Road to New England semifinals filled with drama

Jamie Flink hit a walk-off two-run home run to give Fairfield American a 5-3 victory over Cumberland (R.I.) at Breen Field in Bristol in the New England Regionals on Tuesday.
“I just try to do the right thing in each moment and luckily sometimes I do get it done. Sometimes, I don’t,” Flink said. “All of the time it’s my teammates that get me into that spot. We do it together and that’s how we’ve been each game.”
With the victory, Fairfield American, the Connecticut representative, wrapped up pool play with a 3-1 record and secured a spot in Thursday’s semifinal round against Massachusetts at 3 p.m. Rhode Island will meet Maine at 12 p.m. in the other semifinal.
“Our strategy, our plan, coming into the tournament was to play well and play on Thursday,” Fairfield American manager Mike Steed said. “Whether we were the first seed, fourth seed, it doesn’t matter.”
Cumberland, the Rhode Island champion, dropped to 2-1 and faced Vermont’s Williston Little League yesterday at 1 p.m. at Breen Field.
Ian Bentley won the game with 1 2/3 innings of no-hit relief for Connecticut.
The left-hander took over for Brian Howell in the top of the fifth, with Rhode Island taking the lead, 3-2, on a run-scoring wild pitch and a two-out error. Both unearned runs were charged to Howell.
With Fairfield down a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, Jack Steed hit a two-out single through the right side to score special pinch-runner Trey Hensel and forge a 3-3 deadlock
Bentley bounced back to record a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth, just the second clean frame of the game, to set up Flink’s heroics.
“I was comfortable, but I was a little nervous,” Bentley said of shaking off the Americans’ miscues. “I didn’t want to give up the lead.”
John Reynolds reached on a fielder’s choice with two outs, before Flink, who had two hits, drove a fastball the opposite way to left-center field off of Addison Kopack.
“I thought, ‘We won this one and now we have to go and attack the other team,’” Flink said. “Hopefully, we get it done.”
Jack Steed added three hits and one run batted in for the Americans. Reynolds and Vince Camera drove in the other runs for Fairfield.
Connecticut used three pitchers, with P.J. Egan starting the game and working three innings. He allowed one run on four hits.
“We wanted to manage our pitching,” Mike Steed said.
Egan was shaken up in the fifth inning, when a pitch struck him near the hand on a check swing.
Fairfield took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning.
Reynolds reached on an error, Flink singled, and Howell replaced Flink at first base following a fielder’s choice. Camera then hit a run-scoring infield single to get the Americans on the scoreboard.
Sean Meers’ RBI single for Cumberland tied it up at 1 in the top of the fourth.
Reynolds’ run-scoring infield single to the shortstop drove in Egan in the bottom of the frame to give the lead back to Fairfield.
Rhode Island’s two-run fifth-inning outburst gave it the lead briefly, before Connecticut fought back to gain control of the Region.

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