Updated: Fairfield American is World Series bound

Fairfield American celebrates winning the Little League New England title. — David G. Whitham photos

Fairfield American rode a 13-hit attack and a pitching duo that allowed only four hits to defeat South Portland, Maine 10-0 at the New England Regional finals on Saturday before 4,500 fans at Breen Field in Bristol.

With its 18th consecutive win of the summer, manager Mike Randazzo’s team became the third Fairfield team to advance to the Little League World Series, joining the 2012-14 combines.

Fairfield American opens play at Williamsport (Pa.) on Thursday at 3 p.m. when it takes on the Mid-Atlantic Region champion.

Ethan Righter pitched four-plus innings to earn the victory over South Portland, Maine.

“To carry on the Fairfield American legacy is still sinking in,” Randazzo said. “All the coaches that have come through this program. I’m happy for the boys, happy for the families, happy for the league. It’s years of training, years of hard work, what a feeling.”

Fairfield broke through with three runs in the top of the third inning, added four more in the fourth and wrapped it up with three in the sixth.

Ethan Righter pitched into the fifth inning, before Tyler Bauer came in to get the final four batters, two on strikes. Righter struck out nine and gave up four hits.

When asked about Righter, Randazzo said, “He grinded it out, right? He wasn’t hitting all his spots today, but I’ll tell you, the kid’s a bulldog. I’d put him up there with any pitcher in the country right now. You put him on the mound and he will battle through whatever he has to do.”

Michael Iannazzo smacked two-run doubles in the third and fourth innings.

Michael Iannazzo had two doubles and four RBIs.

“Once we finally got on the board in the third, we found our groove and started hitting,” Iannazzo said. “I felt confident at the plate because we were never down.”

Matt Vivona had three hits and drove in three runs.

Righter and Sean O’Neil (RBI double) had two hits each.

Christian Smith drove in a run with a single.

Fairfield American’s No. 9 batters in the lineup, combined for three hits beginning when Leo Randazzo singled off Maine starter Andrew Heffernan in the third inning.

Righter followed with an infield single, moving pinch-runner O’Neil to second base.

Sean O’Neil had two hits, scored three runs and drove in a run.

Iannazzo promptly went the other way and drove a two-run double into the left field corner.

After a wild pitch moved him to third, Iannazzo beat a fielder’s choice throw to the plate. Vivona picked up the RBI.

Heffernan retired the next three batters, but Fairfield was back at it in the fourth.

Griffin Dodder was hit by a pitch, Andrew Cutler singled to left and O’Neil scored them both with a gapper to right-center that went for a double and a 4-0 lead.

Iannazzo pulled a two-bagger to right field and O’Neil scored.

Matt Vivona had three hits and drove in three runs for the New England champions.

Vivona followed with a single to center and headed for second base when he saw the bag unattended.

Iannazzo, now on third, took off for home and scored on the errant relay to the infield to make it 7-0.

Heffernan struck out the next two batters, and retired two hitters in the fifth before exiting the game when his pitch count (86) limit was reached.

Aiden Lee came on to get the third out, but in the sixth Fairfield came out swinging.

O’Neil singled and Righter doubled.
Richie Gilboy came in to pitch and got Iannazzo to pop out.

Vivona then ripped a two-run double to right center.

Smith singled him home one out later to complete the scoring.

Sean O’Neil and Ethan Righter (13) congratulate each other.

Maine, playing its sixth game of the tournament, put the pressure on early.

Heffernan was hit by a pitch to start the home first.

One out later, Nolan Hobbs sent a blast over the foul pole in left field — but was it fair or foul.

Ruled foul by left field umpire John DiMuro, the call held up upon review.

Righter then got Hobbs to hit into a 4-6-3 double play started by Vivona and turned by Iannazzo to Bauer at first base.

An infield hit and throwing error on the play put Lee on second with one out in the Maine second, but Righter struck out the next two batters.

The right-handed Righter, who had pitched Fairfield past Maine 8-0 in the opener of the regional, then set down the first two batters he faced in the third inning on strikes.

Maine regrouped.

Heffernan singled and Johnny Poole doubled.

A strikeout/wild pitch saw Hobbs reach first to load the bases.

Gilboy worked the count to 3-0 and got the swing away sign from manager Jim Poole.

He hit the ball on the nose, but Vivona scooped up the hard grounder and threw to first to retire the side.

“He just missed it,” Poole said. “If there was anyone I was going to give the swing sign to, it was him. We needed to get something going and that didn’t go our way.”

Lee had a single to start the fourth and Ben Stanley worked out the only walk issued by Righter.

After a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position, Righter struck out the next three batters.

Maine had six runners in scoring position when Righter accounted for six of his nine strikeouts.

Righter said: “I was just trying to make them put the ball in play. We were looking to go inside and jam them the whole game to try and get groundouts.”

He left after reaching his pitch limit on a fly ball out to Owen Gallagher in left field to open the Maine fifth.

Bauer came on and the lanky right-hander notched a strikeout and enticed a ground ball out.

He set Maine down in the sixth on a pop up, a ground out to Leo Randazzo at third and a strikeout.

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