Little League success incites hometown pride
The sound of high fives and cheers resounded throughout bars in Bridgeport and Fairfield, as people couldn't help but share in the thrill of the moment while they watched the events unfold live on ESPN. It was, without a doubt, an intense ending to a hard-fought win, with all the drama one could ask for in an unscripted story line.
Fairfield American, facing Cumberland, R.I. -- the only team it had fallen to in the regional championship -- was determined to avenge that opening game loss and earn its spot in the big show.
They put Nick Nardone on the mound against Cumberland's ace, Tyler Calabro. Both put out near picture-perfect pitching performances. And each racked up nine strikeouts in what shaped into a true pitcher's duel.
But Calabro made what turned out to be a fatal mistake in the third inning when he left one out over the plate with a 2-0 count against Tommy Ryan, who took him yard to score the game's only run. But a win was far from in the bag at this point.
Cumberland rallied in the bottom of the sixth and was able to load the bases with two outs, sending Fairfield fans' nerves into a frenzy. People were pretty much glued to the big screens at this point.
With Nardone at 90 pitches and in a pinch, Fairfield American Coach Chris Daley brought in Magi to close it out. Magi quickly fell behind in the count with two pitches out of the strike zone, and fans watching began to wonder if Fairfield was going to pull it off.
But Magi came back and the crowds roared with excitement with each strike he threw. And with bases loaded, two outs and a full count, it was do or die for both teams.
In the end, though, it was Fairfield's night. And everyone went wild when Magi buzzed a high fastball past Justin D'Abroscia for the win.
"It was really cool," said Anya Taddeo, 29, a bartender at Vinny's Grill and Grotto in Fairfield. "I got the chills."
Taddeo, of Weston, said that a lot of families came in to enjoy some food while they watched the game.
Fairfield native Jim Mennona watched the game at Captain's Cove in Bridgeport. "It kind of brought me back to playing and the thrill of winning the game," said Mennona, a former Little Leaguer.
"It's really cool," said Katie O'Keefe, who is also a native of Fairfield.
Asked to elaborate on how Fairfield's victory made him feel, Mennona replied, "In one word, proud."
You can show your pride this Friday, at 1 p.m., when Fairfield plays its first game in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., against the Northwest champion, Auburn, Wash. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN, and the community can gather to watch it together at the Pequot Library, which will set up an HD projection screen in its auditorium. The library will provide free peanuts, Cracker-Jacks and lemonade.
"We'll start with opening ceremonies on Friday at 11 a.m., and keep it going through Fairfield's first game, which is Friday at 1 p.m.," said Daniel Snydacker, Pequot's executive director. "If they win, we will be back Sunday at 8 p.m. In the unlikely case they lose, we will show the consolation round beginning Saturday at 8 p.m."
No matter where you watch the game, one thing is for sure -- we'll all be cheering for Fairfield.
Gary Jeanfaivre is the editor of the Fairfield Citizen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org