BRISTOL — On a day when it clinched a berth in the New England Regional Tournament semifinals before it even started play, the Fairfield American Little League team got its best pitched game of the tournament.
American’s Jack Oricoli pitched 4 1/3 hitless innings in relief for the win, Eddie Schwartz hit a long home run, and Fairfield beat Cumberland, R.I., 3-0 on Tuesday at Breen Field.
Fairfield had advanced to the regional semifinals by virtue of a win by Andover, Mass., over Yarmouth, Maine on Tuesday morning. Fairfield’s win left it an outside chance of earning the No. 1 seed in Thursday’s semifinals.
Fairfield broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases with no one out, with the help of three walks by Rhode Island starter Connor Mastin, including back-to-back walks to Aidan Kudzy and Conner Devaney to force in runs.
“He was looking a little rattled, so I took until I got the first strike,” Kudzy said. “He might have been overthrowing.”
With the trip to the semis already assured, the pressure eased for Fairfield.
“We managed our pitch counts as well as we could,” Fairfield manager Kevin Flynn said. “We wanted as many pitchers as we could available for Thursday.”
“It really just let us have fun,” said Kudzy, Fairfield’s catcher. “If we had that pressure, who knows what would have happened?”
Schwartz blasted a 1-1 pitch well over the left-field fence, his second homer of the tournament, an estimated 360 feet.
“Off the bat, I pretty much knew it was gone,” he said. “It wasn’t so much a matter of if it was going out, but where it was going.”
Schwartz started the game for Fairfield on the mound, throwing 1 2/3 innings, before departing after throwing 35 pitches. He struck out five of the first six Cumberland players he faced before allowing a single to Colin Cannata, then back-to-back walks to James Belisle and Tom Faltus in the second.
Oricoli entered the game and struck out Ryan McCormick to end the threat. He then retired the next 11 in a row before walking Mastin and Matt Hanuschak in the sixth. Oricoli then struck out Chris Wright and Conor Lavalee to end the game
Fairfield’s pitching allowed just two hits in the game.
“These are the types of outings that we’re spoiled by,” Flynn said. “These guys come out and they’re having fun, and when you’re having fun … they play well.”