The Fairfield 14-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars were down but far from out following a heartbreaking loss to Norwalk last week in the opening game of the District Two tournament.
C.J Savella, Tom Gagne and starting pitcher Dan Schmedlin each had three hits Tuesday as Fairfield stayed alive with a 7-3 victory at McMahon High School.
In the earlier meeting, Norwalk rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to defeat Fairfield, 6-4. Since then, the Fairfielders have reeled off three straight wins out of the loser's bracket, including Tuesday's victory that set up a winner-take-all meeting between the teams on Wednesday at McMahon (5:30 p.m.).
"We told our guys, we've been telling them all year, play good defense, be smart, be aggressive at the plate," Fairfield coach Bill Moeder said. "Whoever the pitcher is, we're going to be able to hit him. It's just a matter of getting good pitches and hitting in proper courts."
Tommy Luckner set an early tone by lining a single into left field to lead off the top of the first and scored on Gagne's RBI single.
Fairfield had productive at-bats throughout Tuesday's game, banging out 13 hits, including eight against Norwalk starter Nate Cutting, who was knocked out after just 2 1/3 innings.
"From what I saw, (Fairfield) got better pitching, they got much better defense and they hit the ball better," Norwalk coach Tim Hefferan said. "They ran the bases better. I'm not being negative toward my team, it just was a bad night. There wasn't much we did well. When you do all those things wrong, or poorly, you're going to have a hard time winning."
Fairfield tacked on three runs in the second, building a 4-0 lead on Billy Moeder's two-run single and Savella's RBI single.
"We came into this game confident," the elder Moeder said. "The bottom line is, we beat these guys last year (in the 13-year-old tournament), so we knew we could beat them. I told the guys before the game, 'We're district champs, we have the title, we're defending champs, let's go out and play like it.'"
Schmedlin improved to 2-0 in the tournament, allowing three runs and five hits over 4 1/3 innings with three strikeouts and three walks. He also earned a win in relief against Weston.
Luckner, who went the distance in the previous game against Norwalk, tossed the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing no hits to record the save.
Each time Norwalk tried to rally, Fairfield responded. After Norwalk got on the board in the bottom of the third, Savella doubled in the fourth and scored on Gagne's single to make it 5-1.
Schmedlin appeared to tire in the fifth, walking two batters and hitting another to load the bases. Norwalk closed within 5-3 on Paul Salata's run-scoring groundout and an error.
Based on the first game between the team, Norwalk might have thought another late-game rally was in the offing,but Fairfield put away the contest with two runs in the top of the sixth.
The run first scored on an error and the second came home on Kyle Cavali's perfectly executed safety squeeze. It was Cavali's second sacrifice in the game, with his first helping to set up the three-run second inning.
"You can't make five or six or seven bad plays in a game, and that's what we did," Hefferan said. "It's one game, forget about it. Go home, get a good night sleep and come back and play tomorrow."
Norwalk finished with only five hits, collecting one in each of the first five innings.
"We did a good job of keeping them off balance," Moeder added. "With a lot of these big guys (for Norwalk), you might think we wouldn't have much of a chance. My catcher (Cavali) is smart. My pitchers are smart. They've been taught to throw the off-speed pitch, so we pick our off-speed pitches, makes the fastball faster.
If they're swinging at curvevballs, we're in good shape, and that's what were trying to do. I tell them to throw it slow, slower and slower."
The winner of Wednesday's game advances to the state tournament, which begins July 15 in Waterford.
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