District 2: Trumbull American no hit by Kerstetter

Trumbull American batter Henry Honychurch sliced a liner into center field with two out in the bottom of the third inning and hightailed it toward first.

Fairfield American center fielder Ben Gaffney made a fine running catch to deny Honychurch — and Trumbull American — of its only opportunity to record a base hit when the rivals met in the winner’s bracket of the District 2 Little League at Unity Park on Tuesday.

Fairfield American’s Richie Kerstetter tossed a no-hitter, was one walk shy of recording a perfect game, and the left-hander struck out 15 batters to lead his team to a 7-0 victory and a berth in Saturday’s title game.

Fairfield American improved to 6-0. It will play Thursday night’s 7:30 winner between Trumbull American (5-1) and Trumbull National (3-3) for the title on Saturday at 2 p.m at Unity Park.

“It’s very fun to have Richie on the mound no matter what,” Fairfield American manager Brian Grady said. “The other (all-star coaches in Fairfield) are jealous that I get to run Richie out there. He’s been great all year, he’s phenomenal.”

When asked what pitches were working, Kerstetter said, “Fastball and then curveball on the outside corner. Yeah I knew (about the possible perfect game). I try to get ahead and go from there. We (catcher Matthew Sawyer) know what to throw and where we want to throw it.”

Fairfield American had seven hits, including three home runs — a pair by Gaffney good for five RBIs and a solo shot by Michael Iannazzo.

“It’s been up and down the order and today it was Ben up at the top with the two, the grand slam and the other hit,” Grady said. “Matt (Sawyer) has been crushing the ball, Richie, up and down have been crushing the ball.”

Trumbull American lefty Mitchell Russo left two runners stranded (a Michael Innaimo walk and a Sawyer single off the railing in the fence in right field) in the top of the first inning with an infield popup and a strikeout.

A one-out home run to left center by Iannazzo gave Fairfield American the lead in the second.

Gaffney’s home run to straightaway center to open the third inning took the score to 2-0.

Innaimo reached on an infield error but was erased when Trumbull American shortstop Jack Ligouri turned a hard grounder by Kerstetter into a 6-6-3 double play.

Kerstetter struck out 8-of-9 batters t o start the game. After Peter Antoniou walked to open the fourth, he put the next two outs in the book on strikes.

Trumbull American’s Grayson DeFelice ground out to shortstop in the fifth and Chris Nemek rolled out to second base in the sixth.

“The big blow was the grand slam,” Trumbull American manager Tom Honychurch said. “As we told the kids tonight baseball can change any day of the week. You always have to be mentally prepared. Wipe it off and come out ready to go on Thursday.

“Playing as a team has been the big key for us. They are positive, have a good attitude, stick with it and stay together. Next up is Trumbull National on Thursday. We have all our guys available except for our starter (Russo) today.  If we win that we’re back against Fairfield on Saturday.”

Trumbull American defeated Trumbull National, 8-2, earlier in district play.