BRISTOL - With strong production from the top of the order and depth off the bench, Connecticut state champ Fairfield American Little League’s huge fourth and sixth innings offensively propelled it to the New England Regional championship game with a 9-4 victory over New Hampshire’s Goffstown Junior Baseball Little League on Wednesday.
Ethan Righter and Michael Iannazzo had key hits for Connecticut in the fourth inning, as Righter (3-for-4, RBI, 2 runs) tied the game and Iannazzo (2-for-4, 2 RBI) then gave the team the lead that held throughout the rest of the game.
Before that, Connecticut was unable to solve New Hampshire starting pitcher Aiden O’Connell, who was strong in his 3 1/3 innings of work, shutting down the Connecticut offense and striking out three.
Following the departure of O’Connell, Connecticut had no issues with relief pitcher Ryan Cote en route to a huge fourth inning in which the team put up five runs.
“They were patient. We had a game plan once they pulled out O’Connell, who was obviously very good,” Connecticut manager Michael Randazzo said.
“We wanted to make sure that the next pitcher that was in had command of the zone,” manager Randazzo said, referring to his team’s strategy of taking pitches to force the reliever to throw strikes. Two of Connecticut’s first four batters walked after Cote entered the game.
“We executed the game plan we needed to,” he said.
Andrew Cutler delivered a triple to score the first two runs of the inning, scoring Aidan Rivera and Christian Smith. Righter tied the game with his RBI single to left field and Iannazzo’s two-run single to right field put Connecticut up 5-3.
In the bottom of the fifth, Tyler Mackey put New Hampshire within one run on a wild pitch by Matthew Vivona.
With just a one-run lead, Connecticut wasted no time expanding on that with a huge four-run sixth inning against New Hampshire reliever Ronnie Morgan.
The big hit in the final frame was a three-run double that Anthony Pollack laced to right field.
Vivona allowed a pair of singles in the bottom of the sixth inning, but also recorded two outs before giving the ball to Tyler Bauer.
Bauer closed the door on any New Hampshire chance with a ground out to finish the game.
Connecticut starter Iannazzo showed great resiliency on the mound in the game.
He ran into some issues in the third inning, allowing a pair of singles and issuing a walk, which led to a pair of runs for New Hampshire, but he settled down and got out of the inning with just the two runs.
Iannazzo finished with three earned runs in his 3 2/3 innings. He also struck out four New Hampshire hitters.
With the victory, Connecticut will await one of the other three teams remaining in the tournament. New Hampshire will play the winner of Maine against Vermont, and that game will determine which team Connecticut faces on Saturday.
“We’ve got three of our top four arms ready to go,” Randazzo said. “They’ve all been battle-tested all summer, so I’ll put it this way - we’re in a position and we have the people in line to get us through the game.”
Righter will toe the rubber in the championship game for Connecticut with a trip to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series on the line.
“I think we have confidence going into the game,” Righter said. “It’s going to help me pitch and it’s going to help us hit the ball.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at , or On Twitter: @OrencoleDan