NEWTOWN -- Usually it's hard to find something wrong with a three-run rally in the top of the first inning. But as soon as the Norwalk Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-stars took the field with the three-run lead in the bottom of the first Tuesday, an uneasy feeling overcame the players and coaches.
"We should have put the hammer to them in the first inning," Norwalk manager Bill Lengyel said after his team's impressive tournament run ended with a 6-5,eight-inning loss to Braintree, Mass., in a New England Regional losers' bracket game at Fairfield Hills. "We should've had five or six runs in the inning."
Norwalk left two on with no outs in the top of the first and that clearly gave Braintree a boost. Braintree rallied for three runs and eventually won in the eighth on Steve Whalen's run-scoring double. The victory lifts Braintree into Wednesday's 3 p.m. losers' bracket final.
"After we held them to three, we weren't concerned," Braintree manager Dom Zingarelli said. "Getting three back in the first was huge. It might've been a different ballgame."
After Corey Hayes' two-run single gave Norwalk a 3-0 lead, Norwalk went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position through the sixth.
"We let down after the three runs," said Christian Lengyel, who led Norwalk with two hits. "It shouldn't have been close."
"We should've scored more but we just went dead after the first inning," Norwalk's Dan Romanello added. "We could've been a lot more comfortable."
Alex Barone salvaged some pride for Norwalk with a clutch two-out, game-tying single in the top of the seventh. But that only temporarily made up for the 0-12 streak.
"What a big hit by Barone, but before that we just couldn't cash in," Bill Lengyel said. "But finishing fourth in New England is nothing to sneeze at."
Braintree tied it in the first on Kevin Troy's two-run triple and added runs in the second and third on RBI doubles by Troy and Kevin Lawton. But Norwalk starter Ed O'Hara, who allowed nine hits in the first 2 1/3 innings, gave up no hits or walks against the final 13 batters he faced through the seventh.
Down two, Romanello led off the seventh with a single and Christian Lengyel doubled. After a sacrifice fly and a strikeout, Barone tied it.
In the bottom of the eighth against Norwalk reliever Kyle Pisacrita, Lawton led off with an infield hit. Dino DiCienzothen tried to sacrifice him to second, but the ball hit him out of the box. DiCienzo was ruled out and Lawton had to return to first. Advantage Norwalk ... or so it seemed.
"It ended up working in our favor," Zingarelli said. "Now they had to pitch to Whalen (who had doubled and tripled earlier)."
"We wouldn't have pitched to (Whalen) if first base was open," Bill Lengyel added.
Whalen ripped a long double over the center fielder's head scoring Lawton to end Norwalk's extended summer of baseball.
Braintree, Mass. 6, Norwalk 5 (8)
NORWALK 300 000 20 5 9 3
KEENE 311 000 01--6 12 2
Records: Braintree 3-1, Norwalk 2-2 (eliminated). Batteries: B--Steve DiMartino, Matt McGrath (1), Dino DiCienzo (6), Zach Delvecchio (7, W) and Billy Roche; N--Ed O'Hara, Kyle Pisacrita (8, L) and Guillermo Rosales. Highlights: B--Steve Whalen had three hits including the game-winning double, Kevin Troy had two hits and three RBI, Kevin Lawton had two hits; N--Christian Lengyel had two hits, Corey Hayes had three RBI.