BRISTOL â€“ A rain delay could sometimes disrupt a playerâ€™s rhythm, but in Thursday nightâ€™s Little League Mid-Atlantic Regional contest, New Yorkâ€™s Nick Becker and Jaden Quezada seemed to heat up during the break.
An hour weather delay wasnâ€™t enough to slow down New Yorkâ€™s dynamic duo, as the pair combined for seven hits in as many at-bats, driving in nine runs and scoring four in a 15-4 rout of Washington D.C. New York plated four runs in the second before erupting for seven in the third behind Becker and Quezada to move to within one win of the Little League World Series.
â€śFor three years Iâ€™ve had these kids at the top of the order and theyâ€™ve always come through,â€ť New York head coach Jason Fabbri said of Becker and Quezada. â€śI have nothing to say because they always come through in big situations like this. Theyâ€™re clutch.â€ť
Washington D.C. heads to the elimination bracket after the loss and will have a rematch with New Jersey on Friday, while New York awaits the winner in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship, which will be played Saturday night on ESPN.
Becker began the night with a bang, drilling a deep double into the gap in left center that rolled to the fence, setting the tone for the hitting display that was about to take place. Becker was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple, but it only delayed the early rally for New York. The next batter Jeff Diaz was hit by a pitch and took second on a passed ball before advancing to third on a groundout by Gabriel Reyes. With storm clouds approaching, Quezada ripped an RBI double just inside the bag at third to give New York a 1-0 lead, just before lightning struck and the game was put in a weather delay.
Play resumed over an hour later and Washington D.C. starter Jacob Goldman was able to wiggle out of further damage. He was right back in trouble in the second thanks to back-to-back singles by New Yorkâ€™s Joseph Savigano and Josue Santana. Becker followed with his second double of the night, but again, it resulted in an out on the bases. Beckerâ€™s blast landed just over the head of center fielder John McMurray, causing both runners to hold up until the ball dropped just before the warning track. McMurray quickly fired in and the relay throw just beat Saviganoâ€™s slide home for the second out of the inning, but Goldman walked two straight batters to give New York a 2-0 lead.
Goldman and Washington D.C.â€™s problems were far from over. With the bases still loaded, Quezada ripped his second double of the game down the left field line to clear the bases, giving New York a 5-0 lead, with Quezada responsible for four of those runs.
â€śI felt amazing,â€ť Quezada said after coming back out following the rain delay. â€śWe were all hyped up in the dorm and came out firing.â€ť
Becker and Quezada struck again in the third, with Becker lacing an RBI single to left before Quezada knocked in two more with a single of his own to put New York ahead 9-0. Through the first three innings of play, Becker and Quezada combined to go 6-for-6 with seven RBI and three runs scored to lead the rout. Three more runs came across thanks to an infield single, an RBI groundout and a passed ball, as New York exploded for seven runs in the inning, sending 10 batters to the plate.
â€śIâ€™ve been seeing the ball well this tournament,â€ť Becker said. â€śIâ€™ve been extending my batting practice and fortunately got some hits.â€ť
Quezada got one more chance with runners on in the fifth and roped his third double of the game to deep center, scoring two and giving New York a monstrous 15-0 lead, with Quezadaâ€™s eight RBI accounting for more than half of the offense.
â€śI just put the ball in play and got hard contact, and let the ball do its job,â€ť Quezada said. â€śI found some holes and everyone got on their horse.â€ť
Washington D.C. cracked the scoreboard with four in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by Daniel Piho and a three-run double by Patrick Morelli, but it came up just short of extending the game past the fourth inning.