Both the Warwick American and Warwick National 12-year-old all-star teams knew exactly what to expect in Friday’s District 3 elimination game.
Thanks to interleague play during the season, the players had met often throughout the spring, and were anticipating an even match-up.
That’s what they got. But American gets to move on.
Largely due to three insurance runs in the sixth inning, American out-lasted National 7-5 to stay alive. American was scheduled to host Chariho in another elimination game Monday, with the results unavailable at press time.
“It was a complete game today, it was real nice,” said American manager Mike Cook, whose team lost 5-2 to Warwick West Side in the first game of the tournament on Thursday. “It was a tough game. Both teams know each other very well.”
National saw its summer come to a close after its second consecutive loss. It lost its opener to Coventry National 6-1 Thursday, and couldn’t keep things alive against American.
“They were confident, because we played American so much during the season,” said National manager Russ Luce. “We all know each other. So we knew it was going to be a good game and a close game. The kids were excited. They’re disappointed because they lost, but they’ll be alright.”
National hit three home runs in the game, including two by No. 9 hitter Jeff Berard, but that wasn’t quite enough. American got a home run of its own from Will Walaska, and clean-up hitter Cameron Armenti had a 4-for-4 day with four RBI.
For Cook and American, it was nice to see the offense break out after it was held in check by West Side the day before. American had just three hits in that game, and didn’t score at all after a two-run first inning.
“We didn’t hit last night,” Cook said. “Tonight we did.”
American rallied for a run in the first inning off of National starter Demitri Ayers, getting a two-out double from Jake Randall and another double by Armenti for the 1-0 lead.
Randall, American’s starter, made that lead hold up for the first two innings, and American grabbed two more runs in the third.
Walaska, the No. 9 hitter, got it started with a home run to left field leading off the frame.
“He saw a nice pitch and he did what he’s supposed to do with it,” Cook said. ”He did a good job.”
The next batter, Sothea Ang-Minn, doubled, and he scored on a groundout by Randall later in the inning.
In the bottom of the third, National bounced back. Berard led off the inning with a long home run to right field, and Ayers singled and scored on an error soon afterwards. Andrew Merryfield then tied the score with a solo home run to center.
“The kids played well,” Luce said. “They’ve had a great season. They did terrific.”
Stephan O’Neil replaced Ayers on the mound in the fourth inning for National and he got through without any damage, but American took a 4-3 lead in the fifth when Tyler Parks singled in Jacob Paul with the go-ahead run.
Randall stranded a pair of runners in the fourth, and then had a one-two-three fifth to keep American ahead by a run.
In the sixth, American got some much-needed insurance. Brandon Leach led off the inning with a single, and National brought on Dylan Palumbo to pitch. Palumbo walked Walaska, and two batters later he walked Jacob Paul.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Armenti stepped to the plate and stroked a bases-clearing double to left-center, putting American on top 7-3.
“I’ve known Cameron a long time,” Cook said. “He can hit anywhere in the order. It doesn’t phase him. He swings the same way, hitting first, last, in the middle. It doesn’t matter.”
National got two runs back in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run home run by Berard – his second of the game – but Randall finished off his complete-game effort with a strikeout.
“We wanted to ride Jake and swing the bat,” Cook said.
The win kept American alive. In its first game, against West Side, it fell behind 4-0 and never made up the deficit. Randall had an a RBI double in the first and scored American’s second run later in the inning on a passed ball, but West Side starter Jake White didn’t allow another run.
Nathan Miller started the game for American, and Parks came on in relief.
In National’s first game, it managed just three hits against a strong Coventry National team. Palumbo hit a home run, and Ayers and Merryfield had base hits. Merryfield started the game on the mound and went most of the way before being relieved by O’Neil and Palumbo.
If American beats Chariho Monday, its next game would be Wednesday against either North Kingstown or South Kingstown American.