LITTLE LEAGUE: Southington North 11U goes extra mile to stay alive in state finals

WILLIMANTIC — On Sunday, the race went to the Swift.

To Ben Swift, that is, and his teammates on the Southington Northern Little League 11U All-Star team.

Swift pitched a scoreless top of the eighth, then drove home Joey Tardiff with the winning run in the bottom half as Southington North remained alive in the Connecticut 11U final four with a 4-3 victory over Guilford.

Southington North returns to Willimantic on Monday to face Manchester, which lost to Fairfield American in Sunday’s second game. Fairfield American, still unbeaten in the double-elimination finals, awaits the Southington North-Manchester survivor on Tuesday with a loss to give.

Southington North, which fell to Fairfield American 7-3 in Saturday’s opener when a four-run sixth inning busted open a 3-3 tie, just might get a shot at revenge.

For now, head coach Todd Pelletier and his Southington North squad is celebrating a nail-biter of a victory on Sunday.

Thanks to a three-run second inning, the North led for most of the game. The locals took a 3-2 edge into the sixth only to see Guilford tie it up.

Both teams went scoreless in the seventh. In the eighth, the “California” tiebreaker now used in Major League Baseball went into effect. Both teams started the inning with a runner at second base.

Swift held Guilford at bay. In the home half, Tardiff was the North’s starting runner at second. Nathan Pelletier, despite being down 0-2 in the count, got down a bunt and beat it out for a single while moving Tardiff to third with no outs.

That set the stage for Swift, who rifled a shot up the middle. The Guilford pitcher got a glove on the line drive, but only enough to deflect it. Tardiff scored easily.

“This resilient group stuck together, picking each other up several times during this pressure-packed game,” remarked Coach Pelletier. “The boys did not want to end their season and are now guaranteed to be one of the top three teams in the state.”

Nathan Pelletier, Jakub Cieslik, Bryce Zielinski and Swift led Southington’s 11-hit attack with two safeties apiece.

Cieslik singled home Southington’s first run in the second inning. Kyle Salerno doubled in the next two. All three Southington runs that inning came with two outs.

On the hill, Salerno started and went 5 1/3 innings. He struck out five while allowing five hits and three runs.

Sawyer Johnson got the last two outs of the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh

American Legion: The regional qualifying tournament opens Monday for Meriden Post 45 and Wallingford Post 187.

Both teams are on the road. Fifth-seeded Meriden (11-5) takes on No. 4 Fairfield (19-5) at Kiwanis Field at 5:30 p.m., while No. 6 Wallingford (16-5) faces No. 3 RCP (16-3) at Cromwell High School at 5:45 p.m.

This tournament will decide who represents Connecticut in the New England Regional Tournament, which feeds into the national American Leagion championship.

Connecticut will also hold a separate state tournament Aug. 3-8.

This week’s regional qualifier is double-elimination. Win or lose on Monday, both Meriden and Wallingford will be playing again on Tuesday.

Meriden is in the same bracket with No. 1 Waterford (17-2) and No. 8 Greenwich (19-7). Wallingford is grouped with No. 2 Madison (16-3) and No. 7 NCL Windsor Locks/Windsor (14-5).

Games Monday through Wednesday are at higher seeds. Muzzy Field will host the semifinals and finals on Thursday and Friday.

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