Little League: Fairfield to play for New England title

Richie Kerstetter had three hits and pitched fiour innings of no hit ball in the win. — David G. Whitham photo

Richie Kerstetter had three hits and pitched four innings of no hit ball in the win. — David G. Whitham photo

Richie Kerstetter came into the Little League New England Regional tournament, arguably Fairfield American’s best dual threat.

On the biggest stage thus far for the Connecticut state champions, Kerstetter knocked in five runs from his No. 3 spot in the batting order and pitched four innings of no hit ball, as the locals defeated South Wellesley, Massachusetts 11-0 at Breen Field in Bristol.

“Richie is tough when he’s locating the ball like that,” Fairfield American manager Brian Grady said. “People don’t give him a lot of pitches to swing at when he’s at bat. They pitch around him.

“It’s less frustrating for him with Ben Gaffney, Michael Iannazzo and Matt Sawyer hitting in front of him like this. He’s seeing better pitches.” Kerstetter is 5-for-7 with 8 RBIs in the last two games.

Fairfield American will play North Warwick, R.I. for the title on Saturday at 1 p.m. The victor advances to the World Series in Williamsport, Pa. beginning Aug. 18.

“I didn’t really have a feel for my curveball, but the fastball was working,” Kerstetter said. “Those guys in front of me get on and I get so much better pitches. Then the guys following me get their hits.

“If we play our game, we have a good chance to win (on Saturday).”

Sean McAdams had two of those hits, a single and a double, as Fairfield American had 13 hits after slugging 21 hits a day earlier.

“Our first game was the only one we lost focus,” said McAdams, who is 6-for-7 in the tourney. “The next three we’ve been hitting like crazy. I face Richie in the regular season and I feel bad for those guys. When I batted against him I was late on every swing.”

Iannazzo had seven straight hits before lining out in the fourth inning. Grady shook his head no when it was suggested he was going to sub for him after the out. Iannazzo has 10 hits in 15 at bats.

Iannazzo, one of three 11 year olds on the team (with Matt Vivona and McAdams), said, “I’ve been getting good swings. Our team is really hitting well and everyone is contributing. Everyone is pumped up and excited to get this far.”

Kerstetter was pitching for the second consecutive game and took the mound for the third time overall. He struck out nine batters and stranded seven runners.

Massachusetts went with ace Mark Henshon, whose only trip to the mound came in during his 4.1 inning stint in South Wellesley’s 10-0 five inning run rule victory over New Hampshire on Monday.

Kerstetter hit a three-run home run in the first inning, scoring Gaffney and Iannazzo who had each collected their eighth hit of regionals. He would add a two-run single and a double.

A pair of errors and a walk loaded the bases for Massachusetts in the second, but Kerstetter struck out Chris Kenney and James Henshon to get out of trouble.

In the Fairfield American second, center fielder Jack Toomey made a strong throw to catcher David Blair, who took the short hop and tagged out McAdams attempting to score from third.

McAdams and Ryan McIntosh opened the inning with singles.

Kerstetter reached back and struck out two batters to leave two runners (HBP, walk) stranded in the bottom of the frame.

Kerstetter made it five RBIs with a two-run single to center in the third. The hit scored Iannazzo and Sawyer, who each reached on singles.

The Fairfield American fourth at bat was noteworthy on two fronts.

Gaffney (9-for-14) had his third hit in the game, and Iannazzo lined out after garnering hits in seven trips to the plate.

Kerstetter, with 15 pitches to work with, took the hill for the fourth.

He struck out two batters around an infield error.

Working to Mark Henshon, the last batter he would face, the lefthander threw his hardest pitch of the day to get the strikeout.

Fairfield American stretched its leads with six runs in the fifth.

Kerstetter doubled and scored on Michael Innaimo’s ground out. McAdams doubled to score Matt Longo, who had reached on a strikeout/wild pitch.

Kenney came on in relief for Mark Henshon to face McIntosh, who walked.

With Martin Merturi at the plate, McAdams scored after McIntosh chose to get in a rundown on a wild pitch.

Merturi and Gaffney walked and Iannazzo singled home a pair.

Errors on the play brought the third run home for an 11-0 lead.

Sawyer came in to pitch in the bottom of the inning.

Toomey had Massachusetts first hit to begin the frame.

After a strikeout, Lussier walked.

A fine play by Innaimo at third was good for the second out.

James Henshon singled to load the bases for Charlie Denomme, but Sawyer struck him out to insure the 10-run rule.

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