Sometimes in sports, the margin between victory and defeat is razor thin. For the Warwick Vets baseball team, that margin was no more than a few inches in its 2-0 loss to Classical High School in Friday’s Division II playoffs.
The Hurricanes, whose loss to Classical two days prior forced them to a decisive game for the championship of Region 2, spent the entire day on the brink of making the plays they needed to win, especially on defense. In the first inning, Classical had a man on first with one out when Jeremy Pena hit a tailor-made double play ball to shortstop that should have ended the inning. Instead, shortstop Jesse Holland’s toss to second base was too far toward the shortstop side, causing second baseman Christopher Reid to have to stretch for the ball to get the lead runner and negating any chance of an inning ending double play.
That miscue would come back to haunt the Hurricanes, as Classical promptly drew a walk and scored the only run they would need all day on an RBI single. Vets would botch anther double play in the third inning leading to another Classical run, which, unfortunately for Vets, capped the scoring for the day.
“They put the ball in play and put pressure on our defense, and that got them the win,” said Vets head coach Nolan Landy.
On the other side of the ball, the tiniest of margins continued to haunt the Hurricanes. Vets’ offense simply could not get anything going against Classical’s Zachary Odsen, as they tried to stick with a patient approach that had yielded great success throughout the season only to see pitch after pitch called a strike, causing the Vets hitters to continually be down in the count.
Employing a simple yet effective fastball-changeup mix, Odsen ended the day with 11 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout that propelled his team past a Vets squad who had defeated Classical in a playoff game less than a week earlier.
“We got caught looking a lot. He threw his breaking ball for strikes, and we just couldn’t get the bat off our shoulders, “ said Landy in regards to his team’s offensive struggles.
Vets’ starter Shane Kittila, who beat Classical in their previous playoff matchup this season, held the Classical offense at bay after his team’s miscues, leaving the door open for a Hurricanes comeback. In the top of the sixth, his work was almost rewarded, as Vets had men on first and second with two outs; however, they couldn’t take advantage of the only runner they had in scoring position all day, as Jeremy Morrissette struck out to end the last meaningful chance Vets would have to score.
With the loss, Vets was eliminated from playoff contention after a very successful 12-4 season that saw it nab the No. 5 overall seed coming into postseason play. The ’Canes had started the postseason with two straight wins, putting them in prime position to win the region, but Classical came out of the loser’s bracket to earn its spot in the semifinals.
Despite the Vets loss, Landy remained upbeat about what his team had accomplished, and projected a sense of optimism on what they could accomplish in the future.
“We had a great season,” said Landy. “We made a nice run, but we just ran into a hot team, and I know we’ll be back here next year.”