TRUMBULL— Cinderella will definitely be dancing at Saturday’s Connecticut Little League Baseball State Tournament in Willimantic.
The question is which Section 1 Cinderella will it be?
District 1 champion Darien earned its way into Monday’s Section 1 Little League Baseball Tournament final by eliminating District 2 champ Fairfield American, 7-4 on Sunday at Unity Park.
Waiting for Darien in the 5:30 p.m. battle at Unity Park is District 4 titlist Max Sinoway (North Haven). History weighs heavy as Darien last won a District crown in 1998. Sinoway’s last District championship banner came in 1967.
“This is crazy,” said Darien closer Aidan Elders. “Winning the District 1 crown was great. To be in the Section 1 final is hard to contemplate. But we know that we’ve beaten the best to get here.”
Indeed. There will be no shot at an eighth Connecticut State Little League baseball title since 2010 for Fairfield American.
True to their motto, Fairfield American never gave up in the 100-degree heat Sunday. Fairfield American was simply beaten by a better squad in Darien.
“Our kids worked so hard all summer. I am so proud of everything they accomplished this postseason,” said Fairfield American manager Dan Seek. “To be District 2 champs and beat great programs like Trumbull and Westport along the way was an amazing step. Today, Darien played a big, big game.”
Darien had control of the emotional tiller in Sunday’s contest.
Carson Dodder’s double and Cooper Seek’s RBI gave Fairfield American a 1-0 edge in the top of the first.
But Darien answered with three runs in the bottom of the first. Will Barber’s RBI single and Tyler Easterbrook’s run-scoring squeeze bunt were the key hits.
Darien made it 5-1 against Fairfield American starter Seek in the third. Legs were key as Darien had two delayed steals, scored on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly in the uprising.
Darien starter Merritt Hole was valiant until two outs in the top of the fourth.
Hole (56 pitches) allowed a run-scoring wild pitch, a walk along with Dodder’s RBI single and Seek’s RBI double. That brought Fairfield American to 5-4.
Darien manager Wes Yusko turned to his closer, Aidan Elders.
A strikeout left the two men stranded in scoring position. Elders stranded two more runners in the fifth. Elders’ infield hit led to two Darien runs in the bottom of the fifth for 7-4.
Still Fairfield American (nine runners left on base) brought the potential tying run to the plate with two outs in the sixth. However, Elders induced a game-ending fielder’s choice to secure Darien’s victory.
The bad news for Darien is since Elders threw more than 20 pitches to get the final seven outs, he is unavailable to pitch in Monday’s final against Sinoway.
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SECTION 1 LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
At Unity Park, Trumbull
DARIEN 7, FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 4
FAIRFIELD AMERICAN 100 300—4 8 2
DARIEN 302 20x—7 7 1
Batteries: FA—Cooper Seek (L), Will Kane (5) and Jackson Frame. D—Merritt Hole (W), Aidan Elders (4, save) and Jack Nee.