Two innings was all it took to make the difference in the Warwick City Series final on Friday night.
The Warwick American champions erupted for six runs in the second and four in the third, and cruised to a 10-3 victory over Warwick West Side. American was shut out in its other four at-bats, but the two breakout frames led it to the easy victory.
“They had a couple tough innings,” West Side manager Tom McMullen said.
American cranked out 16 hits, 10 of which came in the second and third innings. On the mound, starter Jarrod Houle pitched five-plus innings, striking out nine while allowing only three hits.
“I’m happy with what we got,” American manager Jim Houle said. “I had good pitching, good hitting, all-around good baseball.”
West Side actually jumped in front in the first inning, as Jarrod Houle walked Ty Morgan to lead it off, before yielding an inside-the-park home run to Billy Roberge down the right-field line to give West Side a 2-0 lead.
But American came back in a big way.
Josiah Enos walked to open the second and Ryan Costa singled into center field. The throw to third base trying to catch Enos got away, and American’s first run came home.
West Side starter Blake Roberge was able to retire the next hitter on a groundout, but Nick Franklin stepped up and singled to left, scoring Costa to tie the game.
Eric Johnson reached on an error, and Dan Pratt hit a long double to left field to give American its first lead at 3-2. Houle followed that with a single to score another run, and Pratt stole home for the team’s fifth run.
Ryan Stiles singled to drive in the sixth run of the inning and give American a commanding 6-2 advantage.
“Playing ahead helps,” Jim Houle said. “We’re a good hitting team. We hit the ball, we run, we do all the right things. Playing with the lead helps.”
In the third inning, against reliever Bobby Hazelwood, American picked up right where it left off. Eddie Sass singled to start and Pratt reached on an error. A wild pitch scored Sass, and Pratt came home an error. A double by Jamie Armstrong scored American’s ninth run, and the 10th run came home on a single by Enos.
In the span of six outs, American had gone from down 2-0 to up 10-2.
“We settled in a little bit too late,” McMullen said. “We started off fast and then we couldn’t get the hits after. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit as well.”
Armed with an eight-run advantage, Jarrod Houle began to go to work. He struck out the side in the third inning after allowing a leadoff single to Anthony Witherstone, then struck out one more man in a 1-2-3 fourth inning.
In the fifth, he opened with a strikeout of Jacob Zuller and closed with a strikeout of Witherstone for his ninth straight man retired.
It was a dominating performance in his final Little League game.
“I think he was so good because it was his last game,” Jim Houle said. “I told them all before they got here, I told the 12-year-olds, ‘This is officially your last Little League game.’ I think they all got revved up for it.”
In the sixth inning, Houle was close to his pitch-count limit, and he hit Billy Roberge on his third pitch. That would be the last pitch he threw, as Pratt came in to close things out.
Roberge scored soon afterwards when an errant throw went all the way into the right field corner, and he came around from first. Pratt, though, struck out two men and induced a pop-up to end the game.
Just like that, American was the city champion.
“It’s a good group of kids,” Jim Houle said. “Most of them are 12’s, I picked them when they were all 10’s. It was a blast. It was a good ride.”
McMullen was proud, too, especially with how far his team was able to go despite having only three 12-year-olds.
“They’ve done far above and beyond expectations.” McMullen said. “It’s been fantastic.”
In the third-place game, Warwick Continental beat Warwick National 10-0 in five innings in a game shortened by the mercy rule.
Cristian Sanchez pitched the entire game for Continental, leading his team to victory. At the plate, Matt Martinez had three hits and Drew Almonte went 4-for-4 and stole home to end the game.