FAIRFIELD, Conn. Fairfield American Little League qualified for the New England Region semifinals Tuesday. If the All-Stars play as crisply as they did in their 3-0 win over Rhode Island, they could be making reservations for a return trip to Williamsport.
Eddie Schwartz crushed a long home run and combined with Jack Oricoli on a two-hitter as Fairfield completed pool play with a 3-1 record. Fairfield will play an opponent yet to be determined in Thursday's semifinals. Fairfield American won the New England title last year to reach the Little League World Series in Williamsport for the first time in its history.
Schwartz's blast in the first inning set the tone for the game. He crushed a ball high and deep over the left field fence, for a distance estimated at 360 feet. Some long-time observers believe it was the longest ball ever hit at Breen Field in Bristol.
"It wasn't a question of if it was going out,'' Schwartz said. "It was a matter of where it was going."
Schwartz started for Fairfield and fanned the first five batters. He walked the next two and left after throwing 35 pitches. Oricoli came in to get out of the inning and retired 11 straight batters. Rhode Island threatened in the sixth, when two baserunners reached with one out. Oricoli struck out the final two batters to end it.
Fairfield added two insurance runs in the fourth when it loaded the bases and Aidan Kudzy and Connor Devaney walked to force in runs. Fairfield, which leads the New England region with 37 runs scored, collected seven hits and stranded six.
Fairfield reached the semifinals before the game began. Massachusetts' 5-3 win over Maine secured a berth in the semis for the Americans. The semifinal pairings will be set after Wednesday's games. New Hampshire (3-0) plays Massachusetts (2-1) and Rhode Island (1-2) plays Vermont (0-3).
"We managed our pitch counts pretty well,'' manager Kevin Flynn said. "We have everybody available for Thursday's game but Jack. If we can't win that game with the four pitchers we have available, we shouldn't be there."
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