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Norwich rallies to beat Waterford in U-19 CEBA

Norwich — Ryan King has a pretty hectic nightlife this summer, and he couldn't be happier.

King, a Mitchell College sophomore from Norwich, only got in one at bat for the Mariners this season before the COVID-19 pandemic ground the world to a halt.

King had a single and two runs during Norwich's 7-6, come-from-behind win over Waterford on Wednesday night in a Connecticut Elite Baseball Association U-19 Division 6 game at Dickenman Field. He's also playing in the Eastern Connecticut Major League.

"And I also deliver pizza (for Asylum Street Pizza in Norwich) while playing five days a week," King smiled. "It's a long schedule.

"We're blessed to be out here on this field every day. Having a lot of baseball has been really fun for us. ... It feels great to be out here."

America craving for sports is slightly less than its want for a vaccine. Some collegiate conferences have already canceled their fall seasons. North America's professional leagues are hoping to start their respective abbreviated seasons in the upcoming weeks. Athletes everywhere want to play, and their fans want to watch.

The CEBA is a replacement for American Legion baseball, which was cancelled nationwide in April. There are four levels, U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-19. The latter level has five divisions statewide and there are 36 teams in all.

"It's kind of sad that we couldn't get our season; our high school season," said Norwich's Gavin Thorburn, who will be a Bacon Academy senior this upcoming school year. "It's good to get back on the field and play baseball with the boys."

Division 6 is the smallest of the divisions with just three teams. Danielson, Norwich and Waterford will play one another seven times and can schedule games against other teams.

Waterford manager Joe Mariani said they have 25 games scheduled, including a tournament in Massachusetts next weekend in which they'll play Shrewsbury, which won Legion Northeast Regional titles in 2017 and 2019.

The door has been open for teams to play baseball at the local level and CEBA teams are going to take advantage of it.

"Absolutely," Mariani said. "That's what it's all about. We have an opportunity to play, so we might as well play as much as we can."

Divisions 2 and 3 have the most U-19 teams (10 each), but King doesn't mind playing seven games against Danielson and Waterford.

"It does get repetitive," he said, "but then again, in my opinion, it makes for better baseball because we see the same arms week-in and week-out, and they see the best hitters week-in and week-out. We can kind of get (familiar with) each other's strengths and weaknesses. We all get familiar with seeing each other, seeing each other's faces all the time. It makes it more fun."

Everyone is still trying to shake the rust off as the first few weeks of the CEBA season is the equivalent of spring training. High school players never got to play this spring, and the CEBA season didn't begin until June 24.

Waterford (6-3) fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, but tied the game without getting a hit thanks to Norwich's pitching miscues.

Ryan Bakken's RBI single was Waterford's first hit and gave it a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth.

Liam Kane scored on a throwing error to push Waterford ahead, 5-3, in the top of the fifth.

Norwich (5-1) was helped by two Waterford errors with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Kevin Pomroy scored on an error to cut Norwich's deficit to 5-4. Thorburn's RBI single scored King and tied the game.

Ryan Trudeau followed with a ground ball that resulted in a throwing error that scored Riley Burke and Thorburn and put Norwich ahead to stay, 7-5.

"Our boys always like to keep things interesting, I guess," Norwich manager Tom Pietruczuk quipped. "I guess we don't like those commanding, runaway victories."

Mariani said, "It's still early for these kids, so some of the pitching can be off. The fielding, as you saw in the (sixth) inning, you're not making plays that are routine plays.

"You worry about sore arms still, and how the kids are going to bounce back (after not playing for months) and how they feel and those type of things. It's better than not playing. It's great."

n.griffen@theday.com

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