Goffstown on a roll in Little League regionalBy JOHN HABIB
New Hampshire Union Leader
August 08. 2017 11:35PM
Thanks in part to Logan Simmons’ dramatic three-run homer Monday in an 8-2 win over Holden, Mass., the Goffstown Little League All-Stars are two wins away from a World Series berth in South Williamsport, Pa.
“Monday’s win against a tough Massachusetts team was a gutsy performance by our entire team,” said Goffstown head coach Jeff O’Connell on Tuesday. “But we know we’ve got to remain focused because we’re playing another tough team (today).”
In the winners’ bracket final of the 11-12-year-old New England Little League Regional Tournament today at 4 p.m. at Bristol, Conn., Goffstown will battle Fairfield, Conn.
The winner will advance to Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship game while the loser will have to win a game Friday at 1 p.m. to advance to Saturday’s championship.
Based on regional history, Goffstown has had the toughest road in this tournament, but has met the challenge in convincing fashion.
On Sunday, behind five RBIs from Ryan Cote, the New Hampshire champions routed Cumberland, R.I., 13-0.
On Monday, against Holden, which had a first-round bye, Simmons delivered his clutch homer to break a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning on an 0-2 delivery.
Today Goffstown meets Fairfield, which thumped South Portland, Maine, 8-0 Monday in its only contest. Fairfield drew a first-round bye, which is an advantage because the Connecticut champs entered the regionals needing just three straight wins for a World Series berth.
Since 2006, when Portsmouth was the last New Hampshire state champion to win the regional tournament, the state champs from Massachusetts (twice), Rhode Island (four times, including last three) and Connecticut (four times including Fairfield in 2010 and 2012) have captured the World Series berth. So far Goffstown has beaten the Bay State and the Ocean State.
Goffstown’s offense has generated 21 runs and 21 hits and, combined with its pitching staff of Aiden O’Connell, Cote, Nate Innerfield and Simmons, and defense, which has held its first two opponents to two runs (one earned) and five hits overall, the Granite State champs are clicking on all cylinders.
“Our defense (only two errors in two games) has been spectacular and all of our pitchers have thrown the right pitches at the right time, especially on many 3-2 counts,” said O’Connell, who said his son, Aiden, Cote, Ronnie Morgan and Cam Hujsak will be available to pitch today against Fairfield.
“We’re as good as we can be in the pitching department at this stage of the tournament,” said O’Connell, who said he saw Fairfield play Maine on Monday.
“They’re not overly big, but they do hit the ball,” said O’Connell. “We haven’t changed our approach on offense. We continue to be aggressive, work the pitch count and find ways to reach base.”
O’Connell said the aggression of his team’s offense was on display against Holden on Monday.
“We faced the hardest throwing pitcher (Sean Verrier of Holden) who was throwing nothing but darts Monday, in the mid-70s,” said O’Connell. “In fact he didn’t throw anything but fastballs, not one single curveball. The first time around many of our hitters were having problems solving his fastball with the exception of Logan (Simmons) who got a double off of him. The second time around in our lineup, we remained aggressive and started to figure him out.”
In a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning with two outs, O’Connell reached on a single and Cote walked, setting the table for Simmons, who got down 0-2 in the count.
“Logan is a tough 11-year- old kid who battled and was fouling off pitches until he made contact on that 0-2 pitch that was hit to the opposite side over the 225-foot mark,” said O’Connell. “That home run was huge for many reasons. It gave us the momemtum to win the game. We didn’t have to come back the next day (Tuesday) to play Vermont in a losers’ bracket game at 1 o’clock. And finally we were able to have a stress free day off (Tuesday) and reward our entire team with a big dinner away from the complex.”
Massachusetts paid the price, getting eliminated in a 7-5 loss to Vermont on Tuesday just 12 hours after losing to Goffstown on Monday in a game that ended around 11:30 p.m.
O’Connell said the team continues to feed off the fan support supplied by the Goffstown community and said his players know fully what’s at stake today.
“They’re fired up, ready to play another game,” said O’Connell. “We’re playing the best teams in our region and our kids love the challenge, They’re thriving on it.”