Pickens' Perspective: Little League teams rise to the occasion
With all due respect to Hartford, when it comes to baseball, Fairfield is the state capital.
Make that the baseball and softball capital of Connecticut.
The Nutmeg state's Little League trophies all reside in the same proverbial case right now. American Little League clinched its second straight state crown Tuesday, blasting Glastonbury with long balls 13-3 to win the best-of-three series 2-1.
Fairfield girls softball took home the state crown July 17 in Danbury, sweeping Mystic two straight games.
The softball squad, despite falling in the Eastern Regional Final to New City, N.Y. on Saturday, did leave with the New England Regional crown as its parting gift.
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Fairfield currently holds both New England Little League titles, although baseball's crown is on the line in the New England Regional Tournament that starts tonight in Bristol.
Not bad, eh?
But wait, there's more.
The 11-year-old Fairfield American district all-star team took home its own state championship on Tuesday, sweeping Avon with a 6-5 win in Haddam.
The 9/10 softball team won the District 2 (upper-Fairfield County) crown. That means between Fairfield American baseball and Fairfield girls softball have combined for four district crowns, two state titles and a regional championship in 2011.
Before last year, Fairfield had never had a team reach New Englands. Now three teams have qualified for the regional tournament in the past 13 months.
Fairfield American, this year, played in front of 500-plus people in the Little League State Finals, in front of all sorts of press and media, with its backs against the wall in two consecutive contests. But the moment never got bigger than the team, and that's why it is now 4-0 in elimination games this summer.
"There's a lot of pressure," American Little League coach Kevin Flynn said. "We always want to be positive."
The 11-year-olds overcame a pair of six-run deficits in the district final against rival Fairfield National. The Little League softball team trailed with just six outs to play in the New England Final. At any point, these kids could have realized the pressure of the stage and wilted.
Yet, none did, and that is probably the most remarkable thing.
They all seem to follow the advice of 12-year-old team outfielder Grant Carnemark, who is 11 for 16 with four home runs and nine runs scored in Fairfield's four elimination games.
"I pretend that it's not as nerve-wracking as it is," he said. "I just try to do my best."
Their best, it seems, is pretty darn good.