In the bottom of the first inning on Wednesday, the Norwalk High baseball team failed to score after loading the bases with no outs.
When the Bears were about to let another prime opportunity for runs pass them by four innings later, Tyler Annunziata came through in the clutch.
The senior second baseman ripped a two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs off Staples reliever Greg Salamone, and the Bears pulled away for a 7-4 win at City Hall Field.
Annunziata's single -- a liner into right field off a 1-2 fastball -- put Norwalk ahead 4-3.
"I got up bases loaded and just tried to do my job, work the count. I got a good pitch and just took my best swing," said Annunziata, who was making his first start of the season.
Norwalk tacked on a run two batters later on Ricky Liscio's bases-loaded walk. The Bears recorded just one hit in the three-run inning, but benefited from five walks -- four by Salamone and another by reliever Justin Gallanty.
"You can't defend walks," said Staples coach Jack McFarland, whose team dropped to 3-1. "You're never going to win a game walking five guys in an inning."
Staples' pitchers combined to walk seven batters and allowed nine hits, and Salamone (2/3 inning, three runs) was charged with the loss. Left-hander Chris Speer started for the Wreckers and allowed two runs on six hits over four innings. He walked two.
"He just struggled today," McFarland said of Salamone. "He couldn't find the strike zone. ... Baseball is a very bad game when you're not throwing strikes."
Norwalk (3-2) added a pair of runs in the sixth inning off Gallanty on two hits and an error. Mike Gonzalez hit a one-out triple and scored on first baseman Sean Butler's double. The Bears made it 7-3 on a two-out error.
Junior Alex Faccenda pitched the final two innings in relief for Norwalk, and allowed one run. Staples right fielder Matt Smith hit a two-out triple to make it 7-4 in the seventh, but Frank Vartuli popped out to second to end it.
Left-hander Thomas Henderson earned the win for the Bears, pitching five innings. He walked five but allowed only three runs (one earned).
Henderson escaped unscathed in the first inning when he put runners on the corners with no outs on a pair of walks.
"Tommy has some of the best stuff as anybody in this league," Norwalk coach Pete Tucci said. "If Tommy consistently throws strikes like he did after the first inning, he's as good as anybody in this league."
Staples jumped ahead 2-0 in the second on two walks and a pair of errors. Catcher Doug Bonenfant's single and an error by the left fielder allowed Nick Vega to score from first to make it 1-0. Henderson's errant pick-off throw scored the second run.
The Wreckers went ahead 3-2 in the fifth on Vartuli's sacrifice fly. Their lead, however, was short-lived.
"They out-hit us, they out-pitched us and they played better defense," said McFarland, whose team ended up with just five hits and committed two errors. "We didn't do anything well today -- anything."
Norwalk (3-2) scored two runs in the third inning to tie it. Butler and third baseman Sean Welch hit RBI singles.
Tucci credited his team for putting together some lengthy at-bats.
"You've just got to keep battling," Tucci said. "Everbody makes outs. Just give yourself three swings. That's the only thing I ask. Give yourself a chance. Don't take two strikes, and then you're forced to swing at something in the dirt."
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-255-4561 ext. 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour
NORWALK 7, STAPLES 4
STAPLES 020 010 1 -- 4 5 2
NORWALK 002 032 -- 7 9 2
Records: Staples 3-1; Norwalk 3-2.
Doubles: N -- Sean Butler. Triples: S -- Matt Smith; N -- Mike Gonzalez.