BRISTOL — One win away.
Thanks to a gutty pitching performance from Michael Iannazzo, who overcame a three-run deficit and battled into the fourth, two even guttier innings of relief from Matt Vivona and two clutch hits from subs Andrew Cutler and Andrew Pollack, Fairfield American rallied to defeat Goffstown, N.H., 9-4 and advance into Saturday’s New England Regional championship game Wednesday afternoon at Breen Field at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center.
“We’re one win away,” Fairfield American manager Mike Randazzo said. “Everyone comes in and wants to do their part. They all want to contribute to the team and we’ve been doing it all summer. We have a next-man-up mentality … we have five (substitute) hitters that we have to get in, which is not easy, especially in close games, but we’re not afraid to put anyone up.”
Ethan Righter had three hits and scored two runs, while Cutler hammered his two-run triple in the fourth as part of a five-run Fairfield American comeback that gave it the lead for good. Pollack posted a three-run double in a four-run sixth inning that punched Fairfield’s ticket to the finals.
“That’s what happens when you have a strong and deep bench,” Randazzo said. “Everyone has been contributing all summer. Cutler gets a huge hit in the fourth, Pollack with a three-run triple … top to bottom everyone is contributing. If they don’t, we’re not 17-0.”
Fairfield now has to wait until Saturday to see who will try and block their road to Williamsport, Pa., and the Little League World Series. Vermont and Maine face off Thursday in an elimination game with the winner taking on New Hampshire on Friday in another elimination game for the right for the rematch with Fairfield American.
“We’re ready,” Randazzo said. “They’ve all been battle tested all summer. Ethan will get the ball and we’ll have Tyler (Bauer) and Matt, our top three pitchers ready to go.”
Fairfield American squandered a great opportunity in the top of the first when Righter opened with a single and advanced to third on a bloop double by Iannazzo. But Vivona grounded out to third and both Tyler Bauer and Troy Ashkinos struck out to end the threat.
New Hampshire, however, took advantage of an opportunity in the bottom half of the inning when Aiden O’Connell led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single from Brayden Hollinrake for a 1-0 lead.
New Hampshire pushed its lead to 3-0 in the third when Ryan Cote and Brayden Hollinrake singled and Logan Simmons walked to load the bases with no outs. However, Iannazzo and Fairfield American wiggled out of the jam. Ashkinos threw out a runner at second from right field and catcher Aidan Rivera got a force play at the plate, allowing Fairfield American weathered the storm.
“I just wanted to throw strikes and let our defense work,” Iannazzo said. “I knew that we’d come back. I knew our offense would do it.”
In the fourth, pinch-hitter Anthony Falletta singled and pinch hitter Christian Smith walked with one out. Cutler then lined his triple down the right-field line to make it 3-2. Righter’s RBI single tied the game at 3-3 and another single from Iannazzo gave Fairfield a two-run advantage.
“You can always throw it back to we’ve been there before,” Randazzo said. “We were down in the sectionals and the states and we came back. You play for 18 outs and that’s what we did. The boys were ready to play and certainly finished the game.”
A bases-loaded walk to Rivera in the sixth gave Fairfield a 6-4 lead and Pollack iced the victory with that three-run double.
“Everyone can hit, starters and subs, we can count on everyone to get us runs and hits,” Righter said. “We’re excited for Saturday.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Andrew Cutler. His two-run triple in the fourth got Fairfield American on the scoreboard and set the stage for a five-run inning that turned a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 lead. Cutler called it his biggest hit of the summer. Indeed.
Anthony Pollack. He may be a sub, but his three-run double in the sixth put the icing on Fairfield American’s 17 th straight tournament win and put them just one win away from reaching the Little League World Series.
“I just trying to get something going, get those guys in and my teammates did a good job getting into scoring position and I was just trying to put the ball in play, get a base hit … I’m in the dugout looking at what pitches he’s throwing. He threw a lot of pitches that we’re up in the zone, so I was expecting a pitch up and I just drove it.” — Andrew Cutler on his triple.
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 9, GOFFSTOWN 4
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 000 504 — 9 9 0
GOFFSTOWN, N.H. 102 010 — 4 10 0
Records: Fairfield (17-0, 2-0); New Hampshire (14-3, 2-1)
Batteries: FA — Michael Iannazzo (W), Matt Vivona (4), Tyler Bauer (6) and Aidan Rivera; NH — Aiden O’Connell, Ryan Cote (4, L), Ronnie Morgan (5), Cam Hujsak (6) and Brayden Hollinrake