Salem hangs on to win LL championship series opener
MANCHESTER - Salem persevered. And then some.
The District I champions rallied late to knock off Rye, 8-4, on Saturday at Manchester Central Little League's Sam Harris Field and move one step closer to the state Little League championship.
Salem won the opener of a best-of-three games series for the title.
The teams meet again today at 5 at Harris Field for Game 2. Game 3, if necessary, will be on Tuesday at 5:45.
"That's a real good example of our team being resilient," said Salem manager Dean Borrelli. "The kids contained their emotions and were aggressive on the bases. Hats off to them."
John Olivo was Exhibit A.
He came on in relief of Salem starter Jake Delaney in the second inning and shut down a rally and limited Rye to a couple of hits over the last four innings.
"He's been like that the whole tournament," Borrelli said. "It's like he's got ice in his veins. He pumps strikes in there and throws hard."
Salem, which was 6-1 in its District tournament, scored three runs in the fourth inning to take a short-lived lead and then broke things open with five runs in the fifth to go in front for good.
"One inning," said Rye manager Ron King. "That's what baseball is sometimes. One inning. We didn't hit like we wanted to. That's a really good team. But I don't think the score is an adequate reflection of how good a team we are."
District II champion Rye had gone 10-0 through its district tournament.
Down 2-0, Salem grabbed its first lead with the three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Nick Robertson led off with a single to right field and Delaney drilled a 1-and-1 pitch over the wall in center field to tie it.
"Jake's home run was huge," Borrelli said. "It got the kids up. We were trying to find some fire to get us going."
Mike Borrelli then reached when he was hit by a pitch. Donovan Abraham put down a sacrifice bunt and Borrelli hustled his way to third base. He scored on John Palardy's ground out to the third baseman.
Rye took the lead right back with two runs in the fifth. The first scored on Jordan Swenson's RBI double. Swenson later slid under a tag on a passed ball to score and Rye was up 4-3.
Salem struck again in the bottom and got five runs in to go up 8-4 before there were any outs.
Matt Soldano started it with a bunt single and Salem had three hits in the inning and took advantage of three walks and an error.
"We played a little small ball and the leadoff bunt was huge," Borrelli said. "The kids had good at-bats, fouling balls off, laying off pitches that weren't in the zone."
Rye starter Max Malila kept Salem off balance in the first three innings with a nice mix of pitches, but Salem had more success later in the game.
Rye opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the top of the second inning. Spencer Leger led off with a bunt single and Will Gerrish was hit by a pitch. The runners moved up on a passed ball and Leger then scored on Calvin Kobynski's sacrifice fly to right fed. Gerrish slid under the tag and scored on another passed ball.
Jonathan Swenson's RBI double was the big blow as Rye scored two runs to go in front 4-3 in the fifth.
Salem answered quickly.