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Emotional Stamford Sweeps West Hartford For American Legion State Title

West Hartford shortstop Danny Roth jumped to his left, extended his arm as far as possible and snagged a line drive out of the air.

A few innings later, right fielder Patrick Baron dived headfirst into the grass to catch another possible run-scoring single.

West Hartford, which started the best-of-three American State Championship series with a loss Friday in Game 1, tried its best to steal some momentum from Stamford on Saturday at Palmer Field. But in its third straight appearance in the championship, Stamford refused to let anything get in the way of the program's first title in 60 years.

After the death of general manager Chris Sabia to lung cancer before the start of the tournament, Stamford swept the state championship series with a 3-0 victory over West Hartford in Game 2. It opened the series with a 6-2 win Friday night.

"We got beat by something bigger," West Hartford coach Jim Hungerford said. "Hats off to them. They rallied around it. Everything I heard about [Sabia], read about [Sabia] — he was A plus, plus. At the end of the day, I'm happy for the players, the Stamford community, the coaches. They really deserved this."

It is Stamford's first state title since beating West Hartford in 1957.

"This is going right to Chris," Stamford coach Kevin Murray said holding back tears. "I'm going to go [to his gravesite]. This is special, and this is something I promised him. This is what [Sabia] wanted the most."

Both teams will play in the Northeast Regional at Holy Cross in Worcester, starting Wednesday. Connecticut gets two teams in the field this year. It is West Hartford's first regional appearance in 44 years.

"I think they'll respond and, hopefully, get back some of that mojo and fun" they had at Bristol for the Super Regional, Hungerford said. "What an experience for the kids. They might never get to experience this again in their athletic career."

Sabia helped return the program to prominence in the last decade. He was coach of the senior team for several years before Murray took over and helped get the team to the state final in 2015 and 2016.

Both times Stamford lost to the team of Rocky Hill, Cromwell and Portland. But this year, with Sabia's death fresh in their memory, the team delivered its best run. Stamford beat Oakville in the regional final series, Trumbull in the Super Regional and made quick work of West Hartford in the state final. West Hartford wore ribbons on their hats for Sabia.

"Our mission was clear — we were going to do it for our leader and flood the engine,'" Murray said. "He wanted to get every ounce of energy out of every kid, and he did that."

The run culminated this weekend with a pair of four-hitters. Adam Stone allowed four hits in six innings for the win Friday, and Aaron D'Annolfo threw a complete game Saturday.

"The better team won," Hungerford said. "Clearly, you can see why they've been here the last three years. We did come in hot with the bats, but Stone and D'Annolfo were outstanding. We couldn't string anything together against them."

D'Annofolo, who had four strikeouts and no walks, retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth Saturday to commence the celebration.

Stamford took a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run double by No. 9 hitter Michael Tuffano. It added to the lead in the third on a single by Ruben Rodriguez.

"Credit to their pitchers. They threw strikes, and they threw well," Roth said. "I think we played a lot better [Saturday than Friday], but we just didn't get the big hits. Obviously, you always want to win the state championship, but beating RCP, getting to where were are and the run we made — it all came together at the right time.'

Little League: Fairfield American is headed back to the Little League state championship. Fairfield beat Newington 5-4 at Guilford Adams Middle School on Saturday. But Newington, which opened play in the double elimination championship with a 12-0 victory Friday, is still alive. It plays Ellington on Sunday at 11 a.m, and Fairfield awaits the winner of that game Monday at 11 a.m. Ellington eliminated Wallingford from the championship Saturday with a 12-4 victory. Kyle Lenz had two home runs, including a two-run homer to secure the victory in the fifth.

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