FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Signs with slogans like “Welcome Back N.E.,” and “Summer Vacation Destination: Williamsport” lined Sherman Green in downtown Fairfield Thursday as hundreds of fans greeted Fairfield American’s New England Championship team as it returned from the Little League World Series.
“Your play was probably some of the best baseball we've watched in many years,” Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Lombardo told the team Thursday.
Fairfield American’s all-stars finished the summer with a 21-3 record, winning the District 2, Section 1, Connecticut State and New England Regional championships. Its 2-2 record in the Little League World Series is the best showing by a Connecticut team since the 1989 world champion team from Trumbull.
The team’s run ended Tuesday night with a 5-0 loss to Petaluma, Calif., but the boys came back thankful for the experience.
“Playing at Lamade Stadium in front of 15,000 people, we’ll never forget it,” said player Biagio Paoletta. “And we loved meeting the players from the other teams, like Hachimi from Japan and Ronald from Uganda.”
Fairfield American manager Bill Muery said the afternoon was “very, very special” for his team. He also paid tribute to each of the 11 players’ contributions to the World Series run.
Meury noted not only Will Lucas’ no-hitter in Williamsport and Ryan Meury’s “guts” after being hit by a pitch in the team’s first World Series game, but also Paoletta’s two grand slams and 18 RBI in the regional tournament to help earn the trip to Williamsport.
The manager also paid tribute to Matt Kubel’s six victories on the mound in the regional and world tournaments and Matty Clarkin’s "gem" against Massachusetts that put them in good position to win the New England championship. On defense, he praised third baseman Kevin Oricoli’s "ability to make the big play in the big situation in the big game all the time,” and Patrick Steed’s diving catch to preserve a one-run lead against Rhode Island.
Muery also thanked Danny Kiernan for his four 225-foot shots off the wall in Bristol, Chris Myers’ big home run against Massachusetts and Henry Prestegaard’s RBI single in the World Series. Michael Ghiorzi’s walk-off homer against Wilton in the sectional also deserved mention, he said.
“Without that, we lose that game and the season might have ended in Southington,” Meury said.
The town also paid tribute to two other champions from Fairfield. The 12-year-old all-stars of the Fairfield Little League Girls Softball won the state championship as well. And the 11-year-old squad from Fairfield National took home the state championship this summer.
“We aspire to be in the same place [Fairfield American] is this year,” said Fairfield National manager Paul Vinci.