PORTLAND — There will be a new Junior Legion state champion this year.
 A little undermanned and a little overmatched, Fairfield Post #14 dropped a tough yet well-played 4-1 decision to Bruno’s of Portland in an elimination game of the state tournament Sunday morning at Hadlock Field.

“We had a great season,” Fairfield Post #14 coach Rusty Mercier said. “Once you get to this point of the season it’s just good baseball, and that’s what we had (Sunday). It was a great season. We played a lot of baseball. We’re looking forward to next year.”

Fairfield Post #14, the defending champs, played without a few key players Sunday, including Derek Bowen, Jared Cunningham and Jacob Trask, among others.

Those players are in Connecticut with the Central Maine 15-and-under Babe Ruth team that is competing in the regional tournament.

“We were missing some kids, but we still played well,” said starting pitcher Cole Robinson. “It was a fun season. We got better as the year went on.”

Fairfield Post #14 (16-4) certainly played well Sunday, but were done in by one rough inning coupled with Bruno’s pitcher Nick DiPalma.

DiPalma struck out seven, walked one and allowed just four hits. He retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.

“I was hitting my spots,” he said. “Everything was working. I was mixing my pitches and it felt pretty good.”

The teams were tied 1-1 when Bruno’s (17-4) scored three in the top of the sixth to pull away.
Owen Pence led off with a double and later came home with the eventual game-winning run when Ryan Ruhlin hit an opposite field triple down the right field line.

DiPalma helped his own cause when he plated Ruhlin with a single up the middle to make it a 3-1 game. Marcus Cross-Robinson added an RBI single later in the inning.

“We finally broke through,” Bruno’s coach Mike Rutherford said. “We finally strung some hits together.”
The inning spoiled an otherwise strong performance from Fairfield Post #14 pitcher Cole Robinson.
Robinson struck out 10 and allowed six hits.

“I threw a lot of curves and sliders,” he said. “I tried to keep them off balance. It was a challenge.”
Bruno’s opened a 1-0 lead when Dominic DiMillo hit an RBI single to right to score Ruhlin with nobody out in the second inning.

It stayed 1-0 until Fairfield Post finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth.

Cody Martin singled with one out and took second on an error by Bruno’s center fielder. Martin took third on a wild pitch and then came home on a safety squeeze bunt by Joe LeClair.

“Coach gave me the sign and I knew I had to get it down,” LeClair said. “I knew if I could get it down (Martin) would score.”

The run energized Fairfield Post #14 but Bruno’s responded with three runs in the sixth.

“We just couldn’t get the timely hits,” LeClair said. “Their pitcher was tough. He worked to both sides of the plate and made it difficult.”

Added Mercier: “We didn’t get enough hits. Cole pitched really well for us and we made some plays in the field. It was a good game. We just came up short.”

Spencer Folsom went 2 for 4 with a double to lead Fairfield Post #14.

Ruhlin and DiPalma each had two hits for Bruno’s.

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