AVON, July 30 – It has been over 30 years since a Major Division Little League team (ages 11-12) from District 6 played for a state championship in baseball.
Avon became the first District 6 champion since 1979 to earn the right to play for the state championship and a possible trip to the Eastern Regional tournament in Bristol after a thrilling 7-5 win over Guilford in the championship game of the Section II tournament. Sam Leopold’s three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning was the game-winner.
Unfortunately, Avon ran into a legendary program in the championship round. Fairfield American won a record third straight state championship by sweeping Avon, 8-0 in a five inning game shortened by rain and 10-0 in a four inning contest cut short by the Little League’s 10-run mercy run.
This group of kids from Fairfield have now won state titles the past three summers in the Major Division (ages 11-12), Minor Division (ages 10-11) and the 9-10 age division. Last July, many of these same Fairfield players swept a best-of-3 championship from Avon to win the Minor Division state title.
It was a bit of a damper on a tremendous summer of baseball from Avon, which won 13 straight games including the its sixth District 6 title in the last nine years and its first-ever Section II championship.
“The boys picked the wrong couple of days to be off of their game,” Avon coach Stephen Harris said.
In game one, five of the eight runs that Fairfield American (11-0) scored in the first inning were unearned thanks to six Avon errors. In game two, Fairfield took a quick 5-0 lead thanks to a few walks, some wild pitches and errors. Four of the five runs were unearned.
At the plate, Avon (13-2) battled against two outstanding pitchers. Fairfield’s Ryan Meury gave up just one hit in game one while his teammate Matt Kubel gave up just two hits to Will Tramann and Ryan Ollestad and struck out five.
Meanwhile, given the opportunity, Fairfield American made Avon pay with some big hits. Matt Clarkin had a key two-RBI double in the opener for Fairfield while teammate. In game two, Biagio Paoletta had a home run, triple and three RBI while teammate Kavin Oricoli had a 3-run home run in the fourth inning.
There was some glimmer of hope for Avon in game two. Trailing 1-0 in the first inning, Dylan Nastri and Sam Leopold both reached bases with walks. But the next batter grounded into a double play and the following batter who hit a hard ground ball to the pitcher to snuff out the rally. The Americans didn’t make an error in the series. Fairfield scored four runs in the second inning to take a 5-0 lead.
Still, it was an outstanding summer of baseball from this team. Ten of these 12 players have been together for three years. They won the District 6 title in 2010 in the 9-10 division. A year ago, they won the D6 title in the Minor Division (ages 10-11), won the Section II title and lost to Fairfield in the state finals.
This summer, they won 13 in a row in a quiet and respectful manner. They played hard, had fun and let their play speak for them.
“They just do things the right way,” Harris said. “They work hard. They handled themselves in a way that makes their parents and town proud.”