Manchester -- Matt Reynolds baffled Bennington, Vt., setting up a regional championship rematch between Manchester and Waterford, Conn. today.
Reynolds hurled a three-hitter to lead the Tom Woodlock All-Stars to an 8-1 victory in the losers' bracket finals of the ages 13-15 Babe Ruth League Baseball New England Regional Wednesday at Gill Stadium.
Last summer in Westfield, Mass. at Bullens Field, Manchester nipped Waterford 6-5 for the 14-year-old regional title. Today at 5 p.m., Manchester has the tough task of beating Waterford twice with a World Series berth on the line.
"Waterford is a better team than the one we faced last summer," said Manchester manager Micky Hanagan. "We have to come out, play our game and make the easy plays in the field. Playing at home helps too. We're expecting nothing but a tough battle and we're going to have to play well to beat Waterford."
Manchester has won three straight games since losing to Bennington Sunday, getting complete game efforts from starters Jason Derome on Tuesday and Reynolds on Wednesday.
Reynolds allowed two hits to Bennington starting pitcher Noah Normyle, who singled in the first and seventh frames and, a seventh inning single to Brendan Hay.
He fanned two, walked one and picked off one batter.
"Matt was phenomenal," said Hanagan. "Nothing bothers him when he takes the mound."
To that Bennington manager Kip O'Neill added "when a pitcher holds our team to one run, it's a compliment to that pitcher.
Reynolds said he kept his fastball down and his curve ball was locating well. "I was able to mix my pitches and the guys rallied behind me like I knew they would," said Reynolds. "We knew we didn't play well against Bennington on Sunday and we came out fired up tonight. Now we're in the finals and anything can happen. I like our chances because we've been here before and we've got good pitching."
The final 8-1 win against Vermont was really closer than the score indicates. It was a 3-1 game until Manchester scored five runs in the sixth inning.
Normyle pitched well, keeping his team in the game until the sixth when he tired after Manchester loaded the bases with no outs. Normyle allowed six hits, walked six and fanned three over five-plus innings.
The game started with both teams making a key defensive play in the first inning. After getting the first two batters to ground back to him, Reynolds yielded a single to Normyle. Moments later Reynolds caught Normyle leaning the wrong way and picked him off to end the frame. In the home first after leadoff hitter Joey Silva singled and stole second, Bennington's rightfielder Bryce Bush caught a low liner and doubled up Silva at second base to thwart a potential rally.
After Reynolds pitched a scoreless second inning, Manchester reached Normyle for a run in the home frame. Nate Hall reached on a two-base throwing error to open the inning and scooted to third base on a single from Pat Swanson. One out later, Drew Merrick plated Hall with a sacrifice fly to left to put Manchester on the board.
In the third inning after Mike Morgan of Bennington reached on a one-out single, Hanagan alerted the umpires that Vermont had batted out of order. As it turned out, he was correct. Bennington manager O'Neill submitted two different line-ups, one to the official scorer and the other to the umpire-in-chief before the game started. By rule, the line-up submitted to the umpire is the official line-up and that line-up had Bryce Bush hitting in the No. 8 spot, not Morgan. The umpires ruled Morgan out for batting out of order and the game resumed. Morgan's hit was nullified because he batted out of order.
For Manchester in the home third, the top of the line-up went to work against Normyle.
Silva drew a one-out walk and scored on a triple to right by Riley Denver. After an infield error, allowing Jon Robinson to reach first, Hall plated Denver with a deep sacrifice fly to center for a 3-0 lead.
Bennington took advantage of a two-base infield throwing error to score it only run in the fourth inning. Carter Bentley reached on the miscue to start the frame, stole third and later scored when Normyle grounded out to third.
Despite getting knicked for a run, Reynolds was effectively locating his pitches. Through the fifth inning, Reynolds was working on a one-hitter and had allowed just two runners to reach.
To Normyle's credit, although he wasn't as efficient as Reynolds, he kept his team in the game with help from his defense. In the fifth inning with Manchester's Silva on second base, Jon Robinson ripped a double to centerfielder Bentley, who made an accurate throw to home where catcher Cole Lamoureaux blocked the plate and applied the tag on Silva for the out.
In the home sixth, Manchester busted the game wide open with five runs. Kyle Jutras and Nick Salcito each drew a one-out, bases-loaded walk off reliever Mike Morgan, before Silva delivered a two-run single. Riley Denver knocked in the fifth run with a groundout.
Earlier in the day Bennington lost to Waterford 7-3 in the winners' bracket game. The game was suspended Tuesday because of lightning with Waterford ahead 5-1 in the fourth inning.
O'Neill lauded his team saying "We came so far and we really had a great summer. The kids played with passion and battled to the end. Manchester and Waterford are two outstanding teams. Waterford has the advantage needing to win one game, but Manchester has experience. They know how to win in the finals because they did it last year."