SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – The first step was a winning one. Barely.
Matt Vivona had a double and two-RBI triple and scored three runs, Sean O’Neil had a clutch two-run single and Ethan Righter allowed just four hits and struck out seven as Fairfield American opened play in the 2017 Little league World Series with a heart-stopping 7-6 win over Jackson, N.J. before 9,246 Thursday afternoon at Lamade Stadium.
Fairfield, now (19-0) advances into Sunday’s winner’s bracket game against the winner of the Great Lakes Region-Southeast Region at 11 a.m. at Lamade Stadium.
It didn’t take Fairfield American long to grab the momentum as Matt Vivona lined a two-out double off the right-center field wall and he scored when Tyler Bauer – who had been 0 for his last 7 in the two previous New England Region games – sent a single back up the middle to make it 1-0. It was nearly 2-0 but Jackson left fielder Mike Arent made a diving catch of Troy’s Ashkinos’ drive to end the inning.
In the second, Fairfield took advantage of a rare New Jersey error to regain the lead at 2-1. Aidan Rivera opened with a single and tried to score all the way from first on a double from Andrew Cutler but was out at the plate, with Cutler taking third. Anthony Pollack then hit a slow grounder to short and Cartnick threw the ball away, trying to get Cutler at the plate, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Fairfield scored twice in the third as Iannozza opened with a double and moved to third on a passed ball. Vivona reached on a third-strike wild pitch and stole second, putting two runners in scoring position. A walk to Bauer loaded the bases with no outs and pinch-hitter Sean O’Neil’s single plated both Iannozza and Vivona for a 4-1 lead, ending the day for New Jersey starter Garrett Drew.
Two walks and a single with two outs in the third loaded the bases for New Jersey and a run scored to make it 4-2 on a Righter wild pitch. But again, he rallied to strike out Charlie Megilo to end the inning.
The lead grew to 6-2 I n the fourth when Righter singled and Iannozza walked. Vivona ripped a triple down the left field line, scoring both runners to give Fairfield a four-run cushion.
Fairfield iced it with a final run in the sixth on Bauer’s RBI single.
New Jersey rallied with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 7-6, the big blow a two-run homer run off the bat of Cartnick, but Iannazzo got a grounder to third for the second out and Tyler Bauer replaced Iannazzo and got Megilo on a ground out to end the game.
PLAYER OF THE GAMEMatt Vivona. The second baseman went 2 for 3 with a double and a two-RBI triple and scored three runs.
Ethan Righter. He wasn’t overpowering but he was darn good. Pitching into the fourth, he allowed just four hits and striking out seven.
NOT IN THE BOX SCORE
Before the game, Fairfield American coach Wayne Righter danced a pretty impressive jig with Little League Mascot Dugout to the song “Cotton Eyed Joe.”
Fairfield American 7, New Jersey 6
NEW ENGLAND 112 201 — 7 11 0
MID-ATLANTIC 101 004 — 6 7 1
Batteries: NE – Ethan Righter (W), Michael Iannazzo (4), Tyler Bauer (6, S) and Aidan Rivera; MA – Garrett Drew (L), Chris Andrews (3), Dean Daddio (5), Chris Cartnick (6) and J.R. Osmond
HR: NE – none; MA – Tai Mann, Chris Cartnick