Lucas delivers; Fairfield in final

Will Lucas singled home Henry Presstegaard with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning to send Fairfield American to the New England Little League Regional championship game with a 4-3 victory over South Burlington, Vermont at Breen Field in Bristol on Thursday.

Manager Bill Meury’s team will meet Bedford, New Hampshire, which defeated Wellesley South, Massachusetts 2-0 in the first semifinal.

The title game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday in Bristol and will be telecast on ESPN.

“Number one was to help our team get the championship,” Lucas said in the post-game press conference. “It was crazy. I just wanted to win the game.”

His manager sat by his side and added: “This kid gutted it out. For his standards, it was a tough game [0-for-4]. You have to have a short memory. Give credit to Will Lucas.”

Kiernan checked his swing on a two-strike pitch with one out in the bottom of the eighth before he hit a deep fly to the fence in right field that carried foul.

Two pitches later, he singled over the first base line and Fairfield was back in business — again.

Previous attempts to leave Vermont on the field were short-circuited, as the locals left the bases loaded in the sixth and stranded two more runners in the home seventh.

After a wild pitch moved pinch-runner Presstegaard to second, Vermont right-hander Sammy Premsagar retired Matty Clarkin on a fly ball to right for the second out.

That brought up the top of the batting order, and Ryan Meury walked on a 3-1 pitch and Biagio Paoletta drew his fourth walk of the afternoon on a 3-0 count.

Vermont manager Ed Hockenbury brought Andrew Cunningham on in relief, and Lucas greeted the right-hander with a first-pitch game-winning single to center.

“I thought we had [had] two shots at it…and maybe we were going to run out of luck,” Bill Meury said. “We haven’t walked through every game [on the way to the title game] and the kids are accustomed to it [the pressure].”

Fairfield scored runs in the first three innings and took a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning, with Matt Kubel knocking in Paoletta in the first.

Presstegaard’s drive to right was played into a three-base error, and he scored on a wild pitch in the second.

Paoletta built a run in the third. After he walked and stole second base, Lucas hit behind him to move him to third.

Paoletta broke for home after shortstop Ethan Klesch released the ball to first on Kubel’s grounder, and he beat the relay home.

Vermont used a rare throwing error on Paoletta with one out in the fifth on a chopper in front of the plate to spark a three-hit rally that resulted in a tied game.

Starting pitcher Ryan Meury pitched to the first three batters in the frame, before Lucas came on in relief of the left hander, who moved to the outfield after he allowed two hits and struck out eight.

Vermont used two singles around a fielder’s choice grounder to third to make it 3-3.

Lucas ended the fifth with a strikeout, and fanned two more batters in the sixth to leave a runner on second.

Kubel entered with one out in the seventh and pitched around a pair of infield errors to keep the game deadlocked.

“I was looking to throw strikes and get my team back in the dugout,” Kubel said of his relief assignment.

Ryan Meury, Lucas and Kubel combined to allow only three hits, no earned runs, with three walks and 13 strikeouts.

Fairfield managed six hits to keep the pressure on long enough to get the winning run home.

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