WILTON, Conn. A strike away from one of the biggest wins in the programs history Friday, the Wilton Little League All-Stars saw their hopes dashed when Fairfield American's Biagio Paoletta launched a three-run bomb to straightaway center field to complete an improbable comeback and force extra innings.
Michael Ghiorzi then crushed the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the seventh over the right field fence to stun Wilton for a walk-off, 8-7, Fairfield American victory.
We feel like we had our heart ripped out and stepped on, Wilton manager Kevin Black said. We told the kids [Fairfield] was going to come back. A part of me has nothing but awe and respect for Fairfield American and how they play to the final out of every game.
The loss was even harder to swallow for Wilton because of the 7-0 lead it had staked after 4 1/2 innings. Billy Black had no-hit the two-time defending state champions through four.
But Fairfields first hit was a big one, as Patrick Steed went deep for a solo home run. When Dan Kiernan followed with a solo shot of his own, the Fairfield American rally was suddenly on. Fairfield scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth, with two runners reaching thanks to a pair of uncharacteristic Wilton errors.
Paoletta's dramatic shot in the bottom of the sixth came on a full count with two outs.
Both teams combined for a whopping seven home runs, with Wilton collecting the first three. Jack Dooley and Jack Gioffre clubbed solo shots in the second inning to give Wilton a 2-0 lead.
A grand slam by Dooley in the third inning, extending Wiltons lead to 7-0, might have put the game out of reach for some teams, but it simply woke the Fairfield American sleeping giant. Fairfield American has not lost a state tournament game in three years.
I said at the beginning of the tournament [Fairfield] is what we aspire to be. Were just not quite there yet, Black said. We played five really good innings tonight and then they took advantage of our mistakes. This one hurts.
It was the second heartbreaking, one-run loss in a row for Wilton, after falling 9-8 to Seymour. Wilton faces a must-win game Sunday against Annex to keep its state title hopes alive.
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