ORANGE -- With Fairfield American's winning streaks snapped, the Little League Section 1 Division 1 championship will be decided Sunday at 4 p.m. at Roche Field when the Americans play Norwalk for the right to meet the Division 2 winner on Wednesday night here for the sectional title.
Norwalk, which lost to Fairfield by two runs on Thursday, defeated American 8-4 on Saturday at Old Tavern Road Park to set up the showdown for the division crown. That ended Fairfield's eight-game winning streak during this tournament season but also represented this group's first loss together since July 2012, when the players were competing in a tourney for 10-year-olds.
Norwalk (10-2), which qualified for the division final by beating New Haven Annex 15-12 Friday in an elimination game, opened a 7-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Fairfield (8-1) mounted two rallies, but Norwalk's pitching and fielding withstood the pressure. Norwalk is 3-1 in sectional play.
"If we played Norwalk in a seven-game series, I think it would go seven, so instead we're playing them in a three-game series and we're looking for our second win against them," said Americans' manager Mike Steed, who was impressed with how his team fought back, especially starting pitcher Sam Davenport.
Davenport survived a far-from-crisp Americans' performance in the first inning. He allowed one run over the next three innings before being relieved by Ian Bentley in the fifth inning. Davenport overcame a painful thud to the ground, landing on his back, trying to beat out a grounder in the fourth inning. After insisting he was recovered enough to pitch the fourth, Davenport retired the side in order.
But nothing went Fairfield's way in the Norwalk first. Two Americans' errors, three walks and three hits hurtled Fairfield into a big deficit. Shane Popkins slugged a three-run homer with one out. Two batters later, Jake Deleo cracked one down the left-field line just over the fence, making it 5-0. Two infield errors and a single tacked on two more.
Fairfield second baseman Jack Steed became the team's ninth player to smack a homer with his opposite-field shot to right, cutting Norwalk's lead to 7-1 in the second inning.
After Jake Dumas led off the Norwalk third with a homer, Fairfield's offense got going with a three-run fifth inning that left the score at 8-4. The Americans used five hits and two Norwalk errors to chip away. Kyle Gordon's throw from center field, though, on Jack Steed's single cut down a Fairfield runner at the plate.
"That throw-out at home killed their rally," Norwalk manager Paul Boyian said. "If we didn't make that play, I'd have been nervous.
"It's going to be a tough game Sunday. We're going to have to hit with them. We're down to little pitching."
"We're going to have to do the fundamental things that we didn't have together in the first inning," Mike Steed said of the Sunday final. "Tomorrow (today), we've got to make the plays, and we're going to have to hit the strike zone."
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-337-4879; twitter.com/ReidWalmark
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 010 030--4 10 2
NORWALK 701 00X--8 5 3