There were some anxious moments for the Warwick Continental 12-year-old all-stars in Thursday’s District 3 losers’ bracket game. Thanks to some strong defense in a tough spot and a late offensive surge, there was also another celebration.
Continental got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning with three good plays then broke the game wide open with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth en route to an 11-4 victory over Coventry National.
It was the third straight win for the Continental stars since a tournament-opening loss, and it moved them into another losers’ bracket game on Monday against East Greenwich. Results of that game were unavailable at press time.
Regardless, Continental was just happy to stay alive on Thursday.
“I’m very happy with this team,” said manager Al Mann. “I think they’ve started to jell and they’re playing well together.”
Continental took the lead early in Thursday’s game, putting up four runs in the second inning. Dylan Palmiotti hit a solo home run, Marcus Alexander scored on a wild pitch and Connor Haley smashed a two-run homer to make it 4-0.
Coventry National came back with an unearned run in the third, but Palmiotti, Continental’s starter, stayed in control. He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth to keep Continental ahead 4-1.
In the fifth, though, Coventry made its run. Colin Sutyla led off with a single, and Palmiotti reached his pitch count during the at-bat. Cristian Sanchez came in and was greeted by a Cam Reid single. Daniel Lopes then worked a walk, and Brendan Organ knocked in two runs with a single down the right-field line.
All of a sudden, Continental’s lead was down to one run, and Coventry still had runners on first and third with nobody out.
That’s when Continental came up big.
Matt Rickard bunted the first pitch he saw from Sanchez and left it just in front of home plate. With pinch-runner Josh Najarian racing to the plate, Sanchez charged in and flipped a throw to Alexander. It was a close play, but Najarian was called out.
That left Coventry with runners on first and second and one out, and Andrew Pimental kept the rally going by working a walk.
Again, though, Continental came through.
Sanchez induced a ground ball to first, where Ryan Carlson scooped it and fired home for the second out. With the bases still loaded, leadoff man Steven Verrier roped a sinking line drive to right-center, but Continental center-fielder Isaiah Mylers sprinted over and made the catch to end the inning.
“We played great defense,” Mann said.
And the offense followed suit.
After Coventry’s Colin Sutyla recorded two strikeouts to start the bottom of the fifth, Haley doubled to deep right field. Soon enough, the floodgates opened. Three wild pitches, two passed balls, an error and key hits by Palmiotti and Matt Martinez powered a seven-run outburst.
“It was 4-3 and we needed to get something,” Mann said. “We had some fast runners on and we got the hits at the right time.”
Coventry threatened to rally again in the sixth, but one more big defensive play kept Continental firmly in front. With one out and runners on second and third, Reid hit a deep fly ball to left that looked like it might clear the fence for a three-run homer. Instead, Haley made a reaching catch just in front of the fence. Griffin Pilla tagged up and scored on the play, but Haley’s throw to the infield put Sutyla in a rundown between second and third. He was eventually tagged out for the second out. Sanchez then finished the game with a strikeout.
“Those last few innings, they all came through,” Mann said. “I’m happy for them.”
Haley led the Continental offense, going 2-for-2 with a home run, a double and three RBI. Martinez went 3-for-4 with a run scored, and Palmiotti had two hits. Mylers, Carlson, Alexander, Sanchez and Jeff Venter each had a hit and a run scored.
On the mound, Palmiotti struck out six in four innings.
The win put Continental among the final six teams left in the district. With a win Monday, Continental’s next game would be Wednesday.
“I’m really happy for these guys,” Mann said. “Maybe we can keep this going.”