The Fairfield American Little League team piled pressure on itself entering this summer.
American had won everything it could have over two previous summers. Fairfield took the inaugural East Regional championship in Cranston, R.I., as 10-year-olds in 2010, then rolled through the state claiming the 11-year-old state championship in 2011.
"The team has won since the kids were 10," American manager Bill Meury said. "It was an expectation we played down."
"This team executes," he said. "They're not trading on their reputation. This team goes out there and plays very well in big games."
American could have been overconfident or complacent, it could have rested on its laurels or bowed under the ever-enhancing pressure through districts, sectionals, states and New Englands.
"We wanted to get out of districts," Meury said. "We wanted to beat Fairfield National and then after that we were worried about Yalesville and Wilton and Avon and I think that's how they approached it."
Instead, Fairfield played baseball better than any team in New England by scoring more runs (60) than any team in the nation.
Although Fairfield made it look easy, it wasn't. Lucas, American's star shortstop, was mired in a 2-for-12 slump until his game-winning single in Thursday's semifinal over South Burlington, Vt.
"Will was having a tough couple of games against some pretty good pitching," Meury said.
Lucas did not stop hitting after that, going 4-for-4 with four RBIs on Saturday.
"A player has to be mentally tough and have a very short memory," Meury said. "If you can put a game like that in your rearview mirror, you can go 4-for-4."
"I just tried to put the ball in play," Lucas said.
Kubel, American's starter Saturday, clinched Fairfield's state and regional championships. The tall lefty has American's lone loss this summer -- a 7-5 decision against Annex of New Haven -- but Kubel's won his last five decisions, four of which came in Bristol.
"To go out there four times takes an awful lot of work," Meury said of Kubel. "I was surprised (Kubel) got past the fourth."
Kubel threw 1 2/3 innings of relief on Thursday, and still managed to throw 89 pitches, including 65 strikes, despite throwing a below-average warmup.
"I was walking down from the left-field bullpen with (American catcher) Biagio Paoletta and I said to him, `he doesn't have much velocity does he?'" Meury said. "After he threw his first or second warm-up pitch, we realized that what we saw in warmups wasn't what we were going to see in the game."
Besides Kubel, though, Matty Clarkin and Ryan Meury both won games in Bristol. Lucas' regional ERA was 0.00. No Fairfield pitcher had an ERA over 1.29.
"We have five amazing pitchers that all throw strikes," Paoletta said. "They all know how to pitch tremendously."
"We rarely face a bad outing," Bill Meury said.
The club has stars -- Paoletta led the nation in RBIs during regional play with 18 -- and role players. All are capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, and have hit home runs throughout this summer.
"I think everyone from No. 1 through 11 can hit a ball out," Meury said.