Norwalk baseball still basking in first state championship

For Norwalk baseball players and coaches, the last 72 hours since winning the CIAC Class LL state title have been surreal.

Really, the Bears have been living in a dream for the last two weeks.

Starting with a trip to face the six-time Class LL champions in Amity in the first round and ending with a police escort off I-95 back to Norwalk’s campus, nothing has seemed real.

“I don’t know if it’s fully sunk in yet. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and it will still be before the tournament started and we’re going up to Amity to try and find a way to get one win,” Norwalk coach Ryan Mitchell said. “It’s been a wild ride these last two weeks. I’m still in shock. I am and I’m not. I am in sense that, yeah, we were the 24 seed and one game over .500 in the regular season, but I‘m not because I know the type of talent we had all year and I know the type of kids we had all year. That part of the story I’m not shocked about.”

Nobody would have batted an eye if No. 24 Norwalk had gone to No. 9 Amity, lost and ended its season.

Except the Bears had no intention of ending anything until they were ready to.

Norwalk pitcher Alistair Morin threw a no-hitter in the 4-0 win over Amity, and the magic of that game never wore off.

Next up was the start of what would be four straight games against FCIAC teams, starting with a home game win over No. 25 New Canaan in the second round, in which pitcher Brendan Edvardsen would record the win.

As the team was packing up after the New Canaan victory, players and coaches all had their phones out realizing they were not going to play No. 1 Southington but instead would be making the trip to play No. 10 Ridgefield, which had upset the top seed.

In fact, the more they looked at their phones, they realized that six of the eight quarterfinalists would be from the FCIAC, including crosstown rival McMahon.

“It shows that the FCIAC deserves a lot more than it gets,” Morin said. “I think we showed that this year. Especially with the two Norwalk schools in the semis, I don’t think anyone but us believed that would happen.”

From there, Norwalk would face three teams — Ridgefield, Greenwich and Westhill — that beat them in the regular season. Westhill and Norwalk played twice in the regular season with each team winning once.

The road to Palmer Field would turn into a revenge tour.

“I was happy to have another crack at Ridgefield, I was happy to have another crack at Greenwich and I was happy to have the rubber match against Westhill,” Mitchell said. “It’s like playing against your older brother; there’s nobody you want to beat more. The best part about it was that once we got past those teams, they jumped on it and supported us.”

The players did not care who they were facing or who had beaten them in the past.

“We always tell ourselves to play our game and play the way we’ve been playing and see what happens,” Edvardsen said. “We don’t worry about the other team as much, we just worry about how we’re playing.”

Norwalk was playing great.

They beat Ridgefield 10-0 and went into an all-FCIAC semifinal at Cubeta Stadium to take on No. 4 Greenwich.

In front of a hostile crowd, Morin pitched his team to the state finals with a 7-5 victory.

In the finals, it was again Edvardsen taking the ball and leading his team to a 1-0 win over No. 18 Westhill, bringing home the first baseball state title in school history.

The winning run was driven in by pinch hitter Konstantinos Kodonas in the top of the seventh inning in what was arguably the most important single in Norwalk High baseball history.

After the game, Mitchell found his old coach and mentor Pete Tucci who was there watching, and the two embraced as Mitchell handed him the plaque.

“I told myself ‘I’m not going to cry anymore because my emotions have been all over the place,’” Mitchell said. “To have Coach Tucci there and to have that moment with him after the game and hand him the plaque and give him a hug meant everything to me, and I know it means everything to him.

“He has put his whole heart and soul and life into this program. Norwalk High baseball is not a tradition like it is without Pete Tucci. That was really special for me and for him. He told me he’s never been happier after any baseball game in his life. And that’s a lot of games.”

Starting with the police escort back to school, the outpouring of calls, texts and hugs has been never-ending.

“The city reception has been tremendous. We got a police escort off the highway back to school. That was awesome,” Mitchell said. “I have a couple of friends who are on the force and they hooked us up with that, which was cool for the kids.

“We got back to school and all the parents and a lot of students were there. It means something to this town to do something like this. There is such a good homegrown vibe in Norwalk. People are born here and stay because they want to.”; @EricsonSports