Pickens' Perspective: With adversity afoot, Fairfield American calmly answers
Published 4:47 pm, Thursday, July 26, 2012
Each baseball team develops its own personality.
Some teams evolve into goofy, silly and fun loving. Some are business-like. Others squabble and bicker.
It is starting to seem like Fairfield American Little League's 12-year-olds should be considered the cool cucumbers. Nothing ever seems to faze them.
As 11-year-olds last year, this group faced elimination only once. It went more than two years without losing a game. Then, thanks to Annex of New Haven's Tristan Punzo and his grand slam Saturday, that streak was done, and American was facing elimination.
What happened? American calmly responded.
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It beat up Seymour 11-4, reaching the one-game, sectional final on Wednesday against Annex. Then, facing Annex's best pitcher, in the rematch, Fairfield built itself a 2-0 lead after two innings. Will Lucas had pitched into and out of jams.
Surely, Fairfield would not blow the lead again, right?
Enter Punzo in the fourth with a runner on.
The tiny Annex second baseman launched a 1-1 fastball deep over the fence in left-centerfield, tying the score. Punzo's bomb burned Fairfield again, and the momentum had clearly shifted in Annex's favor.
"He was like the one thorn in our side," American manager Bill Meury said. "He's a terrific hitter."
The nightmare was happening again for Fairfield, only this time there was no safety net of a game tomorrow. No "if necessary" contest. Fairfield had left seven on through five innings and Fairfield and Annex were tied at 2, entering the sixth and final inning, with the prospect of extra innings at hand.
Did Fairfield panic?
"The team doesn't panic when they're behind or tied in a game late," Meury said.
Did it even worry?
"I wasn't worried," American catcher Biagio Paoletta said. "We always find a way to pull through."
American made Paoletta a prophet in the sixth. Patrick Steed led off an opposite field double, that fell just fair. Dan Kiernan, who did not bunt as I expected, grounded a single putting runners on the corners with none out.
Chris Meyers' fly ball to center was not deep enough to score Steed, and when Ryan Meury hit a nearly identical fly ball with one out, it appeared that Fairfield was going to strand two more and enter the bottom of the sixth tied.
But Steed forced the issue, and slid in safely, putting American up 3-2. Paoletta's triple scored Kiernan making it 4-2. Will Lucas' bomb to right center made it 6-2, and all was well in Fairfield again.
Paoletta never sweated, never doubted his team would win. Maybe this club is cocky or just confident. It has right to be. It's only lost once, and should be considered the favorite to get to the regionals in Bristol.
"We never give up," Paoletta said.
But that attitude is mature and business-like. The kids know they're not down until the last out, mostly because of their offense. It may not be enjoyable for the fans in attendance, but it sure is entertaining for us to watch.
Calm, cool and collected until the 18th out is recorded. That's this club's personality, for now.