BANGOR, Maine — Eli Carter hadn’t pitched all summer, and when South Vineland, N.J., manager Carlos Negron elected to give him the ball for a crucial Pool B matchup Wednesday, he showed the quiet confidence needed to win.
It also helped that his teammates scored 11 runs — including three before he even threw a pitch.
Carter was the beneficiary of an 11-run, 14-hit onslaught while he was efficient in 6ª innings as the U.S. East champs picked up a much-needed 11-4 win over U.S. Southwest representative Houston, Texas, at Mansfield Stadium.
After a shaky game in an 8-6 setback to Madison, Wis., on Monday, South Vineland used its day off to focus on beating previously unbeaten Texans.
“They regrouped, had a little team meeting, prayer session before they went to bed last night, and came out today ready to play,” said Negron, whose team is now 2-1 entering today’s Pool B finale against Latin America champ Aruba.
Houston is also 2-1 and meets Wisconsin tonight at 8.
South Vineland scored three runs in the first inning.
While the Texans came back with single runs in the second and third, they had a tough time figuring out Carter, who fed them a steady diet of fastballs on the corners.
“Eli pitched a hell of a game today, pitched very well today, very well,” said Negron.
South Vineland broke it open with a five-run uprising in the fourth, with Chris Bell continuing his torrid hitting in the series, as his two-run triple highlighted the uprising.
“We just came in, we’re a fastball hitting team [and] we just roped the ball today,” said Bell, who added a double and scored three runs.
Staked to an eight-run lead, Carter assumed command, and he scattered three runs on four hits while throwing 96 pitches.
“It was a must-win game and my team came through,” the soft-spoken righthander said. “I just showed my heart.”
South Vineland shored up its defense, committing only two errors compared to four in the 8-6 loss to Wisconsin.
“The errors have been killing us the last couple games, today we only had two, our pitching has been struggling the last couple games, but Eli came through real big today for us,” said Negron.
Things did get somewhat testy in the seventh, as three New Jersey batters were hit with pitches during the game, and when Texas’ Michael Resnick was drilled in the back in the seventh, he gave New Jersey reliever Chris Lopez a long stare before eventually heading down to first base. But both coaches and the umpiring crew kept things under control.
Christian Adorno paced New Jersey with four singles, including an RBI single in the fourth, while Allen Rivera singled twice with an RBI and Carlos LeBron smashed a two-run triple in the fifth.
Resnick belted his third homer of the tourney with a sixth-inning solo shot for Houston.