FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Gabby Natoli pitched a one-hitter as the Fairfield Little League Girls Softball team routed Massachusetts, 7-0, on Thursday night to reach the semifinals of the East Regional in Bristol. Fairfield will play Maine in the New England championship game at 8 p.m. Friday.
Sarah Cotto led the offense for Fairfield with two hits, three RBIs, three stolen bases and two runs scored. Natoli also had two hits for Fairfield, which put the game away with a five-run fifth inning. Three Massachusetts errors in the inning helped fuel the rally.
The victory helped Fairfield bounce back from a loss Tuesday to Rhode Island, its only loss in pool play. It still earned the top seed for the New England Region. "We kept it pretty light,'' manager Jarry Rasmussen said. "We didn't really talk about it too much. Everyone was pretty relaxed, and that was the idea."
Natoli was brilliant on the mound, striking out four and walking three. Fairfield made just one error and only two Massachusetts base runners advanced as far as third base. "My sister got to the New England Regional last year with the 10-and-under team, so this is pretty exciting,'' Natoli said. "I was jealous of her."
Fairfield scored two runs in the fourth to open the scoring. Cotto singled and stole second and third, then scored on a wild pitch. Pinch runner Madison Burress also scored on a wild pitch in the same inning. She ran for Anna Rasmussen, who walked and got to third on a wild pitch and stolen base.
Cotto's three-run triple broke the game open in the fifth. Emma Houghton also had an RBI in the inning. Fairfield had four hits and sent 11 batters to the plate. Julia Wilson, Alice Nelson, Natoli, Cotto and Houghton scored during the uprising.
Fairfield now meets Maine, a team it beat 17-3 in pool play. "I think this is going to be a much different game,'' Rasmussen said. "I don't expect that kind of game again."
Fairfield just needs two more wins to reach the Little League World Series in Oregon. "I haven't gone many places,'' Cotto said. "It'd be fun to go to Oregon. I think the farthest I've been is Ohio."
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