The Warwick PAL 13-year-old Babe Ruth all-star team saw its quest for a state title come to a disappointing end last year against North Providence/Smithfield in the loser’s bracket final.
And while it was only the first game of the tournament, Warwick has already extracted a measure of revenge this year as 14-year-olds.
Warwick saw North Providence come back from deficits of 5-0 and 7-5 on Saturday before getting the winning run in the top of the seventh and hanging on for the 8-7 victory.
The victory propelled Warwick into the winner’s bracket, where it was scheduled to take on Newport on Monday, with the results unavailable at press time.
It was an important win to get Warwick’s title quest started, and its opponent made it that much bigger.
“We talked about that before the game,” Warwick manager Mike Giard said. “The kids were aware that this was the team that knocked us out last year. They didn’t give up, but then we took the lead back. It was good to get out of there with a win.”
Warwick got off to a hot start, as it took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first on a bases-clearing double off the bat of Bert Dorman.
Starter Austin Lemire then took the mound and set North Providence down one-two-three.
By the third inning, Warwick had increased its lead to 5-0, with one of the runs coming on a suicide squeeze from Austin Giard.
Yet, North Providence suddenly woke up.
“North Providence’s bats came alive,” Mike Giard said. “They started hitting all over the place.”
In the third and fourth innings, North Providence combined for five runs, tying the game at five headed into the fifth.
Warwick quickly re-took the lead with two runs in the top of the fifth, but North Providence came right back to make it 7-7 when it scored two runs off Warwick reliever Shane Kittila in the bottom half of the inning.
It remained that way until the top of the seventh, when Warwick went back on top.
Austin Quinette led off the inning with a walk, and then advanced to third base on an errant pick-off throw.
With Avery Ingegneri at the plate, Giard called for the second suicide squeeze of the game, and it worked to perfection. Ingegneri laid it down, and Quinette came across with the go-ahead and eventual winning run.
“Avery’s one of best contact hitters,” Giard said. “He’s very good bunt and contact hitter. I squeezed earlier in the game, and we had worked on it. He ended up putting it down.”
Kittila returned to the mound in the bottom half of the inning and struck out the first two men before issuing a walk.
But he buckled down, striking out the final batter to finish off the one-run victory.
Lemire and Kittila are Warwick’s top two pitchers, but Giard didn’t hesitate to use them both in the opening game of the tournament.
That’s how important he thought it was to get off on the right foot.
“I used them both,” Giard said. “That’s how important I thought this game was.”
Last year, the 13-year-olds had to play five games in five days for a chance to get to the finals.
This year, the road is now a little easier.
“It was nice to come out of the gate and get that win,” Giard said. “It makes it a little easier. Obviously we’ve still got a ways to go.”