Smith ties game and sparks Conn.
A closer look at the Fairfield, Connecticut 14-6 win over Walla Walla, Washington, Monday at Lamade Stadium:
PLAY OF THE GAME: Christian Smith’s fourth-inning home run. Smith delivered the hit of his life in the fourth, coming off the bench and blasting a long three-run home run into the bushes beyond center field. Smith erased a three-run deficit and tied it, 5-5 with one swing. Connecticut kept rolling from there, scored eight runs that inning and marched onto the U.S. Final Four.
PLAY OF THE GAME II-Washington fought back in the fifth inning when Caiden Thomsen homered. Hayden Lomelli followed with what looked like would be another home run. Instead, Connecticut center fielder Anthony Pollack made the best play at the Series thus far. On a play that likely will be replayed on highlights for the remainder of this Series and maybe in years go come, Pollack went back to the center-field wall and robbed Lomelli of a home run. Pollack covered a lot of ground, raced toward the wall, leaped and stuck his glove over. He had a bead on the ball the whole time and caught it before it could hit the Howard J. Lamade statue behind the wall as fans gave him a loud ovation.
CONNECTICUT: PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Iannazzo. A year after coming within one game of reaching the Series, Iannazzo has made the most of his Series opportunity and continued shining on the big stage. The talented shortstop went 3 for 3 with a home run, a walk, three RBIs and two runs. Iannazzo hit a key RBI single during a fourth-inning comeback and helped break things open in the fifth when he slammed a 2-run home run.
WASHINGTON PLAYER OF THE GAME: Hayden Lomelli. Had it not been for Pollack’s tremendous catch, Lomelli would have reached base all three times he batted. The right fielder hit a two-run single in the fourth inning that put Washington up, 5-2, and nearly had a home run in his final Series at-bat. Lomelli was a big reason his team from Walla Walla captured its first Major Division state championships and regional championships en route to reaching the Series for the first time.
BIG INNING: Connecticut fourth-Trailing by three runs, Connecticut erupted and scored eight times while building a 10-5 lead. The first six hitters reached base that inning and Ethan Righter’s RBI double put the New England champions ahead to stay. Connecticut had six hits during the inning and three went for extra bases, including Sean O’Neill’s lead-off double.
BEST EFFORT: Connecticut’s reserves-Manager Michael Randazzo often has stressed how good his reserves are and they have proven him right all summer. The reserves delivered turning-point moments throughout regionals and paved the way for last night’s comeback. The first four hitters in the game-changing fourth inning were pinch-hitters and all four reached base, three via hits. Smith delivered the game’s biggest hit and the reserves went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and four runs in the fourth inning. Connecticut chose the maximum 14 all-stars this summer and that decision continues paying off.
HOME RUNS: Smith continued showing how deep Connecticut is, coming off the bench and blasting his long, game-tying three-run home run and made it 5-5. Thomsen tried sparking a Washington comeback when he went the opposite way in the fifth inning and hit a home run to left-center field. Thomsen’s home run gave him four RBIs in his last two Series games. Michael Iannazzo gave Connecticut some breathing room in the bottom of the fifth when he drilled the first pitch he saw deep into the night for a 2-run home run that landed in the center field bushes and made it, 12-6.
FLASHING LEATHER: Connecticut center fielder Andrew Cutler made a super first-inning catch on an Andrew Hall drive that looked like it might leave the field. Cutler hustled into the left-center gap and caught the ball on the warning track just as it headed toward the wall. Left fielder Owen Kalagher made running shoestring catch in the fourth inning. Just a batter later second base man Ethan Righter made a nice stop to his left, robbing Drew Coleman of a two-out single.
WHAT IT MEANS: Connecticut reaches the U.S. Final Four and plays again Tuesday night against New Jersey. It is a rematch of the Series opener that Connecticut won, 7-6. Washington ends the best season in Walla Walla Valley Little League history ranked among the top six teams in the country.