Playing for their Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series lives Wednesday, New Milford, Conn., and Mountain Home, Ark., battled for the final spot in Friday's United States semifinals. New Milford put together a 14-hit attack that produced 14 runs, en route to an 14-5 win in American Division pool play.
New Milford's win puts the team into Friday's United States semifinals, where they will meet unbeaten Piedmont, Del., the top seed from the National Division.
In Wednesday's must win, New Milford (3-1) got off to another good start, but Mountain Home just wouldn't go away.
New Milford leadoff batter Kendall Greene put New Milford on top with a solo home run to center field.
Mountain Home evened the game with a run in the top of the second, but each time the Arkansas team scored, New Milford had an answer.
"We have a little joke when we come in from every inning," New Milford Manager Paul Gesualdi said. "If a team scores on us, we always tell the kids, all right, you owe me that one plus, and we throw out a number, get me two more and that just seemed to be what was working today."
In the bottom of the second, Nick Dicandido and Tyler Bowe drew back-to-back, one-out walks.
Hunter Skelly then pushed a bunt up the first baseline where Mountain Home first baseman Sam Arp and pitcher Luke Kruse couldn't agree on who was to field it. Skelly took advantage and hustled out a base hit to load the bases and with two outs, Greene added two more RBIs with a sharp single to right.
Mountain Home added another single run in the third, but so did New Milford on a pair of back-to-back two-out doubles from Chris Gesualdi and Dicandido.
Hanging tight, Mountain Home pushed across its third run in the fourth to make to 4-3, but New Milford took off from there.
In the bottom of the fourth, 10 New Milford batters came to the plate. Pinch hitter Joey Shine ignited the rally with a leadoff single. Shine stole second and scored on Tim Cianciolo's single.
Greene then reached base on a hit by pitch and Austin Swanson singled in Cianciolo. Max Cotier then hit a hard ground ball off pitcher Luke Jackson's throwing hand to load the bases.
Kurtis Krizan politely unloaded them with a long grand slam home run over the left field wall, capping the six-run inning for a 10-3 lead.
Mountain Home showed no quit, adding its final two runs in the fifth on consecutive home runs from Jackson and Luke Kruse.
New Milford responded again, scoring its final four runs, including two on a suicide squeeze. Green scored easily from third and Swanson scored all the way from second.
Bowe pitched the first three innings to earn the win. He allowed two runs on three hits. He walked one and struck out one.
Cianciolo pitched the final three innings, yielding three runs on six hits. He hit a batter and struck out a batter.
New Milford survives Tuesday scare
New Milford let an 9-0 lead slip away Tuesday, only to regroup and win 10-9 in the bottom of the sixth inning over Meridian, Idaho, at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
At Nationals Park, meanwhile, Mountain Home kept itself in contention by upsetting Elk Grove, Calif., 6-5., in seven innings.
In Tuesday's win, the New Milford club had what some might call a laugher. A three-run first, followed by a five-run second and one-run third had New Milford sailing through three innings.
The only things that seemed to slow the Thunder down were two rain delays that totaled 52 minutes and a two-run home run by Meridian's Jaydon Yancey.
New Milford had its own display of power in back-to-back innings.
Austin Swanson, who doubled and scored the first run off the game in the first, blasted a two-run shot in the second. Kendall Greene's bunt single, the first of five straight New Milford hits, set up the blast.
Max Cotier, Kurtis Krizan and Chris Gesualdi added singles in the inning.
The lone run in the fourth was provided by one of the smallest guys on the team, CJ Brito. Brito hit a nasty line drive foul off the first pitch he saw and a few pitches later drilled a solo home run to center field, a dinger likely to measure over 250-feet.
New Milford starting pitcher Tyler Bowe had shut Meridian out on three hits for three innings.
The aforementioned home run was surrendered by Gesualdi. He ran into bigger trouble in the sixth.
Leading 9-2, Gesualdi walked the leadoff batter. Yancey followed with a triple and the flood gates opened.
Kaden Hollow followed with an RBI single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Gesualdi got Matt Nichols to fly out, but Cale LeFever's single scored Hollow to make it 9-5.
Manager Paul Gesualdi opted for Cotier, the winning pitcher in Monday's game.
Cotier struck out the first batter he faced for the second out, but out number three was hard to find. Peyton Rossi hot a RBI double and Brayden Hamilton added a single.
Carson Smith then doubled in a run to make it 9-7 and Danny Burns also doubled to plate runs 8 and 9. Nick Romano, the player who started the rally, popped out to shortstop to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Swanson led off with an infield single. He stole second and headed for home on Cotier's single.
Swanson was held at third, but the throw from center field, short hopped the Meridian catcher and rolled toward the backstop.
Swanson raced home with the winning run, setting off a celebration on the field.
Swanson finished with three hits, while Cotier, Krizan and Gesualdi each had two hits. Bowe also had a two RBI single.
Mountain Home stays alive
In Mountain Home's upset win, the Southwest champs, who committed five errors, overcame a 5-2 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning and then won in the seventh. Mountain Home pushed across the winning run on Luke Jackson's game-winning RBI double. The extra-base hit scored Austin Mize, who had drawn a one-out walk.
Elk Grove took a 1-0 lead in the third. Cole Bendle singled in Jino Enriquez, who had singled earlier in the inning.
Mountain Home went ahead for the first time in the bottom of the fifth on Luke Dibble's two-run home run, but Elk Grove scored four times in the sixth, only to see Mountain Home rally for three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Bendle had two hits for Elk Grove, as did Nico Regino. Dibble, Sam Arp and Jordan Anderson had two hits each to pace Mountain Home.
Jackson picked up the win, working an inning and a third. RJ Blanton took the loss.