ORANGE -- Fairfield American found a new way to win on Thursday in a state Little League Section 1 divisional game at Roche Field. The 4-2 victory over District 1 champion Norwalk has sent Fairfield to the Division 1 final on Saturday against Norwalk or (New Haven) Annex, who play in an elimination game on Friday night.
The Americans played from behind for almost three innings in a classic pitchers' duel. But in the end, they relied on their proven formula -- swats out of the park -- to move within one win of the sectional final on Wednesday at the Old Tavern complex against the section's three-team Division 2 survivor. This time it was a pair of two-run shots -- the team's 25th and 26th home runs in eight games -- that supported its standard of strong pitching and reliable fielding for the difference.
Jamie Flink's two-run, opposite-field homer to left field, his fourth home run of the postseason, gave Fairfield a 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning. Vince Camera cracked his ninth homer of the summer, a screaming line drive to left-center field that barely got over the fence, in the top of the sixth inning for a 4-1 lead.
Two American relievers combined to protect the lead in the bottom of the frame after giving up a leadoff home run to Norwalk (8-2), whose eight-game winning streak was snapped. Fairfield, the District 2 champ, improved to 8-0.
Fairfield's closest victory had been a 7-4 win over Monroe to kick off district pool play on June 23. Its average margin of victory had been by almost 8.5 runs a game. Fairfield was limited to six hits by hard-luck loser Shane Popkins, after having averaged almost 11.5 in district play.
"PJ Egan pitched a great game for us," Fairfield American manager Mike Steed said. "He's our ace. He got out of that (bases loaded) jam (in the first inning). He showed a lot of maturity for a 12 year old. He had a lot of poise."
Egan, who improved to 4-0 during the tournament season, reached his pitch limit of 85 with one out in the fifth. Sam Davenport (2-0), who started at third base, got out of a two-base-runner situation when he walked the second batter he faced after striking out the first. Davenport gave up a leadoff home run to Popkins in the bottom of the sixth, then was relieved by starting shortstop Brian Howell, who got the final two outs, the first on a sparkling knockdown and recovery on a comebacker on the first batter he faced.
But Egan wove the storyline for this game. He allowed four hits and five walks, while striking out four, working within a consistently tight strike zone. Egan stranded six base runners, three in the first inning.
"Egan brought it tonight," Norwalk manager Paul Boyian said. "He made a lot of great pitches. But Shane outlasted him. Shane was just amazing. He was phenomenal. He just left two pitches up, and they capitalized on them with the two two-run homers. I thought we'd hit better; we usually do."
Popkins surrendered six hits and one walk, striking out nine, including the side in the fifth inning.
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Little League Section 1 divisional
Fairfield American 4, Norwalk 2 Read Full Article
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 002 002--4 6 1
NORWALK 100 001--2 5 0
Records: Fairfield American 8-0, Norwalk 8-2. Batteries: N--Shane Popkin, James Stefanowicz (5) and Jake Deleo; FA--PJ Egan, Sam Davenport (5), Brian Howell (6) and Vince Camera.