot in this team,' said catcher and cleanup hitter Connor Zendzian, whose contributions included a 3-for-3 effort with three RBIs, two runs and a walk.
Zendzian's walk opened the six-run third. He tied the game at 7-apiece three batters later; Ryan Lee worked a four-pitch walk with the bags packed.
Joseph Quintal (two hits) slapped a slow-rolling groundout that scored Brennan Hughes and gave Bedford an 8-7 lead.
Collins soon struck for some much-needed insurance.
'It wasn't pretty, in terms of a total effort. We threw a couple of balls away,' Bedford's manager said. 'But the defense was relatively good. Our offense was opportunistic. We made the most of what they gave us.'