With the way Chris Duchesneau was pitching for the Warwick PAL Connie Mack team on Friday in game one of the state championship series against Scituate, Warwick needed just one moment to take control.
Joe Paliotte did the honors. With the bases loaded and two outs in a 0-0 game in the bottom of the sixth, Paliotte hit a sinking liner to right field that went for a double, clearing the bases. Duchesneau did the rest, giving up just a meaningless run in the bottom of the seventh on his way to a complete game, two-hitter in a 3-1 victory.
In a match-up of two even teams, getting the win in game one was crucial for Warwick. It went on to lose game two, but won the state championship in game three with a 6-5 win on Sunday.
Its march to the state championship started with Paliotte’s big hit and Duchesneau’s big performance.
“Another team effort,” said Warwick manager Pete Palermo. “Every game it’s somebody different that steps up. It’s been an awesome season. Lot of fun. Great group of kids. They all stick together and work as a team.”
As well as Duchesneau was pitching throughout the game, Scituate’s Danny Keefe was matching him throughout. Keefe kept Warwick scoreless through the first 5.2 innings.
Yet, Keefe wasn’t exactly cruising. He didn’t have a single one-two-three inning, and Warwick had the bases loaded with one out in the third before Mike Broccoli lined to the shortstop, who flipped to second for an unlucky double play.
In the fourth, Warwick put two more runners on with two outs only to strand them, and it left another runner on in the fifth.
Palermo felt like something, eventually, had to give.
“Today we were fortunate, we put runners on every inning” Palermo said. “We had pressure on them and we had a feeling it would crack. We kept saying, ‘The dam is ready to break, the dam is ready to break.’”
Paliotte finally broke it down. Broccoli had reached on an error to open the inning, and Bryant Palermo walked. Duchesneau sacrificed them both into scoring position, and Scituate elected to intentionally walk Evan Broccoli to load the bases with one out.
Stephen Denis came to the plate and struck out, putting the scoring chance squarely in Paliotte’s hands. On a 1-0 pitch, he hit the ball hard to left, and it slipped under the glove of the incoming Sammy Owens. Paliotte hustled to second, while Mike Broccoli, Evan Broccoli and Palermo hustled around to score and break the deadlock, making it 3-0.
“He’s been hot,” Pete Palermo said of Paliotte. “He was hot early in the year, and he had a great high school season, then he cooled off a little bit. In the playoffs he’s started to pick it up again. He’s been on base quite a bit. We’re a tough lineup all the way through.”
Three runs were plenty for Duchesneau, who was brilliant from the opening frame. He brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, allowing just two walks through the first five innings and facing just one batter over the minimum.
The first hit he gave up was a slow roller by Derek Faria to Brandon Paiva at short. Paiva made a charging play but Faria beat it out.
“Outstanding,” Palermo said. “We had a long talk before the game. We’ve been talking all season. He didn’t really get a lot of reps in high school, and he’s been a huge part of our pitching staff. He’s had some real great performances this year, strong performances.”
After that single, Duchesneau walked David Mejia with one out but he buckled down to retire the next two men in the sixth and get out of the mini jam.
In the seventh, suddenly with a 3-0 lead, he bent a little, but still got the job done. The first batter grounded out to Paiva – who recorded eight putouts at shortstop after playing a lot of the season at second base – before Duchesneau walked the second man.
Keefe came to the plate and hit a double to right field, bringing the tying run to the plate, and Scituate finally got on the board with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Christian Ferrucci. Another walk put the tying runs on base, but Duchesneau buckled down one final time and got Owens to pop out to Paiva to end the game.
Duchesneau struck out four batters on the day and walked five.
“We talked about not just throwing, because he’s got a live arm,” Palermo said. “We’ve been trying to get him to be a pitcher and move the ball. We want him to have his pitches as opposed to just throwing it by them. I think he’s really grown and matured. He went out there and did exactly what we asked of him.”
Warwick had four hits on the day against Keefe, while Denis, Devon Gamba and Evan Broccoli each reached base twice.
“We don’t have any easy outs,” Palermo said. “Guys that are batting on the bottom could be on the top.”
The win set the stage for the next two days, when Warwick would win its first state championship under the PAL affiliation.