Last Monday, the Pilgrim baseball team fell victim to a huge inning against South Kingstown but came back with a vengeance and won to force a decisive regional championship game.
Two postponements and three days later, the Pats watched the Rebels put up another big inning on Friday afternoon.
This time there was no comeback.
South Kingstown broke open a 2-2 game with seven runs in the fourth inning and never looked back en route to an 11-2 victory and a spot in the final four.
For Pilgrim, the loss marked the end of a great playoff run.
“We just didn’t have the luck going our way this time,” said Pilgrim assistant coach Rich Marrese. “Similar game to Monday. That’s how baseball is. We just didn’t come back this time.”
The Rebels took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a home run by T.J. Lynch that flew just over the out-stretched glove of right-fielder Brett Ferguson.
Pilgrim answered with a run in the first on an RBI single by Colin Douglas and another in the third on an RBI fielder’s choice from Douglas.
Then came the big inning.
It started innocently enough. With two outs and a runner on third, Pilgrim starter Branden Hoxsie hit Nathan Vandemoer with a 2-2 pitch.
With Chris Collins at the plate, Vandemoer broke for second base, and Pilgrim catcher Shawn Clayton threw down. Second baseman Nick McGuirl and shortstop Cole Furney got their signals crossed, though, and neither went for the ball. It sailed into center field, which allowed Nick Hayes to score the go-ahead run. Vandemoer advanced to third when the ball was mis-played in center.
For Pilgrim, what started as a little crack quickly turned into something much bigger. After Collins walked, four consecutive batters delivered run-scoring hits, with Ryan Sweenor’s two-run double capping the barrage. Sweenor later scored on a double steal with Hayes. When Hoxsie finally got the third out, the Rebels had put seven runs on the board and led 9-2.
“We had the miscommunication at second base and that kind of opened the floodgates,” Marrese said. “We had some errors, they had some flares drop and they found some gaps. What are you going to do? They hit the ball and we just weren’t there.”
As the Pats tried to regroup, they had some experience to lean on. In Monday’s game, they gave up nine runs, and that rally also happened in the fourth inning.
In that game, the comeback started immediately, with Pilgrim scoring three in its next turn at the plate.
This time, the Pats looked like they might be in business again. Brett Ferguson singled with one out in the bottom of the fourth before Lynch made a leaping catch of a line drive to short off the bat of Furney. The Pats kept plugging away, with Clayton and McGuirl drawing walks. Hoxsie followed with a sinking line drive into left-center that looked like it would drop for a hit, but South left-fielder Brad Douglas charged in and made a sliding catch to end the inning.
“Bases loaded, and Hoxsie hits it into short left,” Marrese said. “The kid made a great play to end the inning.”
The catch seemed to take any remaining wind out of Pilgrim’s sails. The Rebels tacked on single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and starter Jeremy Swan settled in for a scoreless fifth. Reliever Thomas Kazounis worked out of a second-and-third jam in the sixth before breezing through a perfect seventh to finish off the victory.
“We had runners on,” Marrese said. “We just couldn’t seem to come up with that big hit.”
That meant the end of the line for the Pats.
While there was disappointment that Friday’s game got away, there were nothing but positives to take from the playoff run. After an 8-10 regular season, the Pats were one of the last teams into the playoffs. They ended up as one of the final eight teams standing.
“It’s more than we could have asked for from these guys,” Marrese said. “We lost that first game against La Salle. We knew we had a chance against Vets but they always play us tough. It could have gone either way. We got another shot at La Salle and that was one of the most amazing games I’ve ever coached. It just kept going. We had the momentum. That’s how baseball is. When teams get momentum in the playoffs, you can keep it going. It just kind of ran out on us today.”
The Pats will bid farewell to a senior class that drove much of the success. The group was led by captains Clayton, McGuirl, Hoxsie and Doug Ferry.
“We couldn’t ask more of our seniors,” Marrese said. “They did a great job. Each and every one of them contributed this year.”
South Kingstown won the first game of its semifinal series against Cumberland before dropping game two. Game three is scheduled for tonight at 6:30 p.m.