Pitching, defense propel Westport Little League by Fairfield National
TRUMBULL — Westport Little League 12-year-old All-Star manager David Goldshore knows that his team can only go as far as the pitching and defense takes it.
The all-stars received both in their fourth pool play game of the District 2 Tournament against Fairfield National as Rhys Jamali and Andrew Oppenheimer combined on a four-hitter and Jared Lessing made a game-saving catch at the center field wall to rob what could have been a tying two-run home run on their way to a 3-1 win on Monday at Unity Park’s Field No. 2.
“We’re not going to overpower teams, that’s not who we are,” Goldshore said. “It’s about getting timely hits, which we didn’t get enough today for my liking, but we’re going to live and die with our pitching and defense.”
With the victory, Westport handed Fairfield National its first loss and vaulted the all-stars into a three-way tie atop the district tourney standings with Fairfield National and Fairfield American each at 3-1 with one game remaining in pool play. The top four teams advance to the double elimination portion of the competition.
“They’re a good baseball team,” Goldshore said of Fairfield National. “It’s a wide-open district. We have to stay to our plan and take it one pitch at a time and one game at a time and do the best we can.”
Even though Westport left runners on base in every inning, nine total, the all-stars made the runs they got in the bottom of the first hold up thanks to Jamali (1-0) and Oppenheimer, who earned the save.
Jamali allowed an unearned run on three hits over four-plus innings. He struck out three with no walks and didn’t waver when Fairfield National took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first off an infield error.
“I felt good, I was relaxed the whole time and I was just trying to throw strikes,” Jamali said. “I didn’t care about it (when they scored a run), I just kept moving on. It was big to score in the first inning because it gave us energy through the whole game.”
The dynamic duo of Jamali and Oppenheimer led off the first with back-to-back singles to right field. Lessing hit an RBI base hit up the middle and eventually Oppenheimer scored on a wild pitch. Charley Leahy added another RBI hit to center to give Westport a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The all-stars weren’t able to plate any more runs going forward, even though they had several opportunities to break the game open. Fairfield National pitchers Mickey Galvin, Derek Davis and Andrew Blanco, who scored his team’s lone run, pitched their way in and out of jams.
Jamali retired 11 of 12 batters following Blanco’s leadoff double to open the game. He was aided by air-tight defense the rest of his outing, including a 6-3 double play turned by the shortstop Oppenheimer in the third.
“I just tried to focus in when the balls were coming to me and made sure I was down and ready for every play,” said Oppenheimer, who had four assists and two putouts.
Jamali gave up a single to Jack Reynolds to start the fifth before being lifted for Oppenheimer (2 IP, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 BB, 3 Ks).
“Rhys was great and Andrew came in and shut the door,” Goldshore said.
Fairfield National wouldn’t go quietly, however, as Blanco led off the sixth with an infield hit. Oppenheimer retired the next two batters before Austin Howard sent a 2-1 pitch deep to center and Lessing went as far back as he could go before making the catch.
“I knew I had to help my pitcher out,” said Lessing. “I heard the fans yelling that it was going out so I wanted to get back on it and come in if I needed to but I was fortunate enough to catch it. That was a huge win for us and it’s going to give us confidence moving forward knowing that we beat a team that was undefeated until then and we held them to one run.”
Westport rounded out pool play against Trumbull American on Wednesday. The double elimination playoffs start on Sunday.