WESTPORT, Conn. – Westport Little League needs one more victory to play for the championship of the United States.
Westport plays Chula Vista, Calif., on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in a battle between the only two undefeated U.S. teams left in the tournament. The game will be televised on ESPN. The winner advances to Saturday’s championship game. The loser plays on Thursday, and would need to win that game to play in Saturday’s game.
Westport, 20-0 this summer, has defeated Nashville, Tenn., and Sammamish, Wash. in its first two games at the World Series. Sunday’s win over Washington, a 9-7 slugfest, showed Westport’s ability to win with its bats. Westport won the New England Regional, 1-0, over Rhode Island and beat Tennessee, 3-2, in its previous two games.
“It all comes down to practice,’’ coach Tom Whelan said in a phone interview from Williamsport. “Whether it’s playing instrument, or school work, or baseball, it’s all repetition. It’s all hard work for everybody. They take 50-75 ground balls a day, and spend a lot of time in the cage. You need a team effort. The hard work is the bottom line.”
Harry Azadian, the winning pitcher in Sunday’s game, has been Westport’s offensive leader with four hits and four RBIs in the first two games. Nine of Westport’s 11-player roster has contributed hits, and the team is hitting .408. Chad Knight also has four hits and has scored three runs.
“Hitting is contagious, and we’ve been hitting really well,’’ Whelan said. “We’ve been doing a lot of cage work and they’ve been facing curves and fastballs. We had some clutch hits from different guys.”
Azadian and Knight, who got the pitching victory against Nashville, have been Westport’s pitching leaders. Alex Reiner, however, might have delivered the biggest outs when he pitched two scoreless innings to stave off a rally by Washington on Sunday.
“He’s a polite, well-spoken kid who takes it all in stride,’’ Whelan said. “He understands his role. He picked us up when we needed it. Charlie (Roof) was a little off and Alex came in got some big outs. That’s what you need to do as team. It’s only a bonus for us.”
Wednesday’s opponent might be the most formidable it has faced all season. Grant Holman pitched a seven-inning no-hitter in California’s first game, a 3-0 win over Michigan. California pounded Newark, Del, 15-3, on Sunday.
Westport will be the home team, and also has the support of a dedicated fan base that has traveled to central Pennsylvania.
“The support from Westport has been unbelievable,’’ Whelan said. “It’s great that we have the support of so many people and establishments from Westport. The number of fans there on Sunday was surreal. And Little League has done a great job. They make everybody feel comfortable.”