In one inning on Tuesday afternoon, the Pilgrim baseball team saw its Division I playoff chances all but disappear.
Battling East Greenwich, the Pats trailed only 2-1 entering the sixth inning before the Avengers exploded. In the frame, they sent 17 men to the plate, piling up 11 hits and scoring 13 times. That turned a close game into a 15-1, six-inning victory.
For Pilgrim, which fell to 4-12, it might have been a death sentence.
“The last couple games we’ve had some rough games,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Xiarhos said. “It’s one inning – that South Kingstown game, same thing. One inning.”
After winning three out of five games to force themselves back into the playoff chase, the Pats were brought back down to Earth quickly over their past two. Prior to the East Greenwich game, Pilgrim lost 20-0 to South Kingstown last Thursday, meaning it has been out-scored 35-1 over its past two games.
The Pats are still technically alive for one of D-I’s 16 playoff spots, but they’d need to win their last two games and get some significant help along the way.
It’s unlikely, as they will be taking on 6-10 Middletown and 8-8 Toll Gate. Those teams aren’t exactly East Greenwich – which improved to 12-4 with the win – but they’re solid, and most likely playoff bound.
“This week coming in, they knew if we won two out of three, it gave us a shot,” Xiarhos said. “I know the last couple scores don’t reflect it, but I really feel like every game is winnable. Every game we send out a kid on the mound that can win.”
Tuesday’s game looked winnable for quite a while. With sophomore Elijah Dressel on the mound, Pilgrim allowed single runs in the second and fourth, both of which were unearned, and got one of its own in the top of the fifth off of East Greenwich starter David Hopkins when Devon Gamba scored on an East Greenwich error to cut the deficit in half
Any hope of a season-saving upset, though, came crashing down in a hurry in the sixth.
Ryan Gavin reached on an error to start the inning, and he came around on another error when Dressel tried to pick him off of third base.
With the bases empty after that, Dressel walked Michael Massella, and then gave up a single to Kyle Matus. Dressel followed that up by hitting Jake Moss before surrendering a two-run single to Hopkins and an RBI single to Kyle Palmer.
That made it 6-1, and quickly the rout was on.
“He threw his curveball for a strike,” East Greenwich head coach Robert Downey said of Dressel. “For a high school kid to do that, that’s tough, and tough on high school hitters. We had to get used to it, and it’s hot out here. Once we got used to it, we hit the ball pretty well.”
Dressel struck out the next man, but then allowed a single and a triple, making it 9-1. He was replaced by Billy Chase, who quickly gave up four consecutive singles and a triple, and he departed with the Pats trailing 14-1.
Next on the mound to try his luck was Chris Duchesneau, and he was greeted with another single to drive in the Avengers’ 15th run. He retired the next two men to finally stop the bleeding, but irreparable damage was well past done.
“That’s kind of been the story of our season,” Xiarhos said. “We’re in the game, we’re in the game and then the wheels fall off. We have a lot of young guys out there and when we make an error we don’t have the upperclassmen to step up and put a team on their shoulders, so to speak.”
Andrew Miner came on to pitch the bottom of the sixth for East Greenwich, and he retired the side in order to end the game. Pilgrim managed just three hits overall, while the Avengers had 15.
“We got off to a slow start,” Downey said. “Their pitcher did a good job keeping us off-balance for four innings, and we just got to him in the fifth inning and started hitting the ball.”
Pilgrim will need to turn the page immediately if it wants to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, as it faces a quick turnaround. It hosts Middletown today at 4 p.m., then is at Toll Gate Saturday at 7 p.m.
Right now, the Pats are in 17th place in the division. They could still catch 5-11 Portsmouth, although Portsmouth holds the tiebreaker over Pilgrim. The Pats could also potentially catch 5-10 Woonsocket, Middletown or 6-9 Johnston, but there is no margin for error.
“It depends on what other teams do,” Xiarhos said. “That’s baseball.”
The playoffs begin June 1.