Westport building confidence at Little League World Series

Friday afternoon following practice, Westport Little League manager Tim Rogers exposed what would've been the worst-kept secret in Williamsport, Pa.

After earning a win out of the bullpen in the New England champion's 3-2 victory over Nashville, Tenn. in its Little League World Series opener on Thursday, Harry Azadian will be back on the hill three days later. This time, he'll have a chance to pitch Westport to the winner's bracket final.

In a battle of 1-0 teams, Westport will face Northwest regional champion Sammamish, Wash. on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Lamade Stadium. The game will be televised on ABC.

"There would have to a catastrophe for him not to start," a smiling Rogers said.

Tied 1-1 in fifth inning against Tennessee, Azadian served up a home run to the first batter he faced, but retired the last five as Westport rallied. Azadian threw 16 pitches and has the maximum 85-pitch limit for Sunday.

"I made a mistake and he took advantage. ... That gave me a little more to want to get the guys out," the right-hander said Thursday, referring to Ben Pickman's long ball.

Sammamish defeated Southwest champion Corpus Christi, Texas 8-4 on Thursday afternoon. Jacob Dahlstrom started for Washington and threw 53 pitches in 2 2/3 innings.

Shortstop Ricky Offenberg, who homered in Westport's win, said the 1-0 start boosted his team's confidence.

"It's especially tough here to lose the first game and do well in the tournament just because of how (strong) the competition is," he said.

With a win, Westport will advance to face the winner of West champion Chula Vista, Calif. and Mid-Atlantic winner Newark, Del. -- both of which are 1-0 -- on Wednesday at 8 p.m. A loss on Sunday would mean an elimination game on Monday at 8 p.m. against the winner of Grosse Point, Mich. (Great Lakes) and Urbandale, Iowa. (Midwest). Both teams are currently 0-1.

Westport ace Chad Knight will be unavailable on Sunday -- he threw 68 pitches in 4 1/3 innings against Tennessee -- but Rogers believes he has plenty of viable options to turn to if needed.

More Information

New England champion Westport (1-0) v. Northwest champion Sammamish, Wash. (1-0)
WHEN: Sunday, 2 p.m.
WHERE: Howard J. Lamade Stadium, South Williamsport, Pa.
ONLINE: Westport-news.com
TWITTER: @DougBonjour

"If we were to win on Sunday, then you can start thinking about how you manage to win the tournament," Rogers said. "Right now, we're still managing to win the game in front of us."

Another win on Sunday and Westport could really think big.

"We came here knowing we were one of the top 16 teams in the world," Offenberg said. "And now, beating a team, we wonder how much we can accomplish. We know that if we keep playing how we are playing, maybe we'll be here for longer."

dbonjour@scni.com; 203-255-4561 ext. 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour