NORWALK, Conn. Norwalk's 13-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars battled for three victories in the losers bracket of the New England Regional. The mental and physical toll was evident in Wednesday's game against Central Maine.
The Maine champions took out Norwalk, 6-3, at Brien McMahon High School. The victory sends Central Maine to the championship round Thursday against Cranston, R.I., at 4 p.m. If Central Maine wins, a winner-take-all game will follow immediately afterwards.
"It's definitely a mental grind,'' said Norwalk manager Tom Cossuto, whose team lost to Central Maine in its first game before reeling off three straight wins. "It's like going to work every day. I'm mentally and physically tired, and I didn't even play. I give the guys a lot of credit. It's easy to get that loss early and pack it in. These guys fought the whole time."
After defeating New Milford, 12-0, on Tuesday, Norwalk seemed like it had momentum heading into Wednesday's game. Central Maine, however, stole the momentum with three runs in the second inning. Nick Mayo's double started the inning, which also included RBIs from Nick Bryand, Brandon Hallee and Noah Caret. A Norwalk error, one of four on the night, contributed to the inning.
"They came out and they played their game,'' Cossuto said. "We were forced to play from behind. They had a few bloops that fell in, and we weren't able to make some plays that we usually make. That was the difference."
Maine added a run in the third. Norwalk got one back in the fourth on an RBI double by Christian Lengyel, and Chris Winthrop scored in the fourth after drawing a leadoff walk. Maine added runs in the fifth and sixth, again with some loose defensive play from Norwalk. In the seventh, Norwalk loaded the bases with one out when Matt Parlanti crushed a drive to deep center. It went for a long sacrifice fly, and Central Maine retired the next batter for the final out.
Norwalk had just five hits, and except when it exploded against New Milford, never seemed to find its rhythm offensively for the duration of the tournament. "We faced some good pitchers,'' Cossuto said. "Our players are used to hitting fastballs. If a guy 13 is throwing a good curveball, you can get by with that."
It was still a successful season for Norwalk, which defeated state champion New Milford and also won the District 2 tournament. "I'm extremely proud of my guys,'' Cossuto said. "They fought through a lot of adversity to get to this point."
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