Fairfield LL repeats as state softball champion

FAIRFIELD -- Its road may have more painful and dramatic this year, but the Fairfield Little League softball team is Connecticut's champion yet again.

Megan Belinsky scored on a wild pitch in the seventh inning for the game-winning run as Fairfield swept the best-of-3 state championship series with a 7-6 win over Mystic Sunday at Sacred Heart University.

"It isn't ho-hum," Fairfield coach Jarry Rasmussen said of taking the title again. "This was anything but ho-hum."

Fairfield came from behind to win for the second straight day and pitcher Maddie Russell earned the win, tossing all seven innings despite pitching with a sprained ankle. Russell suffered the sprain in Saturday's state finals opener.

"This morning I couldn't really walk," Russell said. "It got better toward the end of the game. It started to loosen up."

Fairfield advanced to the New England regional tournament in Bristol for the second straight year, where it will play its first round-robin game against Vermont's state champion Friday at 8:15 p.m.

"We called it Camp Bristol last year," Rasmussen. "It'll be Camp Bristol again."

Mystic catcher Natalie Labasi had three hits and scored a run and Emily Adams scored two runs as Mystic fell in the state finals for the second straight year.

"I wish it were a best-of-5," Mystic coach Dave Mewha said. "They're a tough team, they're a good team."

But Mystic did not go down without a fight. After blowing a 4-0 lead, Mystic was down to its final strike in the top of the sixth. Trailing 6-5, Casey Woods fouled off five pitches, then singled home Jenna Bendfledt to tie the game.

"We were one strike away," Rasmussen said. "That young lady had a great at-bat ... giver her all the credit."

After a scoreless bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh -- when Fairfield's Brittany Romero and Michaela O'Donnell made stellar defensive plays -- Fairfield won the game in the bottom of the seventh.

"Circle it," Rasmussen said of O'Donnell's sprawling catch that saved an extra-base hit in the seventh. "That was some play. That was the play of the game."

With two outs, Belinsky singled and stole second and third bases. Then, with an 0-2 count, the ball skipped away from Labasi, and Belinsky scored the winning run.

"We all realized we were going to Bristol," catcher Anna Rasmussen said. "That's what we all wanted to do."

Fairfield allowed four runs in the top of the first, as Russell battled through the tightness in her ankle. Four of the first five Mystic hitters reached and Rylee McMillan's two-out single capped the run, putting Mystic up 4-0.

"Four was a hole to put us in," Jarry Rasmussen said. "We looked nervous again ... but then we settled down."

"I was nervous after that inning," Russell said. "But I was confident we would get the runs back."

Fairfield proved Russell right in the bottom of the first. After Romero struck out to open the bottom of the first, the next five Fairfield hitters reached, four of whom did on consecutive hits. Anna Rasmussen's RBI double scored Mary Rose Finnigan, putting Fairfield on the board.

"The more people that get hits it keeps the momentum going," Anna Rasmussen said.

Russell followed with a single, scoring Rasmussen and O'Donnell followed with a hit. Both scored when first baseman Shannon McCartney reached on an error, tying the score at 4.

Romero singled and scored on Finnigan's double in the second. Russell's RBI single scored finnigan, lifting Fairfield's lead to 6-4.

"We knew we were going to hit this pitcher," Russell said. "We were confident."

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/Pat_Pickens

MYSTIC 401 001 0 -- 6 9 2

FAIRFIELD 420 000 1 -- 7 11 1

Batteries: M -- Sophie Nelson (L) and Natalie Labasi; F -- Maddie Russell (W) and Anna Rasmussen.