SOUTHINGTON -- A late-game home run by Annex of New Haven's Tristan Punzo felt like deja vu for the Fairfield American Little League team.

But Wednesday, it was Fairfield American that mounted the late-game rally to lift the team to the state championship series yet again.

American scored four sixth-inning runs to claim the Section 1 title for the third straight year in a 6-2 win over Annex of New Haven at Verderame Field.

"The team doesn't panic late in the game," Fairfield manager Bill Meury said. "They don't worry about that scoreboard until the game is over."

Fairfield American will play Avon for the second straight year in the best-of-three state finals, starting Saturday at 3 p.m. in New Haven. American swept Avon as 11-year-olds in 2011.

"Avon's a good squad," Meury said. "We'll play the best games we can."

Biagio Paoletta was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and Patrick Steed was 2-for-2 with a double and two runs scored, including the go-ahead run on Ryan Meury's sixth-inning sacrifice fly.

Annex ended its summer 9-2, despite Punzo's second home run against Fairfield in as many games. Annex's second baseman's fifth-inning home run lifted Annex to a 7-5 win in the teams' round-robin game Saturday.

"They're hurting," Annex manager Sal Punzo said of his team. "Fairfield's a solid team, they earned it."

Will Lucas earned the win, striking out eight in five innings and allowing Annex's only runs on Punzo's fourth-inning home run. Trailing 2-0, and down to its final eight outs, Punzo smoked a 1-1 fastball deep over the fence, tying the score at 2.

"When he hit it, I was thinking, 'This is unbelievable,'" Meury said. "He's an unbelievable hitter and he was a thorn in our side."

After Annex shut Fairfield down in the top of the fifth, both managers believed the game had turned.

"I thought we had the momentum," Punzo said.

"It felt like the momentum had shifted," Meury said.

Yet, Lucas pitched out of a one-out jam with a runner on second in the fifth and Steed led off the sixth with a bloop double to right field, just inside the foul line.

After Dan Kiernan singled, putting runners on the corners with one out, Meury's fly to center was deep enough to score Steed, putting Fairfield ahead 3-2.

"He's not the fastest," Paoletta said of Steed. "But when he has to, he can bust it."

Paoletta followed with a triple over the first-base bag, lifting American's lead to 4-2. Lucas followed with a towering fly ball to right-center field for a home run.

"It was good," Lucas said of hitting his home run. "But the win feels better."

Fairfield built a first-inning advantage when Kevin Oricoli's smash through the middle off Santino Barnabei scored Paoletta.

"It took some of the pressure off," Lucas said of Oricoli's two-out single.

American held Annex in the bottom of the first, thanks to Paoletta's heads-up play. A wild pitch skipped by Fairfield's catcher, but he recovered, flipping the ball to Lucas to retire Eric Redente at the plate, ending the inning.

"I thought it was a big play," Paoletta said. "They would've gotten pumped."

Fairfield built a 2-0 edge when Steed scored on Paoletta's single. Chris Meyers was cut down at the plate to end the inning.

Fairfield left nine men on base as well.

"If you miss the opportunity to score, usually you pay for it," Meury said. "And we didn't this time, we got lucky.";


ANNEX 000 200--2 4 1

Records: FA 4-1, A 3-2; Batteries: FA-Will Lucas (W), Matty Clarkin (6) and Biagio Paoletta; A-Santino Barnabei, Nick Guarino (L) and Zach Pellegrino; Home Runs: FA-Will Lucas; A-Tristan Punzo.