Saturday, with pitch count limitations looming, Westport showed off its depth to hit the 13-punchout mark for the second straight game.
Ricky Offenberg hit a tie-breaking solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning and the pitching trio of Harry Azadian, Max Popken and Charlie Roof held the Orange bats in check to claim a 5-3 victory at West Beach Park and send Westport into the Section 1 final.
Roof slammed the door for Westport, recording the last five outs. New to the pitching rotation, Roof kept his calm to retire the final three batters with the tying run at the plate.
"It was sort of nerve-racking in a sectional semifinal game but we are in the finals now and I was just trying to throw strikes," Roof said. "I've never pitched in this situation before; it's serious at this age level."
Orange will meet Edgewood Sunday at 1 in Weston for a place in the final, which will be Tuesday at 7 at Scalzi Park. The winner of that matchup will have to beat Westport twice in consecutive days to claim the sectional title. Westport wasn't at its best Saturday, but has a stranglehold on the Section 1 crown after it improved to 9-0 in the postseason.
"Happy to get a win and happy with the position we are in," Westport coach Tim Rogers said. "Orange are obviously a very good team, but that was the most lackadaisical performance of the summer. We just didn't play crisp, we gave away runs."
Knight had a home run and a double as Westport raced out to a 3-0 lead and appeared to be coasting to another easy win.
Orange hadn't generated a baserunner off starter Azadian until the top of the fourth inning, but tied things up on a mammoth three-run home run by Griffin Tirollo off Popken. Orange struggled to get anything off Azadian, who was lifted after 3 1/3 innings.
"We got back in the game because Griffin Tirollo hit a three-run shot that's still going," Orange coach Jay Balocca said. "(Both teams) started using our pitchers thinking we might have to play tomorrow. Besides that we had no more triggers to pull and obviously the kids were exhausted."
Not used to being hit back, Westport immediately retook the lead for good in the bottom of the inning. Offenberg hammered the first pitch he saw over the fence to halt the Orange momentum.
"That was huge, that definitely got momentum back," Rogers said. "The kids were definitely down. It was the first pitch so it felt like `OK, we are back in control here.' That was a positive."
Orange was unable to score a run over the final two innings despite getting the leadoff batter on base both times. Westport's pitchers kept Orange off balance the entire afternoon apart from Tirollo's homer.
"We haven't faced a pitcher with that kind of speed and that kind of curveball," Balocca said. "All of their pitchers had good curveballs. Usually you get through the first pitcher and to the bullpen and do something with it. Turns out Westport's (depth) pitchers had good curveballs."
Connecticut Little League Section I Semifinal
ORANGE 000 300--3 3 1
WESTPORT 201 11x--5 6 1
Batteries: O--Mark Chodos, Mike McGurrin (L), Anthony Esposito, Mike Bier and Jeff Balocca; W--Harry Azarian, Max Popken (W), Charlie Roof and Matt Stone. Highlights: O--Griffin Tirollo went 1-for-3 with a home run and three RBI; W--Chad Knight went 2-for-2 with a home run, double, walk and two runs scored. Ricky Offenberg went 2-for-3 with a home run.