Who will have the final say?
Rematch elicits confident talk
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The Boynton Beach, Fla., Little League team worked out in the batting cages just beyond left field. At the end of their workout, baseballs came flying over their heads.
The team left the cages, ran up to the fence in left field, and watched as the Saugus team -- Boynton Beach's opponent in tonight's Little League World Series United States championship game -- continued sending baseballs over the fence during batting practice.
It was not meant to send a message to the Boynton Beach team, but it added to the backdrop of a contest that already has elements of drama.
"Hopefully it put a little fear into them," said Saugus manager Rob Rochenski.
Saugus is looking to become the first Massachusetts team to advance to a Little League World Series final. On Thursday, Saugus became the second in as many years to advance to a US final (a team from Worcester made it last year). The last New England team to win a World Series was Trumbull, Conn., in 1989.
Though the power display was impressive -- though equaled by a similar showing by Boynton Beach earlier -- Rochenski knows that pitching is the key in these games.
These teams faced each other in pool play and Saugus prevailed, 4-3, behind Joe Kasabuski, who gave up two earned runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out four. Taking the only loss of the Series for Boynton Beach was Devon Travis, who gave up two earned runs on seven hits.
Neither will be starting today.
Boynton Beach will go with its No. 2 starter, Cody Emerson, who led the team to a 7-2 triumph over Tallmadge, Ohio, in pool play, striking out eight while giving up two hits.
Saugus will counter with Craig Cole, who led the team to a 7-3 win over Connecticut in the New England regionals.
"He carried us throughout the beginning of this tournament," said Rochenski. "Coming back after the last game with a pitcher that could be anybody's first starter is pretty good. If he pitches his game, we're going to be in it."
Asked how Kasabuski took the news, Rochenski said, "He understands about the team, and that's why he said he would be ready to come in. He doesn't think he'll last six, so that's nice to know.
"He said he could come in for two or three innings, so we're asking Craig not to concentrate on six but give us three or four innings and do his best."
Cole said he has a slider that comes in as a fastball but breaks at the last second, catching hitters off guard.
"I feel pretty confident because I've got some really good defense, but we can't take this team lightly," he said. "We only won by one last time."
Saugus defeated Boynton Beach, 4-3, in pool play, but the Floridians say they are refocused and will win today.
Asked if his team takes exception to the Saugus players also guaranteeing victory, Boynton Beach's R.J. Neal said, "No, because they already know the truth. They're going to lose."
Rochenski said it may be to his team's advantage to start a pitcher Boynton Beach hasn't seen.
"I was watching them, hoping we would see them again, especially their top hitters," he said. "We know what to get them out with, and we believe we can get them out again."
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