The Warwick National 12-year-old all-stars dominated in their first three games of the District 3 tournament. National posted two consecutive no-hitters, only allowed one run in the other game and showed off plenty of offense.
Last Wednesday, National got a taste of its own medicine.
Central Coventry came to Warwick for the winners’ bracket final and walked away with a 6-0 victory. Justin Brown struck out 13 and allowed just an infield hit in 5.2 innings, while the Central Coventry offense pounded out 14 hits.
National dropped to the losers’ bracket where it was scheduled to play Exeter/West Greenwich on Monday. Results were unavailable at press time.
Central Coventry is now one win away from its third consecutive district championship, thanks to the victory over National.
Ultimately, it was Brown’s performance that paved the way.
“He’s definitely an ace,” National manager Jay Brown said of the Central Coventry starter. “We tried to prepare. We had kids on the mound throwing, but you can’t simulate that kind of speed. He looked good and he threw a lot of strikes. He’s tough to beat.”
Justin Brown was impressive from the beginning. He struck out the side around a walk in the first inning and struck out two more in the second. National didn’t get a ball out of the infield until Eric Howell flied out to center field in the fourth.
National would have liked to get Brown’s pitch count up and force him out of the game earlier, but the plan wasn’t working out. After throwing 19 pitches in the first inning, he threw just 24 over the next two, keeping himself on pace.
“We tried to gameplan and be patient,” Jay Brown said. “We wanted to work his pitch count. But he just threw a lot of strikes. When kids are seeing that, they tend to want to swing their hardest. We wanted them to try and shorten it up, but that’s easier said than done.”
On the other side, National pitcher Sean Creamer got into trouble in the second but got out of it thanks to some nifty defense. After giving up two hits, Creamer cut down Mason Feole at home on a bunt by Colin Sutyla. Kyle McCann then hit a fly ball to right. Sean Blanchard caught it and with Matt Buglio tagging up, Blanchard fired a strike to catcher Darren Grant, who blocked the plate and applied the tag to end the inning.
But Central Coventry would have other chances, and National couldn’t stop all of them.
Central Coventry sent eight men to the plate and had five hits in the third inning. Feole and Matt Monsour drove in runs to give Central Coventry the 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Feole drove in a run with an infield hit before Buglio smacked a two-run single down the left-field line. Central Coventry then made it 6-0 with a run in the fifth that scored on an error.
“We hit the ball,” said Central Coventry manager Anthony Feole. “Every kid that comes out there hits the ball. We’ve trained these kids to be smart hitters, to work the pitch count, not to jump on first-pitch balls.”
That made things tough on National. Central Coventry had at least two baserunners in every inning
“There were a couple of plays I thought we should have made that probably would have gotten us out of a few innings,” Jay Brown said. “Maybe it was nerves, because those are plays these guys normally make. But they did hit a couple of line drives and they kept the pressure on.”
And the six runs were more than enough for Justin Brown. Bobby Nelson legged out an infield hit in the fifth, but Brown followed with three consecutive strikeouts. He struck out two more to start the sixth before reaching the pitch-count limit.
“Justin Brown pitched amazing for us,” Feole said.
Mason Feole came on and got the final out to finish off the victory.
If National makes it back out of the losers’ bracket, it would play Central Coventry again on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re going to fight back,” Jay Brown said. “It’s a little tougher road, but we’re still here.”