Fairfield American Advances To Little League World Series

Special to The Courant

After Fairfield American Little League made Connecticut history by becoming the first state program to advance to three Little League World Series, manager Mike Randazzo was asked if he shed tears of joy as he suggested he might.

"I absolutely did. I might've hid in the dugout, but it came out," Randazzo said. "The feeling is unexplainable. It's still sinking in."

Fairfield American's bats broke loose once again, routing South Portland, Maine, 10-0 in the New England Regional final Saturday before a capacity crowd at the Giamatti Little League Center. In Randazzo's final year before retirement, he will be making his first trip to Williamsport, Pa., as manager. Fairfield American previously reached the World Series in 2010 and 2012.

"It's unbelievable to carry on the legacy of Fairfield American," Randazzo said. "When you have a winning tradition, everyone wants to come out, and we all support each other. We used to call [Fairfield] the Red Sea, but now it's the Red Tsunami."

Fairfield American, undefeated at 18-0, will play its first game in the Little League World Series in Williamsport on Thursday (3 p.m., ESPN) against Mid-Atlantic Regional champion Holbrook, N.J., which beat Thurmont, Md., 8-3.

Fairfield is leaving for Williamsport from the Giamatti Center at 9 a.m. Sunday, sharing a bus with the New Jersey team.

"We prepare the boys as much, if not more, than any team around," Randazzo said. "I assume [the Little League World Series] will have a lot of close games, and whether we've been down early, or down late, our boys have bounced back, so we'll see what we can do."

Michael Iannazzo led the offensive outburst with a pair of two-run doubles and also scored twice. His gap-splitting double to left-center in the top of third scored Sean O'Neill and Ethan Righter for the game's first runs.

Iannazzo then doubled home Andrew Cutler and Sean O'Neill in the fourth to extend Fairfield American's lead to 6-0, before scoring after a single by Matt Vivona and a throwing error by Maine center fielder Ian Wright.

"Once we finally got on the board in the third, we found our groove and started hitting," Iannazzo said. "I felt confident at the plate because we were never down."

Iannazzo and Vivona were on last year's team, which fell short in the New England Regional final to Warwick North, R.I.

"When I watched [past Fairfield American teams], I looked up to those kids," Iannazzo said. "This year, everyone top-to-bottom can hit, and we have more home runs than last year."

Vivona was 3-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run double in the sixth, and a run scored, and O'Neill was 2-for-2 off the bench with three runs scored. Righter, the game's winning pitcher, allowed two hits over 41/3 innings with nine strikeouts, and was 2-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored.

After notching an upset win Friday over New Hampshire and keeping Fairfield American off the board through the first two innings, Maine faced a 7-0 deficit after four innings.

First baseman Nolan Hobbs narrowly missed a two-run home run in the first, ripping a deep fly ball just to the left of the foul pole. Initially ruled foul, the call was upheld after a coach's challenge.

"That's a potential game-changer. I don't think that killed our desire, but it's one I would've liked to have had," Maine manager Jim Poole said.

"I always tell the kids, the game is pitch-by-pitch, and if it doesn't go your way, you have to fight."

Vivona's two-run double and an RBI single from Christian Smith extended Fairfield American's lead to 10-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Tyler Bauer, who relieved Righter in the fifth, got five consecutive outs to end the game, striking out Maine's Ben Stanley to seal the win.

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