BRISTOL, Conn. --- Cumberland certainly did its part in pool play. Now the local Major Division (ages 11 and 12) all-star team will try to produce the three victories it needs to capture its first-ever Eastern Regional softball championship and advance to the Little League World Series.
Cumberland wrapped up its New England portion of the regional tournament with its third victory in four games on Tuesday afternoon by producing an 8-1 victory over winless Swanton, Vt. at Breen Field on the Bart Giamatti Complex.
The locals scored twice in the top of the first inning, blew open the game with a five-run rally in the fifth, and used the solid one-hit pitching of Sam Jalbert and relievers Katie Calabro and Jocelyn Bodington and an errorless defense to silence their Vermont opponent.
“I’m very proud of these girls,” said Cumberland manager Ken Jalbert, whose club (11-1 overall) not only outscored their four New England opponents, 30-14, but also outhit them, 31-16. “They really played well during pool play, and I think they’re the best team in the New England region.”
Unfortunately for Cumberland, the team had to wait until late in the night to see if it was worthy of the top seed from the New England region or the second. Fairfield, Conn. and Jesse Burkett of Worcester, Mass., which both entered the day sporting 2-1 pool play records, battled each other in the 8 p.m. pool play finale, and Fairfield came away with a resounding 15-0 triumph.
Fairfield, the defending New England champion, received the top seed because it claimed the head-to-head tiebreaker with Cumberland, having won a 7-6 thriller over the locals on Saturday.
As a result, Cumberland will be back in action today at 11 a.m. with a matchup against the Mid-Atlantic’s third seed, Warrington, Penn. (2-2).
A win by Jesse Burkett, which Cumberland defeated, 10-2, on Sunday, would have given Cumberland the top seed, and instead of Fairfield, it would have been Cumberland playing an 8 p.m. game tonight with the Mid-Atlantic region’s fourth seed, Perryville, Md. (1-3).
“We came very close to beating Connecticut,” said the Cumberland manager. “We had that one bad inning in the second when they scored six runs and we just couldn’t get over that hump.”
The semifinals are set for tomorrow at 4 and 7 p.m., and the championship game, which brings the winner a berth in next month’s World Series in Portland, Ore., is Friday at 7 p.m.
“I think we’re the best team in the tournament,” added Cumberland catcher Emily Anderson. “Our defense is as strong as any other team, and everyone on our team can hit.”
Anderson, who did not play last summer because of a broken foot, certainly hit the ball. The catcher was 2-for-3 with three runs batted in to lead Cumberland’s tournament-best 10-hit attack.
“Emily was the star of the game today,” added the Cumberland manager, who also received two hits from Sydney Provencal. “She had two hits and she caught the last four innings, and I think I worked her a little harder than usual.”
The Cumberland pitching trio of Jalbert, Calabro, and Bodington also worked hard to deliver a fine outing, as they teamed up to strike out five batters, walk six, and allow just three batted balls to reach the outfield.
Each pitcher went two innings. Jalbert tossed the first two and allowed the lone hit, a one-out single in the first by Adrianna Dostie. Calabro went the next two and retired all six batters she faced, and Bodington, the youngest player on the squad, overcame a rocky fifth inning with her control to strike out four batters over the final two frames.
“I felt a little rusty in my first inning, but I came back and pitched better,” Bodington added.
Before anyone could get settled in their seats, Cumberland quickly got on the board. Julianne Ross led off by reaching first when her pop fly to left field was dropped for an error. She then took second and third on consecutive wild pitches, and trotted home on a base hit by Emily D’Abrosca.
D’Abrosca then advanced to second on a passed ball and tried to score on a base hit to center by Brianna Frankina, but she was thrown out at the plate on a perfect 8-6-2 relay.
After an infield popout resulted in Cumberland’s second out, Maddison Leite hammered a long triple to left (her second triple of the tournament) that went to the fence and scored Frankina with Cumberland’s second run.
Cumberland didn’t strike again until the fifth. A leadoff walk to Ross and a fielding error on a grounder by D’Abrosca put runners on first and second, and an out later, Provencal laced a sharp single up the middle to drive home Ross with ease.
After an error on the throw to the plate allowed D’Abrosca and Provencal to each move up a base, Kailey Brodeur ripped a two-run single down the left-field line to make it a 5-0 game.
And Cumberland wasn’t done. Bodington followed with a walk, and after a passed ball moved the runners into scoring position, Anderson roped a ground single into left to plate two more runs.
“We really didn’t start hitting until the fifth inning,” said the Cumberland manager. “All these girls can put the ball in play, and that’s what they did today.”
Swanton scored its run in the bottom of the fifth with the help of three walks and a pair of wild pitches, but Cumberland answered that with its final run in the sixth on a run-scoring, two-out infield hit by Anderson. That drove in Provencal, who singled with one out and found herself on third after Brodeur and Bodington walked.