FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Five runs in the first inning and a thrilling fourth-inning grand slam Wednesday helped Fairfield American best New Jersey 12-2 to advance in the Little League World Series.
The New England champs will play the team that loses Wednesday night's game between Southeast and Southwest for a chance to win the U.S. championship game. The winner of that will go head to head with the international champs in the final game of the tournament.
The Fairfield-New Jersey consolation bracket rematch was to take place on Tuesday evening, but the weather in Williamsport, Pa., didn’t cooperate. In their first meeting last Thursday, Fairfield defeated New Jersey 7-6.
Fairfield made it to Wednesday’s game by walloping Walla Walla, Wash. 14-6 Monday night.
Fairfield pitcher Ethan Righter came out strong, throwing just seven pitches for three quick outs in the first inning.
Fairfield’s Matthew Vivona whacked one deep into left field, bringing in two runners to go up 2-0 with no outs.
The inning ended with Fairfield ahead 5-0.
New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic champs, got their first run with a little looper out to right field in the second. A wild pitch from Righter allowed a second New Jersey runner to sneak in in the top of the third.
New Jersey held Fairfield to no runs in the second and third, but a few mistakes in the fourth left the bases loaded.
Then Troy Ashkinos came up to bat, smacking a grand-slam homer into centerfield to bring the score to 9-2.
“We’re over the moon,” his mom, Lisa Ashkinos, told announcer Julie Foudy. “I know he’s over the moon.”
Fairfield put up another two runs in the bottom of the fifth, which also featured the second rundown for the team.
Ashkinos smacked another one into the outfield in the fifth to bring home Tyler Bauer for the game-ending 12th run.
Texas and North Carolina square off tonight at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Fairfield plays again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
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