BRISTOL - Trailing New Hampshire 5-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Rhode Island pulled off the improbable.
Tommy Turner ripped a walk-off two-run single to center field, which scored Sammy Fuentes and Dylan Mourao to cap off a six-run comeback, stunning New Hampshire 6-5 and advance Rhode Island to the Little League New England Regional championship game against Massachusetts today at 1 p.m.
“I was just thinking about all the hits that have been going on in that inning and I couldn’t let my team down,” Turner said. “I just knew I had to get my bat on the ball and hit one in the gap.”
While Turner was the hero, Mourao may have saved the day for Rhode Island on Friday at Breen Field in Bristol.
With just a single hit the entire tournament coming in and an out in that spot would end the game Mourao ripped a two-out single to center field to bring the top of the order up in Tyler Simon.
Mourao scored the game winning run as well, hustling around the bases and just barely beating the throw to home by New Hampshire centerfielder Logan Simmons.
“Dylan would be probably a leadoff [guy] on a lot of teams but Tyler and him are both leadoffs so putting them back-to-back gives me a ton of speed,” Rhode Island manager Lou Simon said. “And I have confidence in lefty or righty whatever they need to do and I had confidence Dylan was gonna drive one up the middle and that’s what he did.”
Turner, Jake Mather, Logan Lama and Kody Fretts started the inning off accounting for the first three runs. Turner and Mather singled then were driven in by Lama, who launched a triple to left field.
New Hampshire manager Ryan Simmons then turned to Cam Hujsak on the mound in relief of starting pitcher Will Perkowski. Fretts singled off Hujsak to score Lama and make the score 5-3.
After Mourao’s single, Tyler Simon was up with the bases loaded and drew a walk to score pinch runner Aiden Wilkins and bring Rhode Island within one run.
Will Owens and Anthony Colucci each flied out for two consecutive outs before Fuentes walked, Mourao singled and the top of the order finished it off.
“This will last a long time for sure,” manager Simon said. “I couldn’t be more proud and I’m pretty sure me and the other coaches almost stroked out on the way to right field. But it’s going to be something I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I’m sure these guys will as well.”
Perkowski was strong on the mound for New Hampshire outside of the sixth inning. He finished with a respectable five innings of work, allowing three earned runs and striking out four Rhode Island batters.
Mather started for Rhode Island pitching and lasted 3 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits, two earned runs, two walks and struck out six. Turner pitched in relief of Mather and finished off the game with 2 1/3 innings. He gave up one earned run, two hits, walked three and struck out two.
Turner led the way offensively for Rhode Island with three of the team’s nine hits.
New Hampshire’s Ryan Strand, Logan Simmons and Perkowski each had multi-hit games.
With the win, Rhode Island will have to clear its minds and get back to work today in the championship game against a Massachusetts team that beat it 10-1 on Wednesday.
Massachusetts is expected to start Evan Blake while Rhode Island will be turning to Lama.
Blake has been a star of the tournament and Rhode Island may focus on other hitters with a trip to Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series on the line.
“We’ll see on the situation and how we’re feeling,” manager Simon said when asked about pitching around Blake. “I have confidence in my pitchers and I think if we can hit our spots, we can do something. But obviously he’s a very, very dangerous hitter and we’ll see. It’ll be situation by situation and we’ll see how Lama’s throwing, where he is with his pitches and we’ll kind of build off of that.”