Fairfield American reaches District 2 championship game
Published 9:08 am, Wednesday, July 13, 2016
TRUMBULL - Richie Kerstetter was one pitch away from perfection.
In a dominating performance, Kerstetter threw a no-hitter and struck out 15 as Fairfield American rolled to a 7-0 victory over Trumbull American in the District 2 Little League tournament Tuesday night at Unity Park.
“Richie was overpowering. He was phenomenal today,” Fairfield manager Brian Grady said. “It’s very fun to have Richie on the mound. He’s been great all year.”
Kerstetter faced 19 batters - just one over the minimum and only three batters made contact - en route to the no-hitter. In his two District 2 tournament games, Kerstetter has faced 23 batters, and struck out 19.
“I just wanted to get ahead of the hitters and go from there,” Kerstetter said.
Fairfield (6-0), which defeated Westport 6-5 in its opening round game, moves into the winner’s bracket final on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Unity against either Trumbull National (3-3) or Trumbull American (5-1), who face off again on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., in the loser’s bracket. Trumbull American defeated Trumbull National 8-2 in the opening round.
“We told the kids that we could see them (Fairfield) again,” Trumbull American manager Tim Honychurch said. “Baseball can change any day of the week. A kid can throw great today, wake up tomorrow and not feel great on Saturday. You never know so you always have to be mentally prepared.”
Fairfield American took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Michael Iannazzo hit a line drive home run over the fence in left and the first of Ben Gaffney’s two home runs in the top of the third made it 2-0.
“It’s been up and down the order,” Grady said. “The other day it was Matt (Sawyer) and today it was Ben (Gaffney) at the top, with the grand slam and the other hit. Matt’s been crushing the ball, Richie and further down the order. It’s been clicking really well for us.”
Kerstetter was also clicking on the mound, striking out eight of the first nine batters (four looking) as Fairfield American took control. In the fourth, a single from Ryan Grady, a walk to Iannazzo and a single from Ryan McIntosh loaded the bases, setting the stage for Gaffney, who hammered a shot over the fence in left center for a 6-0 Fairfield lead, blowing the game open.
“The big blow was that grand slam, putting up four runs on that one play, that’s tough to come back from that,” Honychurch said. “We have good hitters on our team but the tough thing about baseball is, if you’re not used to seeing a certain speed, fast or slow, it’s very difficult to adjust during the game. We haven’t seen anybody that throws that hard.”
The lone blemish on Kerstetter’s card was a full-count, leadoff walk to Trumbull American’s Peter Antoniou in the bottom of the fourth. Two wild pitches pushed Antoniou to third but he was left stranded as Kerstetter struck out the side.
“One walk away from a perfect game,” Grady said. “He was throwing great. I think he was a little mad because on Saturday (in the opening game against Westport) we told him he was only throwing 65 (miles per hour).”
“Incredible. We just tip our hats to him,” Honychurch said. “Throwing strikes, throwing hard, it’s tough to beat a kid throwing like that.”
In the fifth, Fairfield finished the scoring as Kerstetter scored on an infield error to make it 7-0.
Fairfield American 6, Westport 5
Fairfield jumped out to a 6-1 lead after just two innings and needed every one of those runs as they held off a charging Westport squad to win the opening game of the District 2 Little League Tournament on July 9 at Unity Park in Trumbull.
“We needed every run. Westport played awesome,” Fairfield coach Brian Grady said. “What a battle that was.”
The game itself was a battle from start to finish. Thanks to a first inning home run from Matthew Sawyer and second inning homers from Sawyer and Matt Longo, Fairfield raced out to a 6-1 lead after just two innings. But Westport - thanks to four solo home runs - fought back to cut the lead to one and had a chance to tie before Fairfield posted the final out.
Westport took the initial lead in the top of the first when Finn Popken lined a solo home run over the fence in right but Fairfield tied matters in the bottom half of the frame when Sawyer hit the first of his two homers to make it 1-1. In the last of the second, after two were out, Fairfield’s Matt Vivona singled, moved to second when Ben Gaffney was hit by a pitch and both scored when Sawyer hammered a pitch over the center field fence to make it 4-1. Richie Kerstetter then singled to right and Matt Longo homered to center to make it 6-1.
“Matt’s seeing the ball really well. He’s been strong for us all year,” Grady said of Sawyer. “The bats have been very hot. We came out hot today and it’s been different guys, up and down the order. We’ve been really happy with the bats.”
But after that, Fairfield’s bats went silent. A solo homer from Sean Clarke cut the Fairfield lead to 6-2 in the third and an RBI single from Clarke in the fourth inched Westport within 6-3 before solo blasts from Tucker Lawrence and Cutter Frost in the fifth made it a one run game.
After Frost’s home run, Grady took out starter Matt Longo and brought in Kerstetter to shut the door.
“Great great game,” Grady said. “Great game by both sides.”