SPECIAL TO THE PRESS
BRISTOL - Behind a shutout pitching performance from Ethan Righter and a two-homer game by Matthew Vivona, Connecticut’s Fairfield American Little League did not lack pitching nor power in its 8-0 victory over Maine’s South Portland American Little League in the New England Regional tournament.
Righter was dominant throughout his outing, striking out nine batters and not permitting a run through five innings pitched.
“I was just trying to throw strikes,” Righter said about what led to his success on the pitching mound. “I knew how important the game was.”
Vivona made sure his starting pitcher had enough breathing room by making loud contact with his bat all afternoon. He went 3-for4 with two home runs and a triple, also bringing in three runs.
“I was just looking for good pitches and not to swing at bad pitches early in the count,” Vivona said. “I was just looking to sit back because the pitcher wasn’t fast, he was slower, and I just looked to sit back and drive it up the middle.”
Vivona’s first homer of the afternoon came in the bottom of the first inning with Michael Iannazzo on board, as he hit a liner to straightaway center field to give Connecticut an early 2-0 lead.
It was Vivona again who got the scoring started in the third by leading off the inning with a triple. One out later, Christian Smith brought him home on a sacrifice fly to extend the lead over Maine to 3-0.
Righter continued to cruise despite rain coming down over the field, striking out two batters in the following inning.
Vivona backed his pitcher with his second home run of the game on the first pitch he saw to lead off the fifth inning. From there the floodgates opened for Connecticut, leading to a five-run fifth inning.
With runners on first and third and nobody out, Aidan Rivera lined an RBI double to score Tyler Bauer. Owen Kalagher lined a two-run single an out later to score two more runs and give Connecticut a comfortable 7-0 lead.
Leo Randazzo followed with a double and Righter was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Iannazzo, who walked to force in the eighth run of the game and to cap the scoring for Connecticut.
“That is a good team out there and we knew we didn’t want to make mistakes and we certainly didn’t today,” Connecticut manager Mike Randazzo said.
“The boys came to play and fortunately that last outburst, in the fifth inning where we dropped five … that obviously gives you a little breathing room.”
With Righter exiting the game after five innings - Randazzo said he did not want his young pitcher to exceed 65 pitches to keep him ready for future games - it was only fitting for Vivona to close out the game for Connecticut.
He threw a scoreless sixth, striking out two batters, including the last batter of the game.
“You know these boys have been playing loose all summer,” Randazzo said. “We are going to allow them to do that, but obviously it gets a lot more difficult from here on out.”
Kimberly Pena can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @Kimberly_P12