BRISTOL – The Little League East Regional Tournament returned to action for the first time in two years Sunday at the Giamatti Little League Center as the New England and Mid-Atlantic Regions began play at Breen Field.
Vermont's Essex Town Little League and New Jersey's Toms River East Little League each earned shutout victories to kick start the week-long competition.
A run in the top of the sixth inning broke the deadlock between Vermont and Rhode Island's North Providence Little League in its 1-0 victory in the New England bracket.
Bryce Barber led off the sixth with a single for Vermont, then stole second base, which was initially ruled an out but later overturned via challenge, before scoring on an RBI from Michael MacDougall.
MacDougall hit a spinner back to Rhode Island pitcher Nick Natale, but first baseman Tyler Oliver did not touch first base as he got caught up looking at Barber fleeing for home.
Rhode Island had a great chance to earn the walkoff win in the bottom half of the sixth with bases loaded and one out, but MacDougall struck out Collin Briggs and got Natale to pop-out to second base to escape with the victory.
Barber was Vermont's most valuable player in this one as No. 27 pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball and racked up 10 strikeouts along the way, to go along with a game-high two hits.
Rhode Island out-hit Vermont 3-2, however it left 10 batters on base throughout the game.
Mike Ryan started for Rhode Island and led the way with 11 strikeouts and just one hit allowed.
The win pushes Vermont's postseason record to 11-0 and continues its streak of allowing three runs or less in a game, which started in its state tournament.
Vermont will next face Connecticut on Monday at 1 p.m., while Rhode Island awaits its next opponent.
In the Mid-Atlantic bracket, New Jersey outlasted Delaware's Canal Little League for a 3-0 win.
Strong pitching was also the theme of this game as New Jersey starter Cole Garrison fanned 10 across five innings of work. Delaware finished with just three hits in the contest.
An RBI triple from Joey DiMeo scored New Jersey's first run in the bottom of the third, then a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jason Verderrosa brought in DiMeo to make it 2-0.
Mike Mika added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single to bring it to a 3-0 score.
Tyler Rice, Chase Lednum and Liam Fresconi recorded hits for Delaware, while starter Carter Schurman took the loss after allowing one run on two hits in two innings on the mound.
New Jersey continued its playoff excellence with another convincing 'W' as it moves to 15-0 during the playoffs.
New Jersey moves on to face Maryland on Monday at 10 a.m., while Delaware will look to extend its season in the losers bracket on Tuesday.
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.