FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- MId-Atlantic rallied in the final inning, but Fairfield American Little League pulled out a 7-6 win over the New Jersey squad to win its first game in the 2017 World Series tournament.
Connecticut’s boys of summer went face-to-face with the Mid-Atlantic champs, Holbrook Little League out of Jackson, N.J., Thursday on ESPN.
Next up, Fairfield will play either Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., or Lufkin, Texas, on Sunday at 11 a.m. That game will decide Thursday night.
The Fairfield team was coming off a stunning 10-0 win over Maine to clinch the New England championship. That game sent Fairfield to Williamsport, Pa., for the third time in history, a Connecticut first.
At 18-0, Fairfield American was undefeated in tournament play this season. Pitcher Ethan Righter was expected to be a force to be reckoned with after posting 18 strikeouts in the New England Regionals.
Fairfield came out swinging with Tyler Bauer batting in a run in the top of the first inning. The score was 2-1 Fairfield by the bottom of the second.
Fairfield extended their lead in the top of the third with two more runs. Righter picked up his seventh strikeout in the bottom of the inning, but Mid-Atlantic snuck in a second run.
A triple from Matthew Vivona in the top of the fourth put Fairfield ahead 6-2.
Relief pitcher Michael Iannazzo kept Mid-Atlantic at bay through the bottom of the fifth.
Righter led off the sixth with a single followed by walks for Iannazzo and Vivona. Bauer batted in another run to make it 7-2.
Mid-Atlantic added more runs in the sixth, followed by a Chris "Diesel" Cartnick homer to bring Mid-Atlantic within one run.
The New England and Mid-Atlantic players certainly weren’t strangers: The two teams shared a bus ride down to Pennsylvania and had become “buddies,” according to the ESPN announcers.
In the early days of the tournament, the teams compete round robin within their pool of four teams. The top two teams from each pool advance to the semifinals. Winners in that round go to the United States or International finals, whose winners go on to the championship game.
Win or lose, the boys are in for a treat when they head home to Fairfield: Saugatuck Sweets on Reef Road will toast the team and coaches with free ice cream.
“Many of these players are regular customers at our shop,” the ice cream and candy mecca announced on Facebook. “WIN FAIRFIELD AMERICAN WIN!!!!”
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