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Norwalk Ripken Team Begins State Play

NORWALK, Conn. – Mike Claps, manager of the Norwalk Cal Ripken 11-year-olds, liked what he saw from his team during its run to a tournament title last month in Bethel. He’s hoping for the same result when the team begins the state tournament Saturday in Danbury.

“First and foremost, it’s a strong hitting team,’’ said Claps, whose team begins the state tournament with a noon contest against Oxford. “Every one puts the bat on the ball and forces you to make plays. They never give up and they have the ability to come from behind.”

Norwalk’s never-say-die attitude was evident in the Bethel tournament, when it rallied from a 10-3 deficit in the fourth inning for a 13-12 victory over Newtown. The same Newtown is in the tournament along with host Danbury, Southbury, West Harford and Oxford. Most of those teams also competed in Bethel.

The tournament winner advances to the New England Regional next month in Marlboro, Mass. There is no World Series for this Cal Ripken age group.

Since its win in Bethel, Norwalk has been practicing four times a week and playing scrimmages against house league opponents. Claps has been a coach with the team since the ballplayers were nine years old and believes they are ready to contend for the state crown. “I feel like the kids are real hungry and are looking forward to playing in the tournament,’’ Claps said.

The team includes Johnny Thorme, Chris Van der Els, Patrick Auz, Chris Druin, Cory Acevedo, Matthew Clarke, Matt Saint-Louis, Jordan O'Brien, Brendan Huertas, Michael Claps, Jack Feinstein, Andrew Matthews and Griffin Root, Claps is assisted by coach Richard Matthews.

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