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Bullpen Woes Sink Westport in District Opener

WESTPORT, Conn. – The confidence was obvious on the Westport Little League All-Stars' bench. The heavy underdogs against defending New England regional champion Fairfield American had just taken a 4-1 lead on a three-run blast to left field by Mack Muller.

Soon, however, Fairfield American showed why it has dominated District 2 Little League in recent years. Westport starter Max Richlin was taken out due to a high pitch count and Fairfield pounced on Westport's bullpen, exploding for eight runs in the fifth inning. Thoughts of an upset quickly evaporated into a 12-6 blowout for Fairfield American.

"We had a lot of confidence going into the fifth inning, but sometimes it just gets away from you," Westport manager Jake Scott said. "I thought we had them. We had a couple errors though, and that's what happens in baseball—you give a team a couple extra outs and it comes back to bite you."

For the first three innings the story was Westport starting pitcher Max Richlin, who cruised through every inning he pitched except the third. And he was one strike away from getting out of that inning unscathed when Jon Annuzzi cracked a double down the left field line, cutting Westport's lead to 4-2. Brendan Flynn followed with a sizzling liner up the middle, tying the game at 4-all.

Richlin gave the lead back to Westport in the fourth with an RBI groundout, but the relief corps couldn’t hold it. A throwing error brought Flynn to the plate again with one out in the fifth. He tied the game once again.

Nine more Fairfield batters would reach before the second out of the inning was recorded. Jack Oricoli and Brendan Bucher hit back-to-back home runs to open the floodgates for American.

"I told the kids we're not out of it. It's double elimination for a reason," Scott said. "We're looking forward to our next game and we're going to give it everything we've got."

Westport took a 1-0 lead in the first and could have added more, but left the bases loaded. Its starting pitcher for Tuesday's losers bracket game is still up in the air. Westport will take on Trumbull American with its playoff lives on the line at Blackham School in Bridgeport on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for the latest MSC-Fairfield County sports coverage.

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