BRISTOL - The pitch count racked up, and so did the sticky situations for Alex Anderson.
It didn’t matter. With each bases-loaded jam, second-and-third situation, or scenario with runners on first and second, Rhode Island’s starting pitcher remained composed, delivered clutch pitches and got himself out of trouble.
Then he showcased his emotion.
Anderson, all smiles and fist pumps each time he left Connecticut blanked, led Rhode Island to a 4-0 victory Friday by firing a complete-game shutout. Lucas Tanous delivered the club’s biggest hit of the New England Regional, pushing a two-run single to right field in the bottom of the fifth.
Anderson, who got two more insurance runs on a two-run single from Owen Pfeffer following Tanous’ clutch hit, polished off his gem with a quick sixth inning, advancing his club into Saturday’s regional final and within one win from reaching the Little League Baseball World Series.
“I felt great. I was hitting my spots, and then I was just getting the ball in play and with that defense, it’s pretty easy to pitch like that because they make every play,” Anderson said. “I know that I just have to throw a good pitch, let it hit the zone, and if they put it in play, I know I’ve got a great defense, and they’ll make a play.”
Anderson first left the bases loaded to start the game, firing an inning-ending swinging strikeout of William Palta before pumping his fists as he hopped off the mound and jogged back to his dugout.
Next he stranded runners at second and third with one out in the third inning, helping himself by fielding a grounder and sprinting to the third-base line to tag out Johnny Reh. Then he allowed runners to reach first and second to lead off the fourth and again delivered with three straight outs.
In the fifth, he kept runners grounded at first and second, smacking his glove after inducing the final out.
“Alex did a phenomenal job to shut that team down,” Rhode Island manager Chris Promades said of the Madison Little League team. “This kid pitched his tail off. He was phenomenal. He’s got one of the best curveballs you’ll see, and then he mixes it up with his fastball. He’s lights out.
“He wears his emotions on his sleeve. He just plays with a lot of heart, a lot of desire and a lot of grit. He’s the symbol of the whole team. That’s kind of what we preach day in and day out. It’s how we battle, how we grind, how we fight. We don’t give up.”
Anderson’s standout pitching was equaled at first by Connecticut starter Christian Kells, who loaded the bases in the first and second innings before strikeouts ended the threat. In the third, Kells loaded the bases again, and his manager James Maynard paid him a mound visit to calm him down.
Maynard, however, had already visited the mound to talk to Kells in the first two innings. Per rule, a pitcher must be removed after the third mound visit, and Maynard was forced to insert reliever Reh.
“That was tough. It was a miscommunication between the coaches,” Connecticut manager James Maynard said. “They had the bases loaded three consecutive innings, so I was just trying to calm everything down the best I can. The first two times, it worked. We sort of had a miscommunication in terms of it being the third [visit]. I know [a timeout] had already been called … so I walked out there.
“Christian was gonna go a little bit further, but not much. We were gonna stick to the same plan anyways. It was gonna be Christian to Johnny to Paul [Calandrelli].”
Reh delivered with a strikeout to leave the bases loaded and allowed one unearned run in 1⅓ innings, but Rhode Island (2-1) broke the game open in the fifth and will now face New Hampshire (2-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of a 2-1 loss on Thursday.
“Our backs have been against the wall since the first game after we lost in the district tournament,” Promades said. “We’ve battled ever since, and we had our backs against the wall again today after the loss to New Hampshire. We knew we had our hands full today, but these guys never say die. They have that never quit attitude, and that’s what we predicate ourselves on.”
Connecticut (2-2), meanwhile, was unable to capitalize on several opportunities, and the state champions from Madison Little League were left two steps shy of their goal.
“The story of the game was we couldn’t get timely hits,” Maynard said. “Our pitching was great again. We made very few errors, if any [Connecticut made two errors in the game], but the story of the game was just not coming through with that one inning, and that’s what Rhode Island did. We give them credit for that.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or