NORWALK -- Having solidified a state playoff berth on Sunday, Norwalk Junior Legion head coach Gerald Anastasia expected his team to play loose and free of any substantial worries the next day on the diamond.
As it turned it, Norwalk was far from that.
In the first of the six games left before the start of the postseason, Monday against Ridgefield, Norwalk looked like anything but the free-spirited team that Anastasia envisioned.
After allowing a three-run lead to melt away in the sixth inning, Norwalk fell apart in extras as Ridgefield busted out for six runs on six hits in the eighth and handed Norwalk a disheartening 12-6 loss at City Hall Field.
"We stunk it up tonight," said Anastasia, whose team lost for the second time in three games to fall to 15-6 overall. "That was just ugly. That was just ugly."
Norwalk committed four fielding errors, including three in a four-run sixth inning for Ridgefield, and another in the eighth, which came with two outs and led to Ridgefield's 12th run of the game.
Anastasia wasn't quite sure what led to the defensive lapses late.
"I don't know. They were playing on their heels for some reason," he said.
With Norwalk's starting pitching staff taxed due to high pitch counts in recent games, Anastasia handed the ball to Ryan Evans for the right-hander's first start of the season. Evans, who allowed two runs in the first, settled down and left after four innings with a 5-2 lead.
"Ryan did a great job," Anastasia said.
With Norwalk leading by that same score in the sixth inning, Ridgefield plated a run on a fielder's choice and a throwing error, and tied the game on right fielder Kyle Ford's two-run double off relief pitcher Brendan Hanzlik. Following a pitching change that brought right-hander Nick Lampman into the game, first baseman Christian Petersen, who had a double and two RBI in five at-bats, hit a routine grounder to shortstop that was booted for Ridgefield's sixth run.
Ridgefield (13-9), which must win two of its final five games to clinch a state tournament berth, recorded 14 hits--five of which went for extra bases.
Third baseman Matt Mead jump-started Ridgefield's eighth-inning explosion with a one-out triple to left-center field and came home with the go-ahead run on Joe Ammirato's single one batter later. Petersen followed with a double to make it 8-6 and second baseman Porter Sigg broke the game open with a two-run single with two outs.
That rally came as a relief to Ridgefield head coach Kyle Miller, who saw his lineup leave the bases loaded in both the fourth and fifth innings with nothing to show for it.
"We keep falling behind, leaving runs stranded and finally. Thank goodness we broke through," Miller said.
Petersen, who came on in relief in the third inning with Ridgefield trailing 4-2, was credited with the victory after limiting Norwalk to a pair of runs on eight hits over five innings. Christian O'Connell tossed a scoreless eighth inning--allowing only a leadoff single to first baseman Keegan Roberts--to close it out.
Norwalk produced a bulk of its offense in the second inning when it sent eight batters to the plate and scored four runs on five hits. Right fielder Ricky Liscio tripled to lead off the inning and came in to score on a single by Evans for the first run. Shortstop Chris Cotaling and Roberts hit back-to-back singles to give Norwalk a 3-2 lead, and second baseman Tyler Annunziata added a sacrifice fly.
Trailing 6-5 in the sixth inning, Norwalk tied it up on a two-out single by Jonah Singer.
In the end, it was Norwalk's inability to tack on additional runs, coupled with the miscues in the field, that bothered Anastasia the most. He also called for the team's more experienced players to step forward as leaders.
"Some kids have to step up to be leaders and they're not doing it. That's a part of a team," he said. "If you don't have a couple leaders that at least lead by example, it's tough to win."
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RIDGEFIELD 12, NORWALK 6 (8 innings)
RIDGEFIELD 200 004 06--12 14 0
NORWALK 041 001 00--6 14 4
Records: Ridgefield 13-9; Norwalk 15-6.
Batteries: R--Joe Ammirato, Christian Petersen (W, 3), Christian O'Connell (8) and Sean Phelan. N--Ryan Evans, Brendan Hanzlik (5), Nick Lampman (L, 6) and Matt Downey.
Doubles: R--Kyle Wolfarth, Kyle Ford, Petersen, Ammirato. N--James Stumpf. Triples: R--Matt Mead. N--Ricky Liscio.