TRUMBULL -- For the second time in three years and the third in five years, the Fairfield American all-star team has won the Little League District 2 tournament championship. Fairfield used the long ball, as well as tight defense and strong pitching, to defeat Wesport 8-3 on Saturday afternoon at Unity Park.
The Americans cracked three home runs, including two in a five-run sixth inning, to advance to the divisional stage in Orange, beginning on Thursday. Fairfield went 7-0 in the tournament, through pool play that eliminated six of 10 teams starting on June 23, and 3-0 in the double-elimination phase that began on July 7.
Westport (5-3), whose 2013 predecessors won the district title en route to a spot in the Little League World Series, spotted Fairfield a 2-0 lead by giving up single runs each in the top of the second and fourth innings. But the Westporters battled back, making it 2-1 on Chris Veneruso's two-out run-scoring double in the bottom of the fourth. Ian Bentley, who went 4-for-4, belted a solo homer in the Fairfield fifth inning for a 3-1 advantage, but Westport's Adam Petro, named to the all-district team as a third baseman, slugged his fifth home run of the tournament, a two-run shot way over the center- field fence, to forge a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the frame.
But in the top of the sixth, the Fairfield batters made a collective statement.
"I told the players we've been here before. I told them to take it one at bat at a time and to be patient," Fairfield manager Michael Steed said of the 3-3 tie. "I said put it in play, put pressure on their defense, get on base and see what happens."
Following a Westport infield error that allowed the Americans' lead-off batter to reach in the sixth inning, center fielder Scooter Reynold got his second hit of the game on a sacrifice bunt attempt that turned into an infield single. That set the stage for right fielder Jamie Flink, who connected for a three-run home run, his third of the tournament, which gave Fairfield a 6-3 lead. Vince Camera, selected by managers and district officials as the tournament MVP, belted a two-run homer, his seventh of the tournament.
PJ Egan polished off his complete-game victory in the bottom of the sixth by notching his second and third strikeouts of the game and earning his third win of the tourney. Westport starter Will Eichorn was as effective until the sixth, giving up the first homer before being relieved by Jimmy Trinkle, who got out of the inning after Camera's blast.
"That was his (Egan's) best performance of the tournament, by far," Steed said. "Will Eichorn did a great job of keeping our batters off balance. I'd say he got at least seven outs on groundballs. But we had a couple of hits that we strung together in the sixth."
As far as Petro's game-tying two-run homer in the fifth, Steed said: "We kind of were trying to give him some nasty pitches. One (pitch) was left out over the plate for him. Petro's been crushing the ball all tournament. He did a great job."
"Will did a great job of hitting his spots all tournament," Westport manager Andy Thompson said of Eichorn. "And Adam provided that pop that we needed in many games. When he hit that home run, that gave me a surge of confidence. I felt quite comfortable at that point."
email@example.com; 203-337-4879; twitter.com/ReidWalmark
Little League District 2 final
Fairfield American 8, Westport 3
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 010 115--8 13 2
WESTPORT 000 120--3 5 2
Records: Fairfield American 7-0, Westport 5-3. Batteries: FA--PJ Egan and Vince Camera; W--Will Eichorn, Jimmy Trinkle (6) and Luc Yokoi. All-District Team: Tiernan Lynch, Easton; Max Morales Thomason, Redding; Joaquin Brasher, Bridgeport North End; John Held, Trumbull National; Brian Hance, Trumbull American; Luke Noel, Stratford; Michael Murphy, Fairfield National; Joe Kipp, Monroe; Jeff Nugent, Monroe; Adam Petro, Westport; Will Eichorn, Westport; Brian Howell, Fairfield American; PJ Egan, Fairfield American. Tournament MVP: Vince Camera, Fairfield American. Ron Artman Coaches Award: Paul Jackson, North End.