A summertime of exceeding expectations fell one step shy of the ultimate surprise on Monday in Ellington when the Fairfield National Little League all-star team of 10 year olds lost the state championship to Mystic. Mystic won the best-of-three series by winning games on Sunday and Monday at Brookside Park.
The Nationals, who won their first 11 games before the back-to-back losses, beat Mystic 10-6 on July 26 before Mystic rallied for 9-8 and 5-3 victories the next two days. Eleven of the 13 players were together on the Fairfield National team for 9 year olds in 2013 that enjoyed some success in tournaments.
Fairfield won the District 2 championship on July 12 at Trumbull's Unity Park with a 10-0 victory over Monroe, the Section 1 Division 1 title on July 19 in Stamford with an 11-4 win over Orange and the Section 1 crown on July 23 at Simsbury's Memorial Park with an 11-0 victory over Farmington.
"Three titles, it's been a wonderful summer for them," said manager Michael Broderick. "It went above and beyond what we first expected from them."
The Nationals won close games to begin District 2 pool play on June 24 and June 28, beating Westport 6-3 in the opener then following up with a 5-3 win over Stratford. Pitching and defense keyed those victories, Broderick said. Then on July 1, Fairfield beat Trumbull American as the hitters had awakened in an 11-6 win. And the batters kept it up from there, pounding 10 home runs in total.
The Nationals averaged 11 runs a game in their next seven games, which carried them into the series against Mystic. Casey Woodfine, the No. 1 starter and backup catcher, hit three home runs. Shortstop Jack Andrews, also a reliever, smacked two homers, as did left fielder Zachery Broderick. Center fielder Joey D'Elia, third baseman Roman DiGiacomo and right fielder Kyle Vaccarella each hit solo home runs.
Michael Broderick said pitching depth and defense were the team's strengths. In addition to Woodfine, Elliott Hyde, a lefty, was the No. 2 pitcher when he wasn't playing right field and DiGiacomo was the No. 3 starter. Besides Andrews's innings in relief, the Nationals also turned to DiGiacomo, Andrew Conklin, also a utility player, D'Elia, a lefty, and second baseman Matthew Holfelder for stints out of the bullpen.
"We were led by our pitching," Michael Broderick said. "Going seven deep was one of the luxuries we could have. We could pretty much match-up with anyone," he said.
Andrews was the leadoff hitter, followed by Holfelder, D'Elia in the three hole, Woodfine at cleanup, DiGiacomo fifth, Zachery Broderick and Hyde. First baseman Jonathan Fallacaro would hit eight or ninth and Justin Dennett, the starting catcher, also batted ninth at times.
Sonny Pennatto was a defensive specialist, often playing in right field. He made a great catch against Norwalk on July 19 in the division round. Michael Scaglione played some in left field. He was the Nationals' fastest player and was often used as a pinch runner.