BRIDGEPORT -- Despite trailing by 11 after just 1 1/2 innings, Fairfield National coach Bill Llewellyn still believed his club would stave off elimination and advance to Saturday's District 2 final.
Sure enough, Llewellyn knows his team better than most.
National scored five in the second and 12 in the fourth, turning the lopsided deficit into a 17-13 win over Trumbull National in the losers' bracket final on Friday night at Artman's Field.
"This team does this to us," Llewellyn said. "They don't make it easy, they haven't ever really made it easy."
Joey Mancini was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and tossed 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win. Robbie Farruggio came in to get the final four outs, earning a save. Farruggio and Mancini were the only two of six Fairfield pitchers to not allow a run.
"I was keeping the ball low, and my curveball was good." Mancini said.
"Joey Mancini bailed us out," Llewellyn said.
National will have to beat crosstown rival Fairfield American twice -- today at noon and Sunday at noon -- to reach next week's Section 1 tournament. Fairfield is guaranteed a team in the sectionals for the third straight year.
"This is what we wanted," Llewellyn said. "We're ready for them."
"We were a little short on pitching, so I knew it was going to get tight," Trumbull coach Keith Lojko said. "I give (Fairfield National) all the credit in the world ... they just came out and hit the ball."
Down to its last nine outs and trailing 11-5, Fairfield sent 15 batters to the plate in the fourth. The first eight Fairfield hitters reached, four of which came on RBI singles, capped by Reed Moscolo's game-tying base hit that scored Griffin Donohue.
"They just believed," Llewellyn said. "It just takes a little momentum and they started believing."
Tyler Llewellyn's RBI groundout gave Fairfield its first lead of the game and Mancini's RBI single lifted Fairfield's advantage to 13-11.
"We just stayed confident," Mancini said. "We never gave up."
Alex Steele's three-run homer to right-center field capped the 12-run rally, giving Fairfield a 17-11 advantage.
"He has that ability to change a game," Llewellyn said of Steele. "And he did tonight."
Trumbull scored two in the fifth on Lojko's RBI double. Trumbull put runners on first and second in the sixth, but Farruggio induced Luke Bauro to fly out to end the game.
"I sensed we'd hold on and they'd make it interesting," Llewellyn said. "Which they did, of course."
Lojko's three-run homer in the top of the first gave Trumbull the advantage from the get-go, and in the second Trumbull appeared poised to mercy-rule Fairfield, sending 13 to the plate and scoring eight, capped by Garofalo's grand slam that lifted Trumbull's lead to 11-0.
"It was 11," Lojko said. "But it was only the second inning."
"We asked them if that was how they wanted to end their Little League (season)," Llewellyn said. "Do you want to be 10-runned?"
But Chris Radovic homered with one out in the bottom of the second, and seven of the next eight Fairfield hitters reached. Llewellyn's two-RBI double cut Trumbull's lead to 11-3, Mancini's sacrifice fly made it 11-4 and Farruggio's single cut the deficit to 11-5.
"(Radovic's) home run sparked it," Llewellyn said. "That got them believing and the bats started opening up."
TRUMBULL NATIONAL 380 020--13 9 1
FAIRFIELD NATIONAL 050 (12)0x--17 13 1
Records: Trumbull National 4-3; FN 6-1; Batteries: TN-- Tyler Knight, Tony Socci (L), Matt Garofalo (4) and Will Hnatuk; FN-- Chris Radovic, Henry Schmidt (2), Tyler Llewellyn (2), Joey Mancini (W), Reed Moscolo (5), Robbie Farruggio (Save) and Izakie Zuckerman; Doubles: TN-- Andrew Lojko; FN-- Mancini 2, Llewellyn; Home runs: TN-- Lojko, Matt Garofalo; FN-- Radovic, Alex Steele.