STAMFORD -- It took Pete Tucci nearly 12 years to record his 200th career baseball victory.
The last three hours were a bit of a roller coaster.
Tucci, back in the Norwalk High dugout for the first time since stepping down in 1999, saw his team jump out to a 4-0 first-inning lead against Westhill Wednesday afternoon, before the Vikings rallied to within 5-4. James Cooksey's RBI double in the seventh provided an insurance run for a 6-4 season-opening win at Cubeta Stadium.
"It was a long wait but it was nice," Tucci said. "It was more like No. 1 with this team. There were times I was wondering why I came back. Your stomach starts churning. But it was fun."
Cooksey, who finished with two hits and two RBIs, pitched the first four innings to get the win, but he was helped by a strong effort by John Lauttenbach in relief.
Lauttenbach entered in the fifth with the bases loaded, no outs and the Bears ahead, 5-1. Each runner scored, on a hit batter, a single by Jimmy Socci and Zack Phillipson's sacrifice fly, but he preserved the lead and then held it the rest of the way, though he had to work out of a jam in the sixth.
"That's a tough spot with the bases loaded, no outs and the 3-4-5 batters coming up," Tucci said. "I thought he did a great job to get out of that with the lead."
Tucci was Norwalk's coach for 10 seasons before stepping down to focus on football. He took over the Bears' football program in 1998 and retired this past fall.
He served as an assistant baseball coach to Angelo Bruno for seven years. When Bruno announced he was leaving last spring, several players and Norwalk administrators approached Tucci about returning.
"When they called me down to talk to the athletic director, I said a lot of guys were comfortable with coach Tucci," said Kevin Daniele, the Bears' catcher. "He's a smart coach."
Westhill was decimated by graduation losses, but showed some spunk in battling back against a team considered by many to be one of the best in the FCIAC, if not the state.
Socci and Brandon Curto each had two hits for the Vikings. Curto, the leadoff hitter, reached base three times.
"This was a good test for us today to open up against one of the top teams in the league, and they are that," Westhill head coach DJ Mulvany said. "We were down, 4-0, early, and I told the kids there were things they had to clean up, but they responded."
Westhill got a run back in the bottom of the inning on Bryan Pieschel's base hit, but Cooksey induced Socci to hit into a double play with the bases loaded to get out of trouble.
Norwalk went up 5-1 on Nick Milliman's groundout in the second. Kosterich settled down and allowed just one hit after the first before Bryan Rotkewicz came on in the fifth. He gave up just one hit over three innings.
"There are a lot of things I like about this team," Mulvany said. "They are dedicated, committed. There are situations where we are going to struggle at times, but I don't think we are going to be as bad as people think because of the turnover that we've had."