After staving off elimination last Thursday -- and again on Saturday with the continuation of the July 3 suspended game -- Monroe finds itself two or three victories away from claiming the District 2 Little League championship and advancing to statewide play. Monroe fell into a three-run deficit in the first inning Monday afternoon during the start of the four-team, double-elimination tournament, then rallied for 4-3 victory over the Fairfield National Little League all-star team at Unity Park in Trumbull.

Kenny Schneider homered for Monroe (4-1) in the top of the second, then back-to-back doubles by Jarod Kumar and Evan LaGuardia cut Fairfield's lead in the third inning to 3-2. Jeff Nugent belted a two-out, two-run homer in the fifth inning to put Monroe in front 4-3. Monroe qualified for the double-elimination stage by finishing second in the five-team Red Group in pool play that began on June 23.

The Nationals (4-1), who finished first in the Blue Group, hit an apparent leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie it at 4-4, but an immediate Monroe appeal play was upheld, with the umpire agreeing that the batter never touched home plate and he was ruled out instead.

"Right now, my heart goes out to him," Fairfield National manager Dr. Brad Weinstein said of the player whose home run was called back. "It's hard to swallow. Baseball can be a humbling game. They (Monroe) battled back. They banged away, banged away. We didn't capitalize on our chances. We had the foul pop up between the pitcher and catcher that we didn't make the play on. We practice that every day. We gave them four outs there. We gave him (Nugent) another crack at it. Jeff Nugent can flat-out hit."

Fairfield plays a losers' bracket game Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Unity, against the loser of Monday night's game between Fairfield American and Westport.

"It was unbelievable," said Monroe co-manager Chris Kipp.

"We've been playing them for three years and this was our first time beating them. It was a long time coming. It was a sweet win," said Kipp, who grew up in Fairfield and whose son, Joe, was the winning pitcher.

Kipp reports that his players now believe they can win the district title.

Chris Saladin slugged a home run for Fairfield after Michael Murphy ledoff with a walk and David Summers reached on an infield single. Saladin pitched into the fifth inning, getting two outs before a Fairfield reliever allowed the pivotal home run by Nugent. Saladin, who slugged a triple as well, gave up four hits and struck out three.; 203-337-4879;

Little League District 2

Monroe 4, Fairfield National 3

MONROE 011 020--4 5 0


Records: Monroe 4-1, Fairfield National 4-1. Batteries: M--Joe Kipp, Jeremy Rodriguez (6) and Chad Fedeli; FN--Chris Saladin, David Summers (5) and Owen Stanton.