Norwalk returns for second chance
JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — Norwalk, Connecticut coach John Bell doesn’t have to think too long to recall his first meeting with his players earlier this year.
It actually makes him smile.
“I remember going to practice Day One and just looking up,” he said.
He had no choice … if he wanted to look them in the eyes.
“They’re a bunch of big boys,” he said as he and his team enjoyed a meal Thursday evening following their orientation for the Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series. “Really strong and athletic kids.”
Bell wasn’t exaggerating.
The physical size of the New England Region champions was obvious as soon as they entered the Morton Club — site of the orientation –on the city’s east side.
They hope to do figurative big things at Diethrick Park, beginning at 11 this morning when they take on Beekman, New York, in the tournament’s opening game.
Norwalk’s track record to this point has been impressive.
After going 4-0 in the Connecticut state tournament — it outscored its opponents 36-0 — Norwalk advanced to the regionals where it posted two shutout wins, lost to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, defeated Warwick, Rhode Island 7-0 and then edged Pittsfield 2-0 in the championship game.
Jaxon Ermo, who will start today’s opener, posted two shutouts in regional play and headlines a strong pitching staff.
“We have a lot of guys who throw strikes, and we play great defense,” Bell said. ” … On top of that, they have a lot of good ‘stuff,’ too, so it’s tough for hitters to hit (against us), so we’re not afraid to challenge hitters either.”
Jeff Vitatoe, also a Norwalk coach, admitted that the team has been “flat” offensively during the tournament run, but quickly added, “We’re going to pick it up again.”
Added Bell: “When our backs are against the wall, we come through.”
Two years ago, Norwalk played in the Babe Ruth 13-year-old World Series at Diethrick Park, but it didn’t return home with a championship.
Given that experience in 2021, Bell said his kids, known as the “Tides,” are “not afraid.”
“We’re hungry,” he said. “We’re ready to play.”