The Connie Mack teams from Hendricken and Pawtucket came into Tuesday’s matchup knowing that they needed just two wins to reach the championship. They also knew that getting ahead in the series by winning game one was key.
“It’s definitely important to win the first game,” said Flood Auto head coach Bryan Leahey. “Either way, if you win or lose the first game, there’s going to be pressure in the next one. But if you win game one, it gives you an advantage having two games to win one.”
Flood Auto earned that advantage, winning a rainy game one by a score of 6-5 over Elmwood Sports Center of Pawtucket.
Game two was scheduled for Wednesday, after the Beacon’s deadline.
Anthony Graziano started on the mound for Flood in game one and sandwiched two stellar innings between two rough ones, giving up four runs on four hits in what would be a five-inning outing.
After letting up a run on two hits and a walk in the first, Graziano retired six hitters in a row, striking out the side in the second.
Luckily for Graziano, his teammates brought their big bats to this one.
Flood batted around the order in the first inning, scoring 4 runs on three hits and two walks against Elmwood starter Andrew Larson.
Ron Gaynor led off with a double and scored on a bases-loaded fielders’ choice by Austin Navarro.
Nick Boland followed with an RBI sac fly and then, two batters later, Mike Dean collected his first of three hits with a two-RBI single to make it 4-1 Flood after one inning.
Flood also scored a run in the second thanks to a walk, a hit, and an error to take a 5-1 lead into the third inning.
Then came the second rough inning for Graziano. Zack Larose opened the fourth with a lead-off walk and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Junel Ruiz.
Bryan Quinlan and Joe Fernandes hit back-to-back singles followed by a Tyler Duffy groundout that would all in all amount to Elmwood’s two fourth inning tallies.
Both starting pitchers would get through the fifth inning but it was Larson who had a bit of trouble.
The first three batters for Flood singled to load the bases with no outs and pinch-hitter Rob Fredette stepped into the box with a chance to break the game back open for Flood.
He hit the ball very hard, but unfortunately for Flood, he hit it right at shortstop Larry Cruz who caught it and fired to first to double up Dean, instantly getting Larson out of danger, as he would force Gaynor to fly out to end the threat.
Aaron Hubert pitched a perfect sixth inning for Flood and the team found itself one inning away from winning the all-important opening game.
However, Elmwood was not about to go down without a fight.
Jake Newberry came on to close it out for Flood and ran into a whole lot of trouble. After a leadoff single in the seventh, Newberry retired the second batter of the inning on a fly out to center field.
Then he hit the next batter, gave up a single, and a fielder’s choice on which the ball was thrown past the first baseman to score a run. All of a sudden, Flood found itself with just a one-run lead in the top of the seventh of a game that had been completely in their control for most of the night.
“[Newberry] didn’t hit all of his spots and we made a couple of mistakes in the field, so we got into some trouble,” said Leahey.
With two runners on and two out, Newberry took a stroll around the mound, settled in, and forced the final batter to hit a ground ball to the shortstop, resulting in a dramatically close play at first base that ended the game and clinched the 6-5 win for Flood Auto.
“Give credit to both teams,” Leahey said. “No one quit, every player kept fighting and our guys fought to get that tough final out.”
With a series win, Flood would move into the Connie Mack state championship series, which is scheduled run Friday through Sunday.