It took a couple of innings, but Braintree American’s bats finally woke up on Monday afternoon, and they hit the Massachusetts state champions right back into contention at the 9/10 Eastern Regional.
Massachusetts broke open a 1-1 game against New Hampshire’s Concord Little League with five runs in the third inning, and it kept the pressure on from there on its way to a 12-2 victory.
The win evened Massachusetts’ record at 1-1, giving it a legitimate chance to advance into the regional semifinals with wins in its final two pool play games. It lost its first game of the tournament 8-5 to Rhode Island champion Lincoln Little League on Saturday.
“We bounced back,” said Massachusetts manager Mike McLaughlin. “We lost the first one. In district play we lost one, in sectionals we lost one, so hopefully we keep it going and can come back from that loss.”
New Hampshire dropped to 0-2 with the loss, as it fell 13-1 in its first game to Connecticut’s Mystic Little League on Sunday.
With two games left, however, there is still time for New Hampshire to turn it around. It has games scheduled against Maine on Tuesday and Rhode Island on Thursday.
“We get to play two really good teams,” said New Hampshire manager Tom Philbrick. “Let’s have fun. I think it’s an accomplishment to beat any team here.”
Monday’s game, though, belonged to Massachusetts. It racked up 14 hits, including two triples. Ryan Jaehnig led the way offensively with a 4-for-4 day, knocking in a pair.
Chase Cahill added three hits, Josh Donovan had two and Aiden Rodriguez, Jeff Charron, Tim McLaughlin, Billy Derrane and Chris McNeil all had hits as well.
The team had three hits through the first two innings against New Hampshire starter Brooks Craigue, but it exploded for six hits in the third. McNeil began the frame with a triple and Donovan had an RBI single before Cahill, Charron, Derrane and Jaehnig had four consecutive hits. The team’s sixth run came on a groundout by McLaughlin.
“In our state, the teams that we play, we typically one through 13 can all hit at some point,” Mike McLaughlin said. “They’re all pretty good hitters.”
Jaehnig also pitched for Massachusetts, and he made it 3-plus innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out two before being relieved by Scott Lagos, who allowed just one hit over two full innings of work.
“They were consistent, they threw hard, they threw strikes,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t know if we had a walk. They did really good, at 10.”
Down 6-1, New Hampshire tried to battle back in the fourth. It got singles from Noah Brent and Jamie Bruns to force Jaehnig from the game. Lagos struck out the next man, but New Hampshire’s Max Grant lined a single to right field to plate a run and make it 6-2. But Massachusetts was able to get the ball in quickly from the outfield and catch a runner off of third base. That went for a key out and helped keep the score the way it was.
“That was kind of an inning killer,” Philbrick said.
Craigue kept Massachusetts off the board with a one-two-three fourth inning, but he surrendered a triple to Cahill to open the fifth and was relieved by Brent, and Massachusetts began to add to its lead. A groundout by Charron made it 7-2, and bases-loaded walks by Lagos and Donovan made it 9-2.
In the sixth, Massachusetts got three more runs on an error, an RBI single by Jaehnig and a groundout by Aidan Aubertine. Cam McConagle and Chris Burke also pitched for New Hampshire.
Aiden Rodriguez came on to pitch the sixth inning for Massachusetts and worked around a one-out single by Brent to close out the game.
“Today was great,” McLaughlin said. “They hit, they made the plays, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Massachusetts took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Rodriguez scored on a groundout. New Hampshire came back and tied it in the home half when Craigue hit a triple and scored on a wild pitch.
Craigue had two hits on the day for New Hampshire, which had six total. Brent also had two, while Bruns and Grant had the others.
Massachusetts’ next game is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Connecticut, and the winner of that game will have the inside track on advancing. Connecticut is currently 2-0 and atop the New England standings.
Massachusetts also plays Vermont Wednesday.
“We’re looking forward to it,” McLaughlin said. “We’re still in the thick of things. Tomorrow is the big one. Connecticut is tough. We need to bring it tomorrow.”