Fairfield American to meet tough foe in Bedford

Ben Gaffney leads off for Fairfield American. — Bill Bloxsom photo

Ben Gaffney kick starts the Fairfield American offense from his leadoff position in the batting order. — Bill Bloxsom photo

When the Fairfield American baseball team takes the field to play Bedford (N.H.) in its New England Regional opener at Breen Field in Bristol on Sunday at 7 p.m., the program will be representing the state for the second time in the last three years.

Bedford will be making its second consecutive trip, after advancing to the finals last season before falling 10-4 to Rhode Island. Bedford defeated Waterford 18-1 in its regional opener in 2015 and then topped Vermont 11-5.

This year’s squad, managed by Tom O’Connell, won the state title with an 8-7 victory over Lamprey River. Ryan Juliano hit three home runs. T.J. O’Connell and Dylan Dufour had two each, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. Juliano and O’Connell were members of the 2015 team.

Richie Kerstetter is one of Fairfield American's top pitchers.

Richie Kerstetter is one of Fairfield American’s top pitchers.

Bedford trailed 6-4 in the decisive game, before Dufour tied things with a two-run home run and O’Connell made it 7-6 with his home run. O’Connell and Juliano both had three hits in the title game. Brett Niland, Ethan Larochelle, Maddox Muir and Armand Rouleau added hits. Dufour and Niland split pitching duties.

Bedford had won the first game in the best-of-three series by a score of 5-4.

Fairfield American will be looking for its third New England championship, having earned a trip to the World Series in 2010 and 2012. The locals also won state titles in 2011 and 2014.

Michael Iannazzo is a key defender for Fairfield American.

Michael Iannazzo is a key defender for Fairfield American.

Manager Brian Grady and coaches John Mertuti and Scott Sawyer have guided their team to 12 straight post-season victories, behind the blend of hitting, pitching and defense that make for title contenders.

“Everyone of the thirteen guys on the roster have contributed this summer,” Grady said. “We’ve been able to plug guys in and they’ve delivered.”

Grady knows that Bedford will be a tough out.

“I think they have three guys back from last year’s team,” he said. “They are impressive hitting the ball and have strong pitchers. The key, like in any game at this level, is to not let the three, four, five guys in the batting order hurt you. You don’t want to let guys on base in from of them and not make mistakes when pitching to them.”

Fairfield American boasts a talented group of pitchers with Ryan Kerstetter, Matt Longo, Michael Iannazzo and Jack Gremse. Mike Vivona and Matt Sawyer handle catching duties. Ben Gaffney, Martin Merturi, Andrew Fortunato play the outfield, backed by Ryan Grady, Ryan McIntosh and Jack Gremse. Leading the infield are Michael Innaimo, Longo, Sean McAdams, Iannazzo and Ryan Grady.

“We haven’t had an issue with walking batters,” Brian Grady said. “Our defense has been solid with the exception of the Milford game (in Sectionals) We’ve been hitting the ball well in all of our games.”

Fairfield American has been practicing every other day and even got a scrimmage game in preparing for the regionals.

“Early on there was some pressure on us,” Brian Grady said. “District two is very competitive with the Trumbull teams and Fairfield National. Once you get to this point, I think everything is gravy. The kids just want to go out, have fun, and compete.”

Scarborough will represent Maine, Wellesley South, Massachusetts, Warwick North, Rhode Island and Brattleboro, Vermont.

Maine meets Vermont in the regional opener at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The winner plays Rhode Island Monday at 1. The Fairfield American-Bedford winner will play Massachusetts at 7 on Monday.

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