MANCHESTER >> Look out New England. Fairfield American is headed to Bristol again.
Matt Sawyer blasted a three-run homer, Martin Merturi hit a key two-run single and Matt Iannazzo pitched four strong innings to power Fairfield American past Coginchaug, 6-3, in the Connecticut Little League state championship game Saturday at Manchester’s Dettore Field.
“Their goal out of the gate was really to win the state and they worked really hard all offseason to do that,” Fairfield American manager Brian Grady said. “They’ve reached their goal. They did a great job.”
Grady’s players can’t wait to play in the New England Regional tournament, which begins Saturday at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Center in Bristol.
“The boys want to go tonight,” Grady said. “They want to go tonight or tomorrow at the latest.”
Coginchaug grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Connor Willett’s lead-off double and Colin Murphy’s RBI ground out.
But Fairfield American, which also defeated Coginchaug last Thursday night, answered with four runs in the first against pitcher Chris Carafeno.
“All year they don’t get down,” Grady added. “They just bounce back up. They just keep hitting the ball and amazing things have happened.”
The highlight was Sawyer’s three-run homer that sailed over everything in left center.
“I was just hoping I could get a fastball I could drive and I got one,” said Sawyer, who also had a pair of singles.
Carafeno settled down and Coginchaug trailed just 4-2 after Jeremy Mangiameli’s lead-off homer in the second. Fairfield American, however, extended its lead to 6-2 on Merturi’s pinch-hit single in the third.
“We started a little slow but Chris pitched a great game after that,” Coginchaug manager Joe Fournier said. “I think holding this team to six runs is very impressive. But holding us to three is even more impressive.”
Coginchaug tried to rally in the fifth, closing the gap to 6-3 when Willett singled, Murphy lined a double to center and Willett scored on a wild pitch. But Sawyer relieved Iannazzo, who had reached his 85-pitch limit, and closed the door by striking out the side.
“(Sawyer) was throwing heat,” Fournier said. “The fact that they can bring in pitcher after pitcher like that is quite impressive.”
Mike Garofalo had a line drive single for Coginchaug, whose program was also the state runner-up to Westport in 2013.
“If you had asked me six weeks ago would I take second place in the state, I think we would have said yes,” Fournier added. “We won district. We won our sectional. These kids played with a ton of heart and they should be proud. They set a standard that a lot of people in our town are going to aspire to for a long time.”
Fairfield American will play Bedford (N.H.) in its regional opener on Sunday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m.
“I can’t wait,” Sawyer said. “It’s great to bring it (state title) back to Fairfield American.”