The Warwick Vets baseball team has been up and down all season long, and the downs were out in full force on Tuesday against Wheeler.
But the ’Canes were able to pull it out anyway.
Trailing 4-1 entering the seventh, with only one hit to their name, Vets worked four walks against Wheeler’s Finlay O’Hara, and two batters got hit with pitches before Danny Greaves singled homeKyle Waters with the go-ahead run in an eventual 5-4 victory.
Greaves also pitched all seven innings to pick up the victory and get Vets back in the win column.
It had lost its previous three games.
“Peaks and valleys,” Vets head coach Nolan Landy said. “Pitching has been there. It’s defense that lets us down one day, next day it’s offense. We still haven’t totally put it together. We’ve played better, just haven’t put it totally together.”
The victory improved the ’Canes to 6-5 in Division II-Central, putting them squarely in the middle of an extremely tight playoff race. Despite being over .500, Vets is right now in the No. 14 spot in D-II, and 16 teams qualify for the postseason.
A few more wins – however they come – could vault Vets into a much higher spot, as they trail the No. 4 team by just two games.
“We’ve been harping on this,” Landy said. “We pretty much start talking end of the year, postseason stuff as soon as we flip the schedule. As soon as we hit the East Providence game, we were like, ‘Guys, this is where it really starts to set itself up.’”
Senior T.J. Boyajian had Vets’ other hit on Tuesday, a solo home run in the sixth inning.
For the first five innings, the ’Canes were held without a hit.
“We had two hits against a kid I thought we should have hit the ball pretty well against,” Landy said. “We just didn’t. We made a lot of baserunning mistakes.”
Wheeler dropped to 4-7 with the loss.
Even though it wasn’t Vets’ best-played game of the season, it was a timely win. Since starting the second half of the schedule, Vets has lost 8-4 to East Providence, defeated Hope 10-6, lost to Hope 6-5 and lost a non-league game to Lincoln 5-2.
It’s been in every game, but just not always on the winning side of the final score.
“We’re starting to turn the corner a little bit,” Landy said. “We just need to do it in a more timely manner.”
Offensively, Greaves, Boyajian Austin Lamaire and Kyle Waters have been doing most of the heavy lifting, while players like Tony Lonczak, Pat DelSanto and Tyler DePetrillo are hitting better as well.
On the mound, Graves has been the team’s ace – as he threw complete games in each of Vets’ last two outings – while Lamaire, fellow sophomore Shane Kittila, DelSanto, Jarred Cipriano and sophomore Adam Dorsey have also contributed.
“We’re right in the middle,” Landy said. “I’m not a statistician, I’m not a playoff position guy, but we have to win to make our seeding better. That’s the bottom line.”
Vets is in fourth place in D-II-Central, and will have ample opportunities to move up within its subdivision and in the overall playoff picture. It has five games remaining, two of which are with teams above it in the standings.
Its next game is against 1-10 Davies on Friday at 3:30 p.m., and then it has 5-6 Classical on Monday. After that, it finishes with
Juanita Sanchez – which is 2-10 – and then 7-4 Mt. Pleasant and 9-2 Central.
Those two final games could be the difference between hosting a playoff game or missing the postseason all together. Vets beat Mt. Pleasant 3-2 earlier this year, and lost 4-1 to Central.
“All these teams are fighting for the same spot,” Landy said. “Classical, Central, Davies, Mt. Pleasant – they’re all games with teams who we’re packed together with. They’re huge games. They’re going to mean a lot for seeding, or even getting in to the playoffs.”
Landy thinks his team will be ready for the closing stretch.
“You’ve seen all these teams, you know what to expect,” he said. “This is where you either earn a playoff spot or you can lose it here. Every day we practice like we’ve got a playoff game tomorrow. We try to keep the pressure on these guys to feel it, so they know how to play in it.”