Knight hurls Westport to Little League World Series

With a trip to the Little League World Series on the line, Rhode Island's Dominic Cunha pitched perhaps the finest game yet against Westport.

His counterpart, however, was even better.

Westport right-hander Chad Knight was close to unhittable on the mound Saturday, blowing batter after batter away with whatever he had in his repertoire. With 14 strikeouts in six shutout innings, Knight catapulted Westport to the New England regional championship with a 1-0 win over Lincoln, R.I. at Breen Field.

And even better yet for Knight, Westport is headed to the Little League World Series for the first time.

"He really, really delivered," Westport manager Tim Rogers said of Knight, who finished the regional with 31 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Westport's ace allowed just one hit -- a bunt single by Patrick Gribbin with two outs in the fifth inning -- and walked only one over 74 pitches, dazzling the crowd of 6,274 with a dominant fastball-curveball combo. At one point, he struck out five consecutive batters, displaying the same focused demeanor.

"I just went out, pretended it like it was any other game, just throwing my pitches," Knight said. "(I was) hitting my spots and just executed."

Westport -- 17-0 on the summer, including 6-0 at the New England regional -- will open at the LLWS against Southeast champion Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Lamade Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2. The all-stars are the fourth team from Fairfield County to reach the LLWS in the last six years, joining Shelton National in 2008 and Fairfield American in both 2010 and 2012.

"(Knight) was dominating," Rhode Island manager Matthew Netto said. "He was incredible. Knight is an amazing athlete. His curveball looks exactly like his fastball."

Rhode Island wrapped up the regional 4-2 (13-2 on the summer), leaving Netto with a bittersweet moment when the night was done.

"I told them that's the greatest baseball game I have ever seen," he said.

Knight drove in the eventual winning run in the fifth, hitting into a fielder's choice grounder with the bases loaded. The ball, hit softly to third, was bobbled, which allowed shortstop Ricky Offenberg to race home safely.

Before departing with one out in the fifth at 85 pitches -- the maximum total for Little League pitchers -- Rhode Island's Cunha matched Knight nearly pitch for pitch. The right-hander, who was widely regarded as Lincoln's No. 2 pitcher behind Kyle Marrapese, struck out 10 and allowed just two hits in 4 1/3 innings. Stephen Andrews came in in relief.

Cunha retired seven out of the last eight batters he faced before allowing a double by Offenberg and an infield single by center fielder Drew Rogers to lead off the fifth.

"So much for a No. 2. That kid was lights out," Tim Rogers said.

Just seconds after he blew 3-2 fastball by Rhode Island's final batter, Knight tossed his glove in the air and was mobbed at the mound by his teammates.

"I was so happy," Knight said. "It's a dream come true. The last four years it's been my dream."

That dream had yet to sink in afterward for Rogers, whose team began its journey to Williamsport way back in District 2 play last month.

"It's just amazing," Rogers said with a smile. "It's amazing how many good teams we've had to beat along the way. Some of those close games, to pull them out and get every single one along the way is just amazing."; 203-255-4561 ext. 114;

Westport 1, Lincoln, R.I. 0

RHODE ISLAND 000 000 -- 0 1 0

WESTPORT 000 010 -- 1 2 1

Batteries: RI -- Dominic Cunha (L), Stephen Andrews (5) and Connor Benbenek. W -- Chad Knight (W) and Matt Stone.