SOUTHINGTON -- Just four outs away from a berth in Wednesday's Section 1 final, the Fairfield American Little League team got a taste of its own medicine.
American allowed five runs in the fifth inning, four of which came on Tristan Punzo's grand slam, as Annex of New Haven stunned Fairfield 7-5 on Saturday at Verderame Field.
"That's a very big win," Annex manager Sal Punzo said. "There's not much more you can say than that."
American can still clinch a berth in Wednesday's sectional final with a win Sunday (2 p.m.) over Seymour (1-1), which lost to Yalesville 13-2 on Saturday.
The loss was Fairfield's first this summer and only its second in three years of all-star play.
"It's unrealistic to go undefeated for the whole tournament," American manager Bill Meury said. "They got some hits in some big situations and their pitchers made some pitches and we didn't ... we've just got to channel all our disappointment into tomorrow."
Annex cleanup hitter Santino Barnabei homered and scored twice as the club roared back from a 4-0,fourth-inning deficit, improving to 2-0 in the sectional tournament.
"We fought all game, down 4-0," Punzo said. "We kept plugging away and we got it done."
Trailing 5-2 with two outs in the sixth, four straight Annex hitters reached. Zach Pellegrino's RBI double scored Sal Barnabei, cutting Fairfield's lead to 5-3.
After Fairfield starter Matt Kubel walked Santino Barnabei, he hit Michael Lupoli with a pitch. Meury brought Matty Clarkin in and he surrendered Punzo's drive over the left-centerfield fence -- on a full count -- that put Annex up for good.
"I was just hoping it had enough height to get out," Sal Punzo said.
American (2-1) came from behind on Friday night to beat Wilton, scoring eight runs in the final three innings, keyed by Biagio Paoletta's three-run home run with two outs. American had the same situation on Saturday, but Paoletta grounded out to second base to end the game.
"I was thinking the same thing: all he's got to do is pop one," Meury said. "(Paoletta) put it in play, but he didn't get it like he usually does."
Yet, for much of the game, Kubel handled Annex's lineup. American's starter struck out five in 4 2/3 innings, and breezed through the first three, allowing just a walk and a single.
"He pitched a good game," Meury said of Kubel.
American pounced on Annex pitcher Louis Laudano, scoring all of its runs in a four-run third inning. After Ryan Meury doubled and Paoletta reached on an error, Kubel's two-run single drove them both home, putting Fairfield up 2-0.
Kevin Oricoli struck out, but was thrown out on the dropped third strike, allowing Will Lucas. Michael Ghiorzi's RBI groundout lifted Fairfield's lead to 4-0.
Barnabei's homer in the fourth cut Fairfield's lead to 4-2. But Paoletta led off the fifth inning with a double, sliding just inside the tag, a call that Sal Punzo disagreed with, animatedly arguing with the second base umpire.
"As a coach, sometimes you have to just blow off some steam," Punzo said.
Lucas' sacrifice fly lifted Fairfield's lead to 5-2. But three Annex relievers held Fairfield American to just one run and four hits in four innings.
"Those guys held it," Punzo said. "The pitching was just great today, all around."
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 004 100 -- 5 5 0
ANNEX 000 25x -- 7 6 1
Records: FA -- 2-1, A 2-0; Batteries: FA-- Matt Kubel (L), Matty Clarkin (5) and Biagio Paoletta; A -- Louis Laudano, Nick Guarino, Eric Redente (W), Michael Lupoli (Save) and Zach Pellegrino; Home runs: A -- Santino Barnabei, Tristan Punzo.