BRISTOL – After 26 total strikeouts in the opening match of the New England Regional Tournament between Maine and Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire kept their foot on the gas into the afternoon slate of games.
The game two starters combined for 22 strikeouts and five total hits in a game that came down to the final inning.
Massachusetts state champions, Middleboro Little League, escaped Saturday’s pitching duel with a 1-0 win over Concord Little League of New Hampshire.
The sides were deadlocked at two hits apiece with no runs across into the sixth inning. Concord starting pitcher Henry Thresher’s 85-pitch limit was the eventual momentum shift Middleboro was looking for. Thresher had to be relieved of his duties with one out in the top of the sixth after recording his 13th strikeout of the afternoon.
Massachusetts shortstop – and eventual save-recipient – Gavin Gillpatrick dug into the box as the first batter post-Thresher. The shortstop made quick work of New Hampshire in that at-bat sending the second pitch over the right field fence without a doubt. He said he wasn’t trying to do anything special with that ball needing only one run to break the tie.
“Nothing really,” said Gillpatrick on his approach when he stepped in. “I didn’t really feel anything off the bat. I was just trying to sit back and drive one.”
Strong starting pitching has been the main takeaway from the first two games of the New England Regional. Middleboro manager Chad Gillpatrick explained his confidence in his staff moving forward if the pitching duels continue.
“We have a pretty deep rotation,” Gillpatrick said. “We have a one, two and three that can go in any order so we’re pretty confident. We’re sitting pretty now with the day off. If we can get to the championship only burning two arms, we’ll be doing alright.”
Massachusetts starter Jayden Murphy recorded nine strikeouts in the win before reaching his pitch limit in the sixth. He explained that his mindset wasn’t about trying to match Thresher on the other side.
“I was just focused on the catcher’s mitt,” Murphy said.
Massachusetts will be off until Monday at 9 a.m. when they’ll face Maine in the New England semifinals.
New Hampshire will be back in action on Sunday at 4 p.m. facing Vermont who lost 3-0 to Maine in the opening action of the tournament.