I guess Petaluma, Calif. ended up being Fairfield American’s kryptonite.
Fairfield hadn’t lost twice all summer entering the Little League World Series. Instead, Connecticut lost twice to Petaluma and was eliminated 5-0 at Lamade Stadium.
Fairfield was shut out for the first time this summer. American finished 21-3.
“You don’t want them to walk off the field feeling like failures,” American manager Bill Meury said. “That’s not what happened at all.”
It seemed as if everything that could’ve gone wrong for Fairfield did on Tuesday night. Every Fairfield defensive error or miscue ended up being a Petaluma run.
Plus, Quinton Gago had everything working.
“You’ve got to give him all the credit in the world,” Meury said. “(Gago) pitched a heck of a game.”
Hats off to Fairfield though. American took Fairfield to the greatest Little League run Connecticut’s seen since Trumbull National in 1989, and the greatest World Series run in Fairfield history.
“They’re disappointed tonight,” Meury said. “I said to them ‘You better walk off this field with your head held high, because you gave the town of Fairfield one of the best summers its probably ever had.’”
Neither manager believed Fairfield starter Matt Kubel was bad.
“I thought Matty Kubel pitched a decent game,” Meury said. “He scattered seven hits … you can’t win with a zero.”
Petaluma manager Eric Smith shared Meury’s sentiment.
“(Kubel) pitched a great game,” Smith said. “He really threw well.”
Smith also was happy that he didn’t have to face Mr. No-no, Will Lucas.
“The best news was we knew we didn’t have to face (Lucas),” Smith said. “He threw a great game yesterday.”
Meury believes Petaluma can win the United States bracket.
“They’ve got a good squad,” he said. “They won three close ballgames. That’s not by chance.”
California, which has come from the loser’s bracket to the finals, is one more win from a date with either Goodlettsville, Tenn. or San Antonio. They’ll play on Thursday at 8 p.m. at Lamade.
I think it’s San Antonio’s to lose, a sentiment that Meury’s heard about.
“I’ve heard an awful lot about that San Antonio team,” he said. “But I don’t know it first hand.”
What do you think?
Fairfield struggled in Williamsport because its lineup struggled.
It’s not unexpected, and Meury knows it and so do I. In series, some hitters struggle, others do well. That’s the nature of the beast.
“If you watch a big league team going into a World Series, there’s 4 or 5 guys who get hot, and 4 or 5 guys who get cold,” Meury said. “I think that’s the way 3-, 4-, 5-game tournaments work … we didn’t put the ball in play enough.
Henry Prestegaard had a really tough night.
After his sac bunt attempt in the second rolled right to Cole Tomei that became a game-altering, 5-6-3 double play, he could not reel in a pop up in the bottom of the frame, which led to a run.
“That was a big league fly ball,” Meury said. “The ball looks like a golf ball when it is coming in from that far away. I’m not surprised it dropped at all.”
Prestegaard had a pretty good World Series, in my estimation, but was the victim of some lousy luck. He hit a ball hard against Petaluma on Thursday that became a double play. His bunt would’ve been good enough if Tomei wasn’t charging hard or if it had been three feet to the left or right.
But again, those are the breaks.
Meury did not regret asking Prestegaard to bunt in the second inning.
For the record, I agreed with the decision to bunt with his No. 8 hitter with runners on first and second and no outs. The only reason I brought it up in the press conference was a commenter in our live blog brought it up.
“With the top of the lineup coming up, we were going to try to get those runners over,” Meury said. “The ball was bunted … harder than we wanted it to be … that ball is bunted a little softer, they don’t even think about going to third.
I pressed Fairfield’s manager, and he was adamant about the decision.
“Definitely not,” Meury said when asked if he regretted it. ” No regrets… I wouldn’t second-guess that one.”
That play ended up being the turning point, as Gago settled in.
“I thought (Gago) got stronger and stronger as the game went on,” Meury said. “He was better in the third and fourth innings than he was in innings one and two.”
Fairfield’s manager also set the record straight involving Lucas’ appearance on the Dan Patrick Show.
Evidently, Patrick talked Lucas into claiming his favorite show was the Dan Patrick Show and not SportsCenter as he originally claimed.
“For the record, (Lucas) loves Dan Patrick,” Meury said. “But he loves ESPN more.”
Meury also stated he loves ESPN, and appreciated how the World Wide Leader treated his team during the World Series.
“We love ESPN,” Meury said. “The boys loved everything that ESPN did.”
To each his own.
As I tweeted earlier, Fairfield American was invited by the Mets to a game at Citi Field later this season.
Meury told me after the game he and his team intended to go. I will be traveling to Citi Field for that as well — assuming it doesn’t conflict with say, a football game.
I’ll let everyone know– and certainly will tag along– if the Yankees make a similar offer.
Meury said the team will not come home Wednesday.
He said he and the boys wanted to get some down time in Williamsport, and thought they might watch games tomorrow. He said they’d all likely be home on Thursday.
“They want to hang out and let Williamsport wash over you,” Meury said. “We’ll watch a couple of ball games … we haven’t had a quiet moment in two or three months.”
He also said that Fairfield would not be playing any exhibition friendship games in Williamsport– which happens sometimes after teams are eliminated.
“I think they’re done,” Meury said.
I told Meury if his team played in any exhibition games, I was not covering them.
Unlike Fairfield American, I will be coming home on Wednesday.
I’d like to thank the kids, coaches and parents. They have been terrific to me all summer. It’s a shame the boys will simply go back to being 8th graders, but such are the breaks.
“The kids have been together for almost three years,” Meury said. “You’re with these kids a lot, and we love these kids, they’re terrific.”
All the players and coaches dealt with my questions, which certainly weren’t softballs (ask anyone who had to listen to
them). Bill Meury gave me access, dealt with all the questions, requests — during wins and losses — and I greatly thank him for being a tremendous sport this whole summer.
In the end, what I’ll remember is Will Lucas’ no-hitter, Matt Kubel’s cut-fastball, Ryan Meury’s guts, Biagio Paoletta’s home runs, Kevin Oricoli’s smile and the rest of the team’s enthusiasm and perseverance. There were times, all summer, when Fairfield could’ve been eliminated. Yet that “never give up” motto that American so proudly wears on the back of its t-shirts stands out.
Plus, all the kids got better at answering questions as the summer went on. I hope that continues as they get closer to high school. Kubel actually improved the most.
I’d like to thank you all for your support, readership and kind words throughout the summer. I also appreciate everyone who challenged me with questions, comments and letters. I hope I provided everyone fair and extensive coverage of Fairfield Little League– mostly American– this summer. That was my aim.
It’s time to go home, I guess.
So long Williamsport.
Pat Pickens is the sports editor of the Fairfield Citizen, a Hearst Connecticut Newspaper. Follow him on Twitter here.