Little League: Fairfield outslugs New Hampshire

Ben Gaffney had four of Fairfield American's 21 hits in a 17-11 win over New Hampshire. — David G. Whitham photo

Ben Gaffney had four of Fairfield American’s 21 hits in a 17-11 win over New Hampshire. — David G. Whitham photo

It took a slugging exhibition totaling 35 hits and seven pitchers to decide Fairfield American’s 17-11 win over Bedford, New Hampshire in the Little League New England Regionals at Leon Breen Field in Bristol on Thursday.

“It was going to who can out slug who….We took a gamble,” said Fairfield American manager Brian Grady said, whose team batted around three times to improve to 15-1. “We’ve only stumbled one time and that was against  (New Hampshire’s R.J.) Juliano. “We rolled the dice a little bit and fortunately it worked out.”

Now only Massachusetts stands between Fairfield American and a berth opposite defending New England champion Rhode Island for a berth in the World Series in Williamsport, Pa. The locals will play Wellesley South, Mass. on Friday at 1 p.m.

“I thought I was going to have to move to Arizona, it was scary,” Grady said of taking starting pitcher out after one inning with a 7-0 lead. “Richie started his last batter with thirty pitches, so now he can go (versus Massachusetts). Our other guys stepped up. We were playing chess the whole time.”

If Fairfield American gets to the final, it will have Matt Longo fully rested. Matt Sawyer, slated to pitch the sixth inning against New Hampshire, was ruled out with heat exhaustion in a game played with a heat index over 100. He left in the fifth inning and is day to day.

Rhode Island knocked Massachusetts into the loser’s bracket with a six-run sixth inning that propelled it to a 10-7 victory on Wednesday night.

Kerstetter doubled home a pair of first inning runs, Sawyer hit a three-run home run and Kerstetter had a solo shot in the second inning.

Michael Iannazzo had three singles and a triple to take his batting stats in the regionals to 8-for-11. He drove in three runs and scored three times.

Sawyer finished the game with three hits and five RBIs.

Ben Gaffney had four hits, scored four runs and had an RBI.

Sean McAdams was 3-for-3 with an RBI.

Kerstetter had two hits, three RBIs and scored two runs.

Matt Longo had two hits, two RBIs and scored a run.

Ryan McIntosh (three runs scored), Matt Vivona and Andrew Fortunato had hits.

Fairfield American had 21 hits.

Each team committed only one error

Kerstetter got the starting nod.

He was the starting pitcher in Fairfield American’s 7-1 loss to New Hampshire in the opener on Sunday.

A left-hander, Kerstetter gave up four runs in the first inning in the first game before shutting Bedford down without a hit the next 3.1 frames. He left after reaching the allowed pitch count of 85 with his sixth strikeout.

New Hampshire then lost to Massachusetts, 10-0, before bouncing back with a 14-4 victory over Vermont. Fairfield American stayed in contention with an 8-2 win over Maine on Tuesday.

Given its first chance to bat first, the 15-1 Fairfield American squad put together an inning-opening rally. Gaffney singled to right and Iannazzo had a base hit up the middle.

Sawyer’s fielder’s choice grounder to second put runners on the corners. Kerstetter, who stepped to the plate 0-for-6 in the regionals, took a 2-2 pitch into left field for a two-run double. For the first time in three games Fairfield American had the early lead.

Kerstetter, who had great success with his curveball, gave up singles to T.J. O’Connell and Juliano, but struck out the last two batters to leave them in scoring position. Catcher Vivona made a fine play on a foul ball by the backstop.

Martin Merturi was hit by a pitch to open the second inning. Bedford starter Dylan Dufour enticed a pair of grounders. The first went for a fielder’s choice off the bat of McIntosh. Vivona’s grounder to O’Connell at second base went for a base hit, when O’Connell hustled to beat the fielder’s choice attempt.

O’Connell scored when Gaffney’s grounder to shortstop got caught in Juliano’s glove and he had no play.

Sawyer followed with his blast deep over the fence in left field to take the score to 6-0.

Kerstetter then hit his homer to left center.

Iannazzo came on in relief to pitch to start the second inning. Kerstetter exited with a pitch count of 23, meaning he will be eligible to pitch in the finals on Saturday.

After hitting the leadoff batter in both the second and third innings, Iannazzo got out of trouble on each occasion. He struck out two batters in the third.

Nick Asadourian hustled his hit into a double to open the Bedford fourth and begin the comeback that tied the game at 7-7

After Cam Cilley reached on a chopped hit in front of the plate, Iannazzo (38 pitches) was replaced by Jack Gremse.

Ethan Larochelle doubled and Armand Rouleau singled. Gremse notched a strikeout, but O’Connell doubled off the fence and it was a 7-3 game. Another run scored on a wild pitch.

Iannazzo at second base and Sawyer at shortstop collided trying to catch Cade Corbett’s drive to center. The ball found the ground, and Corbett’s double plated another run. Juliano’s two-bagger made it 7-6. It was 7-7 after Asadourian’s second hit of the inning.

Gremse, who threw 58 pitches, left two men on base with a ground out to third.

Fairfield American wasted no time taking back the lead against O’Connell, who came in to pitch to start the third inning.

Aggressively approaching each at bat, McIntosh doubled, Vivona singled, Gaffney doubled (RBI), Iannazzo (two RBIs) tripled and Sawyer (RBI) singled.

With the score now 11-7, McAdams singled with two outs to keep the rally going.

Meturi was robbed of a base hit on a fine play by Juliano at short, but Fairfield American was back on top.

Needing to stem any more momentum switches, Gremse struck out the first two batters in the fifth.

After O’Connell singled, he struck out Corbett but the ball went to the backstop and he reached safely. Juliano hit a three-run home run, before Gremse struck out his fourth batter in the frame.

Looking to extend its now tenuous 11-10 advantage, Fairfield American’s McIntosh was hit by a pitch in the sixth. With one out, Gaffney had his third hit and Iannazzo also singled.

McIntosh scored on a wild pitch, and with runners on second and third, Sawyer knocked in his fifth run with a single to right.

Iannazzo got a great jump on a short pitch in the dirt and scored. Kerstetter walked and Longo and McAdams slammed RBI triples for a 17-10 lead.

Fortunato came in to face Bedford in the home sixth.

A double, wild pitch and single put men on first and third.

McAdams at third base let the run come home on Larochelle’s grounder and got the important force out at second.

With Maddox Muir at the plate, Vivona threw out Larochelle trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt for the second out.

Muir and Dufour walked, but Fortunato retired O’Connell on a liner to shortstop.


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