— Mike Madera (@MikeMadera2) June 1, 2021
WOODBRIDGE — Norwalk ace Alistair Morin spoke of how loose the Norwalk practice was leading up to the team’s first game of the state tournament. Morin and the Bears took that mentality into Tuesday’s showdown with Amity.
Behind the no-hit pitching of Morin, No. 24 Norwalk upset No. 9 Amity 4-0 at Amity High School Tuesday afternoon in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament.
Morin was on his game from the start as he never allowed the aggressive Amity bats to get started. Mixing a high-80s fastball with a curve 10 mph slower, Morin had the Spartans off balance throughout the game, finishing with seven strikeouts.
The Norwalk senior ran into trouble just twice in the game with walks and a hit by pitch, but each time got through without incident.
“The key was having confidence out there,” Morin said after he improved to 6-1. “My team has confidence in me, and I have confidence in them behind me. We have been through a lot this year. We just came together. When you see your center fielder (Vance Ward) running as far as he did to catch a ball, it’s a great feeling to see.”
The loss was Amity’s earliest exit from the state tournament since losing to Fitch in the second round in 2009. Amity last lost in the opening round of the state tournament in 2002 against Simsbury.
The Spartans struggled to put solid contact on the ball all game and seemed to be in Morin’s favorable count throughout the contest.
Amity’s best chance to score came in the third inning as Owen Leszczak and Luke Hauser reached by way of walks. Norwalk third baseman Ben Boccanfuso then helped Morin with a diving, over-the-shoulder catch of a pop up to shallow left by Andrew Soldra, and Morin finished the inning with a strikeout of the dangerous Julian Stevens.
“He (Boccanfuso) made a great play,” Amity coach Sal Coppola said after his team finished the season 13-6. “That was a back-breaker. We had Julian (Stevens) coming up next. Who knows what happens? Give them credit. I thought we took too many strikes. That goes against our game. We want to be aggressive and swing at the first good pitch we see. We took a lot of strikes and he (Morin) was very good out there.”
Morin had one final hill to climb in the seventh inning in terms of helping his team post the upset as well as attaining the no-hitter.
A hit batter and a walk gave Amity hope with one out, but Morin responded by catching Caleb Marcin looking and striking out Soldra to end the game.
“Al has a major league curve that he throws for strikes,” Norwalk coach Ryan Mitchell said of Morin. “When he locates that pitch, he is tough to hit. He can locate his fastball and he picks corners. He throws an 86-87 mph fastball and comes back with a 77-78 mph curve. That’s tough. He’s been great all year for us.”
The Bears (11-9) gave Morin all the run support he needed with a pair in the third and two more in the fifth inning.
With one out in the third, Vance Ward walked off Amity starter Martin Zhang, stole second and scored on Brendan Edvardsen’s double to left. Edvardsen stole third and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 advantage.
“Nobody expected us to win except the 25 guys in that dugout,” Mitchell said. “This is a talented group. When we put it all together, we can beat anybody. This is a special group of kids. They are hungry.”
The wild pitch was the last of the day for Zhang as Justin Zamkov came on in relief. Zamkov worked a perfect fourth, but the Bears added two more in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.
Ward scored Norwalk’s second run of the game by way of a wild pitch, before Ethan Platt’s run-scoring single brought home Eddy Garabito.
“We went to practice knowing they had the pressure on them to win, not us,” Morin said. “We had a super loose practice and just took that into the game.”
Will Arnold led Norwalk with three hits and also reached on a walk.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Alistair Morin. The Norwalk senior threw a complete-game no-hitter, leading the Bears to the first-round upset victory. Morin struck out seven, walked five and hit a batter in the win.
“When you have 15 (Morin) on the bump dealing like he was, there is not much anybody can do. I am so proud of him. He is a special kid and a special player. It was another great performance by him.”
— Norwalk’s William Arnold on pitcher Alistair Morin