For the Warwick PAL 14-year-old all-star team, Saturday night provided a familiar story.
Warwick lost a heartbreaker 10-9 to Cranston in the Babe Ruth State Tournament, the same team that eliminated PAL in the 13-year-old tournament a year ago. The loss on Saturday didn’t end Warwick’s hopes of still capturing the title, but it made it quite a bit more difficult.
“The Cranston loss was tough,” Warwick manager Kurt Rix said. “They’re the host team and they’re the defending champs of the 13 division last year. They’re the same team that bumped us out last year. That was a game that was pretty important. It was a game we were looking to try to see if we could get a little payback.”
Unfortunately for Warwick, it didn’t quite work out that way.
The teams battled back-and-forth, trading leads multiple times throughout the game.
Warwick took an early 4-0 lead, only to see it turn quickly into a 6-4 Cranston advantage.
Michael McCaffrey, Warwick’s starter, threw the ball well, but walks were an issue.
“He’s one of the best young pitchers I’ve seen in a long time,” Rix said. “We played well overall, just a few too many walks kind of did us in.”
Still, Warwick fought back time and time again, taking the lead on more than one occasion only to see Cranston quickly reclaim it.
“We took the lead several times and they came back and took it back at least a couple times,” Rix said. “That’s a very strong team, both offensively and defensively. It was quite the battle. One of the better games I’ve seen.”
Cranston eventually took a 10-6 lead into the bottom of the seventh, but Warwick did all it could to push its biggest rival to the brink.
Big hits from Danny Shippee and Trent Perry brought home three runs, before the rally ended with runners on first and third.
“We were able to, through a series of hits and a couple of walks, load the bases up,” Rix said. “We had a couple of key hits and it came down to a first and third with two outs and we weren’t able to get that last runner in from third.”
The loss dropped Warwick down to the loser’s bracket, where it took on South Kingstown on Sunday.
However, there was no hangover effect from the Cranston loss, as Warwick pounded SK 13-3 to stay alive.
“The offense has been on fire,” Rix said. “The pitching has been better and our defense is almost flawless most of the time. We make most of the plays out there, especially the plays that need to be made.”
Pitching-wise, Rix elected to use both Shippee and Brandon Provencher on Sunday in an effort to not wear any one pitcher out. The game was stopped after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule, which allowed Rix to not have to bring in a third pitcher.
That’s important, as Warwick will have to win two more games to reach the championship, where it would have to beat whoever comes out of the winner’s bracket two times to capture the title.
That means with four more games potentially to be played before the week is out, pitching depth is a necessity.
“It’s always nice when you get to save an arm,” Rix said.
The victory over South Kingstown was Warwick’s second of the tournament, as it opened play with a 10-0 mercy-rule victory over Cumberland on Friday.
Danny Greaves took the hill in that victory.
Because Warwick has two dominant victories to go along with the near-victory against Cranston, there is still plenty of reason for optimism even if there is an uphill battle ahead.
And the team is well aware of the challenges.
“They really (are confident), especially because of their ability to score runs and make most of the plays,” Rix said. “If we can get the pitchers to make up the difference in strikes and balls, we can compete with anybody in the tournament.”
Warwick’s next game was scheduled for Monday against either Cumberland or Coventry, with the results unavailable at press time.
With a win in that game, Warwick would advance to play today at 7 p.m. at Cranston Stadium.
“We lost to Cranston in the first game last year and we had to win five or six games to get back to the finals,” Rix said. “I’m hoping to at least get back to them this time around and see what happens.”