ORANGE >> Just like he had done all afternoon, there was no hesitation from Fairfield American’s Jamie Flink when he went to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with the game tied and the season on the line.
The first pitch he received from Norwalk’s pitcher he put a swing on it and sprinted down to first. As he rounded the base he quickly lifted his right arm in the air as the ball sailed over the left field fence. He crossed home plate in a hurry with a look of elation.
The two-run home run from Flink turned out to be the decisive game-winning runs as American took the 9-7 lead.
Teammate Brian Howell followed with a solo home run, and then came in to pitch the final three outs, as American defeated Norwalk 10-7 Sunday at Roche Field to win the Division 1 title.
The win advances American to the Section 1 title game on Wednesday in Orange at 7 p.m. American will face Division 2 winner Farmington for the right to head to the state tournament this coming weekend.
“I was really happy,” said Flink of his game-winning 2-run home run. “I just tried to get back into the dugout and just cheer for the next batter and Brain (Howell) kept it going.”
Flink finished the game going 3-for-4 all three home runs, and collecting five RBIs. He said finishing with three home runs was a first for him.
“Well, I really just tried to put a good swing on the ball,” Flink said. “And I know they had good pitchers. I just tried to stay loose. We knew that as long as we stuck together and put good swings on the ball we could put something together and luckily we did.”
In a game where neither team had their No. 1 pitcher available, the game slowly turned into a slugfest.
American (9-1), which never trailed all game, jumped out a 5-0 lead after two innings. Vince Camera got things going in the first with a sac fly to score John Reynolds, and then after just six pitches from Flink to retire Norwalk, Jack Steed (4-for-4) blasted a double in the second, and Brian Kiremidjian reached first on an error as another run scored. A wild pitch, and then a passed ball plated two more runs. Flink followed with a solo home run to make it 5-0 American.
Norwalk, however, battled back. Jack Dumas led off the bottom of the third with a solo home run. A triple, and then an RBI single from Michael Boyian made it 5-3. Jack Mathews tied the game with a 2-run home run.
With a home run under his belt already, Flink came up with the clutch hit again as he blasted a 2-run home run to give American the 7-5 advantage in the fourth.
With one on in the bottom of the fourth, Norwalk’s Jack Fitzpatrick hit a towering 2-run home run to make it a tie game again at 7.
“That’s just great little league baseball,” American head coach Mike Steed said. “Their (Norwalk) hitters were locked in. We knew we had to score a bunch of runs and try and keep it close.”
After a scoreless fifth, that set up American’s winning sixth inning.
Brain Howell came in for Ian Bentley on the mound in the bottom of the sixth as he collected the save, striking out two batters in the process.
American now heads to the one game sectional final. Steed said the exposure of playing in an elimination game will benefit his team moving forward.
“I told the kids in the huddle, that’s great experience for us, because we’ve never faced an elimination game in the last two years,” he said. “We know what it takes in an elimination game. We’ll move onto Wednesday with that level of experience and see what happens.”