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Jul, 2022



by Ben Nuckols


The challenge for the Fairfax Little League Seniors All-Stars was clear: Beat the strongest team in the state tournament field, or head home. Starting pitcher SamKoutsouftikis, reliever Nick Zamora and the Fairfax defense passed the test, setting up a memorable run that ended in a runner-up finish. 

Sam threw 93 pitches over 4 1/3 innings in that pivotal game, a 3-1 victory over Fleet Park that improved Fairfax to 2-1 in pool play. Nick took care of the rest, striking out four in 2 2/3 hitless innings. The Fairfax infield backed up Sam by tagging out baserunners on rundown plays to end both the first and second innings. 

Fleet Park took a 1-0 lead in the third when its batter grounded a 3-2 pitch by Sam up the middle for a two-out RBI single. But Fairfax rallied with two outs in the fourth, tying the game on a bases-loaded walk by William Reynolds and pulling ahead when Nick was hit by a pitch. Sam then lined an 0-1 pitch to the right side for a single that made it 3-1. 

Nick worked around two errors in the fifth by striking out consecutive batters, and the Fairfax Seniors were on their way to bracket play. 

It was one of several tense, thrilling moments for Fairfax at the tournament from July 8-12 in the tiny Southwest Virginia town of Castleton, which is closer to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, than it is to Fairfax County. 

Elimination play began on Monday afternoon against Louisa, and Hunter Grulke did a little bit of everything to power Fairfax to a 9-3 victory. He threw a complete game, striking out 10 and allowing three runs -- two earned -- over seven innings. And he went 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. 

Fairfax fell behind 3-1 in the fourth but quickly rallied. Brady Gray’s two-out, two-run single tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Bradley Nehilla had an RBI single to kick off a three-run fifth. Fairfax poured it on in the sixth on Hunter’s RBI double, Bradley’s sacrifice fly and Caleb Alberts’ RBI single. 

Fairfax moved on to a rollicking semifinal matchup with Poquoson. After an eight-run first inning that included seven hits -- four of them doubles -- Fairfax looked to be in fine shape. But Poquoson kept chipping away, getting within one run in the fourth and again in the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, William singled, John Read walked, and Nick launched the first pitch over the wall in left field for a three-run homer to make it 13-9, his first career longball on a 90-foot field. 

Poquoson rallied again, scoring four times in the top of the sixth to tie the game. But with runners on second and third and one out, Brady came in to pitch and worked out of the jam on a lineout and foul popup. Brady also escaped the seventh after allowing two baserunners. 

Charles Gurrola singled leading off the bottom half, Nick was hit by a pitch and Sam singled to load the bases. After a pop out, Bradley smoked a 1-1 pitch to right field to give Fairfax the 14-13, walk-off victory and a spot in Tuesday’s title game. 

Fleet Park was too much for Fairfax in the rematch. Its ace pitcher threw a complete-game, six-inning two-hitter as Fleet Park won 10-0. But the Fairfax Seniors could look back in pride at their tournament run and their first win over the eventual champs. 

“I would rather lose to a team like Fleet Park than a team that snuck in the back door,” manager Chris Addams said. 

Fairfax began the tournament on Friday with a 5-3 loss to Dumfries-Triangle-Quantico. Alex Chavez and John each went 2-for-3 with an RBI for Fairfax, and reliever Sam worked three solid innings, allowing one unearned run and striking out seven. 

Sam got Fairfax rolling early in its second pool game, an 11-4 win over Union Senior League. He smoked a two-run homer in the first inning, and he later added an RBI triple and a run-scoring double, finishing 3-for-5 with five RBIs. Alex had two hits and drove in two as Fairfax maintained the lead throughout behind the pitching of Charles, Bradley, Caleb and John. 

That meant Fairfax would have something to play for in its final pool game, and the team made the most of the opportunity. 

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