Warwick Vets held onto the No. 5 seed for the Division II playoffs and will open Thursday against West Warwick, but the Hurricanes would have liked to hit the postseason on a higher note.
The ’Canes went 1-2 in the final week of the season, a week that could have landed them higher on the seeding ladder if it had gone as they hoped. Instead, the ’Canes lost to Classical on Monday, beat Juanita Sanchez and lost to first-place East Providence 5-1 on Saturday. Both East Providence and Classical ended up ahead of Vets in the standings. The ’Canes finished 12-4.
“We’re disappointed with the week, but we’ll get it going,” said Vets head coach Nolan Landy. “We’ve just got to sharpen everything up. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks.”
Vets viewed the last week as a chance to surge to the finish but started it on a bad note with the loss to Classical. The Purple touched up Vets ace Dan Greaves for four runs in the first three innings and got a four-hit shutout from Griffin Clark in a 6-0 win.
The ’Canes did bounce back in a big way against Juanita Sanchez on Wednesday, as Austin Lamaire tossed a six-inning no-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 10-0 win.
But the positive trend did not continue Saturday in East Providence. The first-place Townies – who beat Vets 9-7 early in the season – got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first, took the lead in the bottom half and never looked back. Vets made five errors – which paved the way for five unearned runs – and managed just one hit after the first inning off Townies starter Keith Grant.
“I thought we pitched well but the defense, we didn’t play well at all,” Landy said. “Offensively, we were striking out too much. You strike out and you play bad defense, you’re not going to win.”
The first inning was an early turning point. Chris Reid led off with a single and Lamaire walked. After a line-out, Stephen Denis drew a walk and Graves knocked a run in with an infield single.
With the bases still loaded, Grant buckled down. He struck out Shane Kittila and Tyler DiPetrillo on 3-2 pitches to end the inning.
“Bases-loaded one out, strikeout, strikeout,” Landy said. “We don’t even put the bat on the baseball. You don’t put any pressure on them when you’re striking out.”
East Providence put Vets starter Kittila in trouble in the first inning, as well. Jasiah Hatch walked, Marc LeValley singled and Mike Allienello reached on a dropped fly ball that allowed Hatch to score. Kittila almost escaped when he got two quick outs, but Kyle Marquis knocked a 2-2 pitch into left to score another run.
The Townies had the lead and the momentum – and they didn’t need much else.
“That first inning was kind of the story for the rest of the game,” Landy said. “They got up on that, we got down.”
Kittila scattered six hits in 5.1 innings and struck out five, but the defense didn’t help the cause. East Providence scored a run in the fourth and two in the sixth to pad the lead. All three were unearned.
“I had no problem with the way Shane threw,” Landy said. “I’ll take that. We didn’t play defense.”
The ’Canes couldn’t get back into the game against Grant either. The lefty struck out nine and allowed just one hit after the first inning. He promptly picked that runner off base.
“In the first inning, he was a little wild,” Landy said. “Then he started throwing his curveball for strikes, getting ahead. He pitched well.”
The result was a disappointing ending for the ’Canes, but the focus in the post-game was already on a fresh start. Vets will host 12th-seeded West Warwick on Thursday at 4 p.m., in the first round of the double-elimination portion of the Division II tournament. West Warwick went 10-6 in Division II-South. The teams did not meet in the regular season.
“We’ve got to sharpen everything up,” Landy said. “This was the last game of the season and we’ve still got guys missing signs, things you shouldn’t have to worry about at this point. We’ll sharpen it up. We’ll get it going.”