ORANGE >> Of course there were going to be nerves.
Battling in the biggest game to date this summer, the Fairfield American Little League baseball team had a jittery start to Thursday’s Division 1 game against Norwalk at Roche Field in Orange.
But per usual, American settled down, while Jamie Flink and Vince Camera each belted home runs and PJ Egan pitched four and a third inning to defeat Norwalk 4-2.
The win advances American to Saturday’s Division 1 final where they will face either Annex of New Haven or Norwalk in the double elimination format.
“They’re 12-year-old boys,” Fairfield American head coach Mike Steed said. “It’s a big situation and I thought the first inning we were kind of over swinging a little bit or trying to do too much, then they settled in a little bit and it was good.”
In the bottom of the first, Norwalk loaded the bases twice but was only able to score one run, as Egan worked his way out of the jam.
Norwalk’s Randy Mateo singled for the RBI.
That score of 1-0 held for a while as Egan found a nice groove and held Norwalk at bay. Norwalk ended the game leaving 10 runners on base.
“PJ pitched a great, great game,” Steed said. “He’s our ace and he’s done it time and time again. He’s got a lot of confidence and a lot of maturity for a 12 year old kid. It’s easy for a 12 year old to get rattled.”
Offensively, American struggled at times against Norwalk’s top pitcher Shane Popkins. Popkins did a nice job of keeping American guessing at the plate as he finished with nine strikeouts.
It wasn’t until the third when Flink gave his team the lead as he crushed a two-strike ball sending it over left-center for a 2-run home run in the third.
“Popkins pitched an unbelievable game,” Steed said. “He had great stuff tonight; looked great, looked confident…got our guys off balance.”
“PJ (Egan) came and brought it today,” Norwalk head coach Paul Boyian said. “Same for Shane.”
Egan was replaced by Sam Davenport in the bottom of the fifth with one out. Davenport did a nice job of collecting the two outs.
Egan ended the night with four strikeouts and allowed just four hits.
American added to its lead in the sixth as Brian Howell singled to start the inning and then Vince Camera followed with a 2-run home run to give American a 4-1 lead.
Steed, however, said after he knows no lead is safe in little league. True to that statement, Norwalk’s Popkin started the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to cut the lead in half. Davenport recorded the strikeout after, and then Howell came in and finished the game.
“They battled,” Boyian said of his team. “For the most part we always chase them down…today, a little bit different, we saw some good pitching from a good program.”