Pickens' Perspective: American's depth carries team to district final
Published 3:28 pm, Thursday, July 12, 2012
Given the strict participation rules in Little League baseball, most coaches putting together an all-star team opt for small rosters -- 11 or 12 players, 13 at most.
But not Fairfield National's Bill Llewellyn. On Monday, he was raving about his team's depth.
"Everybody said we were crazy for taking 14 (players)," Llewellyn said after his team's 9-6 win over Trumbull American in the District 2 semifinals. "We've got kids on this team who are specific role players."
Yet on Tuesday -- in the winners bracket final -- it was Fairfield American's team effort that stole the show in the winners' bracket final.
Without Matt Kubel's two-RBI single in the first, American doesn't score first. Without Ryan Meury's 11 strikeouts, the club doesn't necessarily win.
And Meury had nothing but respect for his cross-town rivals. "That's a great hitting team," he said.
Meury maintained his composure when he needed it most. National was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, with all four of those outs strikeouts.
But with American clinging to a 1-0 lead in the fourth, it was the team's non-starters who took over.
After Kevin Oricoli led off the inning with a walk, reserve Chris Meyers reached on a fielders choice. Dan Kiernan -- who came off the bench Monday and Tuesday -- followed with a soaring drive over the left-centerfield fence, his second home run in as many days, making it 3-0.
Matty Clarkin followed with a solo homer and American was on its way.
"They came up big today," Ryan Meury said. "This is a totally different game without those two home runs ... We needed it."
This American team has been highly-touted. One source called it the most talented team American's ever had -- even more so than the 2010 club that went to the Little League World Series -- because of its dominant pitching.
I can't disagree from what I've seen. And ironically, this club's 11-man roster -- the smallest American has had in this three-year run -- has displayed depth the others hadn't at this level.
"When the bottom of your lineup puts the ball in play, it's tough on a pitching staff," Bill Meury said. "There's no rest from the No. 1 hitter to the 11th batter."
Granted, it's early, and there are many more hurdles to climb for this American team. National will still have the opportunity to steal the district crown from American if it can win three games -- two over American -- in three days, a task that both Meury's know National is capable of.
"We don't like playing them; they're good," Bill Meury said with a laugh. "I wouldn't mind seeing a team with a little less offense."
"We played an 18-17 game with them last year," Ryan Meury said. "It's not easy to keep them down."
But American's stars-- Meury, Kubel and Biagio Paoletta -- have shined, and the role players have sparkled, too.