BANGOR, Maine — South Vineland, N.J., managed just five hits in its Senior League World Series opener against Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, on Sunday, but the U.S. East champs made those hits count in an 11-6 victory at Mansfield Stadium.
Four of the five hits resulted in seven RBIs as South Vineland shook off five errors to hold off a resilient Europe-Middle East-Africa representative.
“We only had five hits, but it’s a win,” said South Vineland center fielder Joe Arce, whose two-run double to left-center in the bottom of the fifth broke the game open. “It’s not how we wanted it, but we’ll take it.”
South Vineland, the ninth consecutive New Jersey team to represent the U.S. East in the SLWS, will return to Pool B play at 1 p.m. Monday against the West Madison Little League of Madison, Wis., the U.S. Central champion.
Italy will play the West University Little League of Houston, Texas, at 10 a.m. Monday.
South Vineland righthander Allen Rivera worked the first five innings for the pitching win, allowing two earned runs on four hits while striking out six and walking three.
Ray Reyes pitched the final two innings, allowing two runs on three hits.
“It certainly wasn’t my best outing,” Rivera said, “but it was enough for the win so I’ll take it.”
South Vineland never trailed after Rivera blooped a two-run single to right with the bases loaded and two outs in the first.
“Usually when we have baserunners on the basepaths, coach [Carlos Negron] says to try to go to the opposite field, and that’s what I decided to do,” said Rivera.
The U.S. East champs went on to score in every inning, not without a challenge as Pietro Gheno singled home a run in the top of the third as Italy scored three runs to pull within 4-3.
The EMEA champs then matched a South Vineland run in the bottom of the inning with a run on Federico Ugrin’s RBI single in the top of the fourth.
Holvin Figueroa hit his second sacrifice fly in three innings in the bottom of the fourth to give South Vineland a 6-4 lead, then Arce gave the U.S. East champs a three-run cushion an inning later by driving the first pitch he saw from Italian reliever Gabriele Volpi to the gap in left-center, a hit that drove home special pinch run-ner Vaughn Watson and Reyes, who both reached base as the result of two-out walks.
“Coach gave me the hit-away sign on the first pitch, and I was just looking for a fastball down the middle and I got it and I didn’t miss it,” said Arce, who also scored twice from the leadoff spot in the order.
Carlos Avancini singled and scored on a wild pitch to cut Italy’s deficit to 8-5 in the sixth, but South Vineland scored three runs in the bottom of the inning as Carlos LeBron hit a two-run single and Nick Montana an RBI single.
“They’re happy they won but they’re not happy with the way they played today,” said Negron of his team. ”I think they’re going to play a lot better tomorrow.”
EMEA (0-1) 003 101 1 — 6 7 2
U.S. East (1-0) 221 123 x — 11 5 5
Orso, Volpi (3), Pontoni (6) and Varin; Rivera, Reyes (6) and Montana