Both time and the opportunities needed to stage a comeback were beginning to run out on the Norwalk High softball team, which found itself trailing by a run in the sixth inning of Thursday's FCIAC quarterfinal.
Up to that point, the fourth-seeded Bears had not scraped together much of anything offensively against Fairfield Ludlowe pitcher Aliza Guerrero, and were in the midst of wasting a fine pitching effort from their own ace.
That all changed in a hurry.
Just six outs away from elimination, Norwalk started to generate chances and gain confidence, as No. 5 Ludlowe unraveled. The Bears rallied for three runs in the sixth inning on just one hit and defeated the Falcons 4-2 at Ray Barry Field.
Norwalk (14-7) used its version of small ball in the sixth with a bunt and aggressive baserunning, taking the lead for good when Patti Sciglimpaglia, who singled in the inning, scored on a wild pitch.
"The game plan was to try to get on (base)," Sciglimpaglia said. "Just try to get on, get in their heads. We did that later on."
The Bears got on base on two walks and a hit batter in the inning, and also benefitted from a pair of Ludlowe fielding errors -- one of which came on a bunt.
Norwalk tied it up 2-2 when Kerry McCabe's hit to shortstop was misplayed and the Bears tacked on an insurance run later in the inning -- just moments after the wild pitch -- on Nicole Bonanni's sacrifice fly.
"They had to play small ball," said Fairfield Ludlowe head coach Tony Samuelian, whose team fell to 13-7 overall. "It's not a surprise to anybody. We've just got to sit back and make the plays and we didn't."
The Bears got another strong outing in the pitcher's circle from Sciglimpaglia (six strikeouts, one walk), who limited the damage early and ultimately held Ludlowe to six hits in seven innings.
Ludlowe pieced together four of those hits through the first three innings and took a 2-0 lead on third baseman Brenna Martini's RBI double in the third. Sciglimpaglia, however, responded by retiring 13 of the final 15 batters.
"She has composure, no question about it -- great composure. She's one of the better pitchers in the league and I think the other coaches know that," Samuelian said. "We were right on her. We got runners on."
The Falcons ultimately left six runners on base.
"You get in the playoffs, you've got to take advantage," Samuelian said. "You've got to score the runs."
After recording just two hits through the first four innings, Norwalk pushed across a run in the fifth. With the bases loaded following first baseman Mallory Rochefort's sacrifice bunt and a walk to Leslie Garcia, shortstop Tori Dugan connected for an RBI single.
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NORWALK 4, FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 2
LUDLOWE 101 000 0--2 6 3
NORWALK 000 013 x--4 5 2
Records: Ludlowe 13-7, 12-6 FCIAC; Norwalk 14-7, 13-5.
Batteries: L--Aliza Guerrero (L) and Katie Decarlo. N--Patti Sciglimpaglia (W) and Mary Sciglimpaglia.
Doubles: L--Brenna Martini, Jennifer Hsieh.