STAMFORD -- After a month of being hyped up during the preseason, the Norwalk High baseball team found itself struggling with a 3-5 record after three weeks. The players were distressed by their inconsistency, and their coach, a disciplinarian making a return to the dugout after a decade-long hiatus, was uncertain whether to go against his customary instincts to try and help break the slump.
"We were frustrated, but we never put our heads down," Bears first baseman Leon Fleming said. "We just had to keep working."
Another two weeks have passed, and head coach Pete Tucci is more at ease about raising his voice if necessary.
It just hasn't been necessary.
The Bears won their seventh straight game Monday, a 17-1 rout of Trinity Catholic. They pounded out 20 hits, got strong pitching and took advantage of nine errors by the Crusaders. They have scored 73 runs during the streak.
"It is just one of those games where you flush it away and forget about it," Trinity head coach Tracy Nichols said. "Norwalk is hot. They are the best team I have seen and my choice to win the FCIAC. They had seeing-eye hits, hit the ball hard. They are very good."
Fleming led a 20-hit attack by going 4-for-4, with two doubles, and driving in four runs. Spencer Jacoby, who pitched five innings to get the win, and Matt Ederle, added three hits apiece. Leadoff hitter Mike Parlanti had two hits and scored four runs.
"We've been playing good ball," Tucci said. "We are just hot. We hit the ball hard, and when we didn't hit the ball hard we found holes."
Tucci, whose coaching style would be considered old school, diverged from his previous tactics and opted against a tough-love approach to get his players back on track.
"They were confused," said Tucci, who stepped down as the school's football coach last fall. "They thought they were a good team and they weren't playing like a good team. I think some of it was me. They were not certain how to react and they played uptight. You can play football uptight."
Tucci chuckled when asked if it was hard not raising his voice.
"I'm a little bit more intense than most coaches they are used to," he said. "My assistant coaches, who played for me, including my son, were saying how much I've changed."
Tucci held a team meeting prior to a game with Wilton, which turned out to be the team's last loss. That was followed by a win over Staples, which was unbeaten at the time.
"That's the one that changed it around," Tucci said.
Trinity, which began the season with much more modest expectations and an 0-3 start, came into Monday's game nearly as hot, having won three straight and four of their last five to get back into the FCIAC playoff hunt. The Crusaders remain within a win of qualifying for the state tournament.
Other than the fielding mistakes, Nichols was comfortable to turn the page on a regrettable day.
"I told the kids in the fifth inning there's nothing you can do about the balls in the hole, or the well-hit balls," he said. "The one thing you can control is your own attitude and that's all I ask."
Kyle Devico had two hits for the Crusaders, while Jeff Cortese knocked in the only run, in the fifth inning.
By that time Norwalk had jumped out to a 10-0 lead. It ended up scoring in every inning but the seventh.
"I think we are a good hitting team and everyone was hitting today," Fleming said. "We considered this one of our biggest games of the year. People can say you're the best team or the worst team, it doesn't matter. You just have to come out to play hard every inning."