NORWALK, Conn. -- ??Norwalk's Cal Ripken 11-year-old All-Stars rallied from a seven-run deficit in the bottom of the fourth inning, eventually winning a marathon game in the bottom of the eighth, 13-12, over Newtown to take first place in Bethel's Al Leonard Invitational Tournament.
Trailing 10-3 in the bottom of the fourth, Norwalk scored nine runs to take a 12-10 lead. Newtown responded with single runs in the fifth and sixth to force extra innings. In a wild bottom of the eighth that featured Norwalk runners being called out at the plate on two successive controversial calls, tournament MVP Brendan Huertas' two-out, line drive single to left no doubt as Mike Claps trotted home with the winning run. Andrew Matthews pitched two shutout innings in relief to hold Newtown scoreless in the extra innings.
Separately, Norwalk's 12-year-old Ripken All Stars placed second in their age group, losing in the finals 5-4 to Danbury when the tying run was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
In the finale, Norwalk started slowly, with starting pitcher Ryan Searles surrendering three runs in the bottom of the first inning. But he settled down after that, striking out six over three innings.
Meanwhile, Norwalk chipped away at Danbury's lead. Searles' RBI single plated Hunter Dumas in the second inning, and back-to-back solo home runs by Mike Gonzalez and Kevin Woodring tied the game at three in the third. Searles' solo homer in the top of the fourth gave Norwalk its first lead.
Norwalk reliever Gonzalez retired the side in order in the bottom of the fourth, but Danbury tallied twice in the fifth to retake the lead. With Norwalk trailing 5-4 in the top of the sixth, Jeff Vitatoe reached on an error and Eric Van der Els walked, moving Vitatoe into scoring position with two outs. Vitatoe attempted to score on a Wady Almonte single, but was called out on a close play at home.
Despite the setback, the Ripken 12s finished the tournament 4-2, posting convincing wins over New Milford, Bethel, New Fairfield and New Canaan. The team is scheduled to play for the district championship Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at New Canaan's Saxe Field.
Photo: The Norwalk 11s (Bethel Champions), standing, from left: Johnny Thorme, Chris Van der Els, Patrick Auz, Chris Druin, Cory Acevedo, Matthew Clarke, Matt Saint-Louis and Jordan O'Brien. Kneeling, from left: Brendan Huertas, Michael Claps. (Not pictured: Jack Feinstein, Andrew Matthews, Griffin Root, Manager Mike Claps and Coach Richard Matthews.
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