SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. —Stayin’ alive … stayin’ alive.
Fairfield American’s journey through the Little League World Series lives on as it rallied from a three-run deficit in the fourth inning, scoring eight times and going on to eliminate Walla, Wash. (Northwest) 14-6 before 5,245 Monday night at Lamade Stadium.
The victory advances Fairfield in the loser’s bracket, where they will face Jackson, N.J.,Tuesday night (7:30, ESPN) for a second time with elimination once again on the line. In Fairfield’s opening game last Thursday, it hung on to New Jersey 7-6 after building a five-run lead.
New Jersey held on to eliminate Rancho Santa Margarita, California (West) 12-9 Monday and advance into the loser’s bracket semifinals.
The start of the Fairfield-Walla Walla game was delayed over an hour due to weather, as rain and lightning came through the area just minutes before the first pitch was scheduled.
Tyler Bauer was making his first start since pitching Fairfield American over Newington in the championship game of the state tournament — he had gotten the final out to save the win over New Jersey on Thursday and threw an inning in relief against Texas on Sunday – and he cruised through the first inning but found trouble in the second as Walla Walla scored twice to take a 2-0 lead.
Joe Baffney reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on a passed ball. Landon Welter walked and Rylan Warren, the no. 8 hitter, lined a single to right to score Baffney and Welter quickly followed as the throw from right field sailed to the backstop. But Bauer got Jack Lesko on a called third strike to end the inning.
Fairfield manager Mike Randazzo shook up the middle of his lineup against Walla Walla, inserting Andrew Cutler in right field (No. 5 spot) and Anthony Pollack in center (No. 7 spot) and the moves paid off as Fairfield tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the second. Cutler opened the inning with a single and Aidan Rivera reached on an error to put runners at first and second. Cutlet advanced to third on a passed ball and Rivera took second on defensive indifference. Both runners scored when Owen Kalagher singled to right center.
But Fairfield gave the lead right back in the third as Bauer continued to struggle. He hit Drew Coleman to open the inning and Andrew Hall singled to left. Keegan Weston singled to right to bring home Coleman to make it 3-2 and then Hayden Lomeli’s two-run single plated Hall and Weston to give Walla Walla a 5-2 lead.
All season long, Fairfield has relied on all 14 players – the team carries five substitutes – and those pinch-hitters have come through time and again and against Walla Walla, it was no exception. Pinch-hitter Sean O’Neil doubled to open the fourth and went to third on a single from pinch-hitter Anthony Falletta. And when pinch-hitter Christian Smith sent the first pitch he saw over the fence in center for a three-run homer, the game was tied at 5-5.
But Fairfield wasn’t through. Pinch-hitter Griffin Dodder reached on an error and Ethan Righter doubled him home to make it 6-5. Righter scored on Michael Iannazzo’s single for a 7-5 lead and Iannazzo scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-5. Bauer walked and went to second on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error for a 9-5 Fairfield lead and Troy Ashkinos (who reached on a third strike wild pitch) scored on Rivera’s double to make it 10-5.
Ciaden Thomsen’s solo home run made it 10-6 in the top of the fifth but Anthony Pollack made an incredible catch at the center field wall, robbing Lomeli of a home run to end the inning.
Iannazzo’s 14th home run of the summer – but his first in the last seven games – came on the heels of a Righter triple and pushed the Fairfield American lead to 12-6 in the bottom of the fifth. A walk to Bauer, a double from Ashkinos and an error brought home two final Fairfield runs to make it 14-6.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Christian Smith. Swinging at the first pitch he saw, he hammered a three-run home run deep into the center fence bushes to erase a three-run Walla Walla lead and tied the game at 5-5. It was part of an eight-run inning that saw 13 Fairfield batters come to the plate.
A high five to the Williamsport grounds crew, who got the tarp on the field, got the tarp off the field and got the field ready for play to delay the start time by just 77 minutes.
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 14, WALLA WALL, WASH. 6
WALLA WALLA 023 010—6 5 4
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 020 84x—14 12 1
Batteries: FA— Tyler Bauer (W), Matt Vivona (6) and Aidan Rivera; WW – Drew Coleman (L), Carson Jones (4) and Keegan Weston
HR: FA – Christian Smith, Michael Iannazzo; WW—Ciaden Thomsen