The Warwick Vets baseball team left eight runners on base against Wheeler Monday, but with Dan Greaves on the mound, the lack of timely hitting felt like an afterthought.
Greaves dominated the Warriors, taking a no-hitter into the final inning before settling for a two-hitter and a 4-1 victory. That was par for the course for the ’Canes, who had shut-out their previous two opponents while coasting to wins.
“Dan pitched great,” said Vets head coach Nolan Landy. “You can’t ask for more than that – seven innings, one run.”
With a 10-2 mark and a tie atop Division II-Central with East Providence, Landy has very few complaints, and it’s hard to blame him with the way his team has pitched.
Prior to Greaves’s standout showing, Austin Lamaire and Shane Kittila – with a relief appearance from David Simmons mixed in – had given up a combined zero runs and nine hits in the previous two games.
Vets has seven shutouts this season in league play and has given up the third-fewest runs in the division. Its record is a half-game behind Mount St. Charles for the best in all of D-II. The ’Canes have now won three in a row since losing 4-3 to Central on May 5.
“We have three very, very good pitchers on our team and we’re doing really well,” Greaves said. “Our fielding has come a long way. We have a young team, but we’re doing really well.”
Greaves, a senior, made it look easy against 5-8 Wheeler. He struck out seven batters and retired the first 14 batters he faced. He didn’t allow a single ball out of the infield until there was one out in the fifth inning.
His perfect game was spoiled on a slow roller by Wheeler’s Alex Evangelista that Greaves fielded himself between the mound and first base and then threw wide of the covering second baseman for an error. He buckled down though, getting the next batter to pop out to first.
“My assistant coach jinxed it because he said something to me right before,” Landy joked. “The one play – I don’t know if it was a hit or not – he said it.”
The game was actually close the majority of the way, but it didn’t seem that way with Wheeler never threatening to score until the final inning. The ’Canes took a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Kittila roped a two-out, opposite field double off of the base of the right-field wall with the bases loaded, scoring all three runners.
Vets added another run in the fourth when Stephen Denis singled and took the next three bases on separate passed balls.
Other than that, the offense was quiet, picking up just six hits off of Wheeler starter Nate Balcom and reliever Sam Hunt, who came on in the sixth.
“I said, ‘If you don’t come through with runners in scoring position, things at the end of the game get magnified,” Landy said. “Errors, base hits. If you have a chance to put a team away, you’ve got to do it.’”
Still, there was never any real concern.
“It’s tough to play defense when (Greaves is) shutting them down like that,” Landy said. “Guys get into the mode of, ‘We’re up three and Dan’s shutting them down.’ You get into a lull.”
Greaves committed another error in the sixth inning on a ball hit back to him with one out, but he retired the next two men without issue, keeping his no-hitter intact entering the seventh.
But in the final frame, Wheeler No. 3 hitter Eric Pappas lined a leadoff single into right field to break it up.
“I was aware a little bit [of the no-hitter], but I was trying to keep my mind off it because it’s not the most important part of the game,” Greaves said. “The most important part is the W.”
Wheeler made its comeback attempt a little more serious when Hunt, the next batter, hit a ground ball to third base that Lamaire couldn’t handle. Ben Aleixo followed that with an RBI single, making it a 4-1 game with runners on first and third.
But Evangelista grounded into a 4-6-3 double play on the next pitch, and Hunt didn’t score from third. Greaves then struck out Sevrin Lavenstein to end the game.
“We had a couple outs to go, but we had a pretty good lead and it was the last inning,” Greaves said. “I know we fumbled a couple of plays, but I felt like we were going to make them.”
Vets has four games left in the regular season, starting with a home game against one-win Davies today at 3:45 p.m. After that, it plays 8-3 Classical, 3-10 Juanita Sanchez and then ends the season on Thursday, May 22 at East Providence in a game that will likely decide the subdivision title and perhaps the top seed in the D-II playoffs.
Vets also a non-league game at home against Pilgrim on Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Division II playoffs start May 28.
“There’s a big difference in the confidence this year,” Greaves said. “Just the way we were playing early on, in the preseason, everyone was really confident. We’re doing really well.”