On the heels of a solid win on Saturday over West Warwick to open the Babe Ruth state tournament, the Warwick 13-year-old all-star team knew it would be in for a challenge against Coventry on Monday.
But Warwick stood up to it, even if it came up just short. Coventry, which features a number of players from the state championship 12-year-old all-star team of last year, held off a last-inning Warwick rally to win 6-4.
Warwick was disappointed in the loss, but certainly not in the effort.
“It was a good game,” Warwick manager Bob Denis said. “It was kind of a back-and-forth game. We both had opportunities to score more runs. We had one bad inning. The (seventh) inning was bad for us. But it was a good total team effort.”
The loss dropped Warwick to the loser’s bracket, where it was scheduled to take on Cumberland on Wednesday. The results of that game were unavailable at press time. Coventry advanced to the winner’s bracket final opposite North Providence/Smithfield.
Warwick will now have to win five consecutive games to capture the title. If it continued to win, it would play Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being the championship. That game would be at 2 p.m. at McCarthy Field in West Warwick, and if Warwick were to get there and win, it would play a winner-take-all championship game immediately following the first one.
“If they keep playing like they know how, they’ll do good in this tournament,” Denis said. “They’ll go a long way.”
Jeff Venter started the game on the mound against Coventry, and went four innings. He allowed a run in the first and three in the second before settling down for the next two. He then had to leave the game because of a back injury.
When he departed, Warwick was trailing 4-3. It had scored three runs in the first inning after its first three batters – Matt Woods, Venter and Marcus Alexander – all reached base and came around to score.
But Coventry starter Cam Reid settled down too, keeping Warwick off the scoreboard for the next four innings.
In the fifth, Coventry extended its lead to 5-3 with a run off Warwick’s Josh Morin, who came in for Venter. Warwick got one back in the bottom of the sixth. Kyle Denis singled, was pinch-run for by Collin Csozer, and Csozer stole second and scored on a double by Connor Haley.
That made it 5-4. Matt Martinez tried to keep it there in the seventh, but a few Warwick miscues allowed Coventry to score again, making it 6-4 headed to the bottom of the seventh.
Timothy Cole grounded out to start the inning, but Haley singled and Woods singled, putting runners at first and third with just one out.
Facing Coventry ace Manny Bjorklund, who was brought on to close the game in the seventh, Warwick’s Devin O’Rourke hit the ball hard but right at the shortstop. He stepped on second and fired to first for a game-ending double play.
At the very least, though, Warwick learned that it could play with the team considered to be the favorite in the tournament.
It’s a long road to the finals, but Warwick will do all it can to get there.
“That’s probably going to be the toughest team we’ll face,” Denis said. “Even the other coach said, ‘We’ll probably see you again down the road.’ Hopefully we can play the way we’ve been practicing. We’ve been practicing as a team pretty steadily.”
15’s stay alive
After a blowout loss to Newport/Middletown on Sunday, the Warwick PAL 15-year-old stars kept their tournament going with a 7-3 victory over North Providence/Smithfield on Tuesday.
“They came out ready to play,” said manager Billy Piccirillo. “I’ve always felt they could bounce back. It’s a very good team and when they play up to their ability, they’re hard to beat.”
Dan Reph got the start in the must-win game and went five strong innings despite the heat. Shane Kittila came on to finish the game, pitching the final two innings and holding North Providence/Smithfield off the board.
The offense was led by Steven Foster, who had two hits and two RBI. His two-run single late in the game turned a two-run cushion into a four-run lead and gave Warwick some breathing room.
“It was a well-played game on both sides,” Piccirillo said. “We did well to come out with a victory.”
Warwick will now try to continue to navigate the loser’s bracket. It’s scheduled to play Coventry – the team it edged in extra-innings in round one – tonight at 6:30 p.m. in another must-win game.
“It’s going to be tough,” Piccirillo said. “They’re a good team.”
In the winner’s bracket, Cranston and Newport/Middletown were scheduled to play Wednesday for a spot in the championship.