The Norwalk Cranbury Bronco 11- and 12-year-old all-star team defeated Milford in the championship round of the PONY Sectional Tournament at Tim Devine Field last Saturday. The second time was the charm, as Milford topped Norwalk 4-1 in the morning clash to force a decisive third game (Norwalk had won the best-of-three series opener 10-9 a day earlier). Norwalk took advantage of its margin for error and rebounded for a 10-4 triumph to advance to this week's regional tourney in New Haven.
As it turned out, because of the withdrawal of a team from Albany, N.Y., both sectional finalists advanced to regionals and will play for the right to advance to the PONY World Series.
The all-stars from Cranbury used a seven-run fifth inning to take a 10-3 lead. Eddie McCabe went 3-for-4 and drove in the go-ahead run in the big inning. Quinn Sandor went 2-for-3 and scored twice to help lead the 13-hit attack. Matt Troy and Zachary White finished with two hits apiece.
A second game would not have been necessary if not for the strong pitching effort of Milford's Justin Plantamura in the first tilt. Norwalk managed just six hits, although Milford got only four of its own but cashed in on some miscues despite the strong pitching of Clemens and Matt Donaher.
Down 2-0 in the sixth, Norwalk scratched out a run when Clemens smoked a double to right and advanced to third on an errant throw. Clemens raced home on a strikeout when the ball hit the dirt and Milford's catcher threw to first for the out. Norwalk got no closer, but a team meeting no closer, but a team meeting between games prompted the players to strive to have more success at the plate, Norwalk coach Kraig Socci said.
Norwalk was scheduled to begin regional tourney action on Wednesday. "Hopefully we can go up there and do some damage," Socci said.
Socci is confident in his players, especially given the unfamiliar opponent competition they've been exposed to. The Norwalk squad has gone to Cooperstown, N.Y. for a tournament each of the past few years, and competes in other out-of-state tourneys against various teams throughout the summer.
"I think they're ready for anything," Socci said. "These kids are used to playing different teams and meeting different players. They're used to playing kids they don't know."
He believes the key to success will be in the performances at the plate. "If we hit I think we'll go pretty far," Socci said. "I would put the team up against anybody when they're swinging the bats."
Regardless of whether or not Norwalk wins in the regional tourney, the summer season will continue. The all-stars have tournaments scheduled throughout the next month-plus, beginning with the Northeast Wood Bat Championship in Newburgh, N.Y. this weekend.