MANCHESTER >> Fairfield American coach Brian Grady was a little worried when Coginchaug’s Mike Garofalo stepped to the plate with two out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning. Sure, Fairfield had a 6-0 lead already, but Grady had seen Coginchaug score 17 runs over the final two innings just the night before.
Garofalo promptly lined a single to left field where Ryan Grady scooped up the ball and fired it to catcher Matt Vivona, who tagged Connor Willett for the third out.
This was, indeed, Fairfield American’s night.
Powered by the pitching of Matt Longo and a pair of timely hits from Matt Sawyer, Fairfield American advanced to the Connecticut Little League state championship game with a 6-2 win over Coginchaug on Thursday at Manchester’s Dettore Field.
Coginchaug plays the winner of the Berlin versus Pomfret/Brooklyn game tonight at 6 p.m. The winner meets Fairfield American on Saturday.
“That’s the best team we’ve faced,” Coginchaug coach Joe Fournier said. “Hopefully, we’ll see them again.”
Longo kept the Coginchaug batters off balance with a terrific curve ball. The righthander allowed just four hits and struck out seven before being relieved in the sixth by Jack Gresme.
“Matt has had a great season but today he was really on,” Grady said. “Coginchaug’s a great team. We saw them play last night and they’re very strong but Longo really went after it. He was phenomenal.”
Coginchaug opened this four team, double elimination state final with a 19-2 victory over Pomfret/Brooklyn. Highlights included grand slams from Jeremy Mangiameli and Colin Murphy, and a two-run homer from Chris Carafeno.
“Possibly, because we did hit so well last night maybe we were a little over aggressive at the plate tonight,” Fournier said. “Maybe we can work on being a little more patient against a kid (Longo) like that because he is a heckuva pitcher.”
Fairfield American, which defeated Berlin, 20-7, in its opener on Wednesday took a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Mike Iannazzo hit a bases-loaded, sacrifice fly and Sawyer followed with a two-run double to left.
Sawyer (2-for-3) also had a key single in Fairfield’s three-run fifth inning.
“Sawyer’s been really hot and that was a big defensive out Ryan made in the fifth,” Grady said. “We take things day by day. We’re very excited for Saturday.”
PJ Casey-Leonard had a pinch hit single in the fifth inning for Coginchaug. Willett and Mangiameli also had base hits.
“We made a couple of mistakes and you can’t make mistakes against good teams,” Fournier added. “I’m so proud of the kids. You saw it in the last two innings they weren’t going to give up, so it was nice.”