Fairfield American Little League starting pitcher Nick Nardone struck out eight batters and allowed just three hits in five innings. But the two runs he allowed in the bottom of the fifth were enough for Rhode Island to take the first game of the New England Regional tournament at Breen Field in Bristol on Friday night, 2-0.
The 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars lost their first game of the season and are now 15-1. Fairfield has three pool games left, starting with Vermont at 8 p.m. Saturday. The winner of the New England Regional advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Rhode Island manager John Brodeur said Fairfield was the "favorite" coming into the tournament and likely remains the favorite, even after the loss.
Fairfield manager Chris Daley chose not to speak to the media after the game.
Fairfield, who recorded just three hits, had its best chance at a lead in the fourth inning, but Nardone was caught stealing third base with one out, ending any chance at a rally.
Cumberland Little League, the Rhode Island state champions, were led by second baseman Dante Baldelli, who had all three hits for his team, including the game-winning, two-RBI hit. Baldelli is the brother of former Major League Baseball outfielder Rocco Baldelli. Starting pitcher Tyler Calabro had nine strikeouts.
Nate Klein, Connor Daley and Nardone had the hits for Fairfield. Klein's hit came in the top of the second with one out. He advanced to third base on two wild pitches, still with one out, but Calabro forced a pop out from Billy McGrath and a line out from Liam Wurzel to end the threat.
The All-Stars reached the Regional by winning the District Two Championship, the Section One title and the State Championship. They entered the game scoring over 12 runs per game.
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