There's an old adage that says, "It's better to be lucky than good."
And Fairfield American manager Bill Meury was relating to it late Thursday afternoon.
Don't get me wrong, his Fairfield American team is plenty good. It's scored 46 runs in five New England Regional games, allowing only eight. American has oodles of pitching and six hitters batting over .300.
But American's luck stayed with it, too, in its 4-3 win over South Burlington, Vt., Thursday at Breen Field in Bristol.
For almost a week, they were a confident group of kids who put up video-game-type numbers and rolled to a 4-0 record. But Thursday they got a scare.
Normally a group of sluggers who rarely make a miscue, American was simply pedestrian, both offensively and defensively.
They made four errors and left 12 runners on base -- seven in three late-inning at-bats, showing a side we hadn't seen from this group.
Yet Fairfield still managed to persevere.
"It was a battle," Meury said. "They had to grind it out."
In a single-elimination playoff, any mistake can be the difference between advancing and going home. Leading 3-0, just five outs from the regional final, the wheels started to come off for Fairfield.
An error here, a single there, a wild pitch, a defensive miscue, a misplayed grounder, and all of a sudden American was in a situation it had faced only twice all season: tied with just one inning left.
Has Fairfield faced adversity this summer? Yes.
Has it faced a lot of adversity this summer? Certainly not.
Yet it battled, grinded and ultimately advanced like the champions the 11 young men are.
"We haven't walked through every game ... the kids are accustomed to it," Meury said. "If you can't win a ballgame like that, you're going to go home."
And luck definitely had something to do with Fairfield moving on to Saturday's regional title game against New Hampshire.
Fairfield left the winning run on third in the sixth, then did it again in the seventh. You don't get too many chances like that before the other squad -- especially a state champion -- capitalizes.
"We had two shots at it," Meury said. "And on the third shot, I thought, `We're going to run out of luck here. They're going to put their guy in scoring position and make a play.'"
But Will Lucas' RBI single in the eighth inning scored Henry Prestegaard, allowing Fairfield finally to exhale after three extra innings. Matt Kubel had thrown 21 pitches in 1 2/3 innings of relief. Had Lucas grounded out to short, Kubel almost certainly would not be available in Saturday's regional final.
But since Kubel didn't have to go back out there for the ninth, he'll get the start Saturday. Lucas will be available, too, after throwing 32 pitches in two innings of relief Thursday.
More good fortune, according to Meury.
"I think we are very lucky to have them both," Meury said. "We were going to waste one of them, and that would've been tough."
Saturday will tell whether Fairfield has enough good fortune left to get back to the Little League World Series for the second time in three years. Their opponent, from Bedford, N.H., has scored 39 runs in five regional games, has plenty of pitching and plays good defense. It's the only team Fairfield hasn't faced in the tournament.
"They're going to give us a tough game," Meury said.
Fairfield has routed teams with its talent, edged a few with its tenacity. I can see Fairfield taking the New England Regional championship flag to Williamsport.
And if I'm right, American will have had a little more luck in its pocket.