It’s still only two games into the season, but thus far, the Warwick Vets baseball team has not gotten the results it expected when it moved down to Division II.
On Tuesday, the ’Canes dropped their second consecutive league game to open the year, this one 4-1 to Central. Vets pitched well enough to win, but for the second consecutive game couldn’t get anything going at the plate, especially with runners in scoring position.
In the team’s previous league game, it lost 12-0 to East Providence on April 9. That gives the ’Canes a combined one run scored in two games.
“You can see the tension,” Vets head coach Nolan Landy said. “Like I said to them, ‘We’re going to get guys in there that can swing the bats. We’re not panicking, and you shouldn’t panic, but we need to have a better approach.’”
Central, which improved to 2-1 on the season, got a dominant performance on the mound from Wali Luna, who went all seven innings and allowed just three hits – none after the third inning.
He retired the final six men he faced, and 11 of the last 12. With a hard fastball and a solid curveball, he had the ’Canes off-balance for the majority of the game.
“He’s pretty good,” Landy said of Luna. “He threw a good fastball, and he threw his breaking ball for strikes. If you can do that, you’re going to be successful. He worked the ball in. When you work the ball in, it opens up a lot of the plate.”
Vets starter, sophomore Austin Lamaire, was solid in his first-ever varsity start in league play, allowing four runs over four innings, with some bad luck sprinkled in. He gave up a home run in the first inning to center field on a ball hit by Omaury Cortorreal that just cleared the short, 280-foot fence. In most other fields, it would have been an out.
He also allowed a few hits on high fly balls that his outfielders had trouble with, due to a steep hill that begins about 15-feet before the fence.
Landy, though, wouldn’t use that as an excuse.
“It’s 280 feet to center field,” Landy said. “Fly balls, if we’re playing at Vets, those balls are caught. It is what it is. We had a problem with our outfielders running up the hill. But they caught it, so we should have caught it too. That’s the bottom line.”
The game started out on a high note for Vets, as leadoff man T.J. Boyajian reached on an infield single, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and came home on a wild pitch for the team’s first run of the year.
In the home half of the inning, Cortorreal tied the game with his home run. Vets got a leadoff single from Tony Lonczak in the second, but he was immediately caught stealing and the rest of the side went in order.
Lamaire then came out for the bottom of the frame and retired the first two batters before a long, fly ball up the hill in left went for a double for Steve Dilone. He came around with Central’s second run on an RBI single by Jerry Espinal.
The Knights added two more runs off Lamaire in the fourth, when Dilone again reached on a double up the hill, and Espinal followed that with another single. Nelson Lozada drove a run home on a fielder’s choice, and a double by Eliezer Estevez brought home the team’s fourth run.
Despite giving up the four runs in four innings, Lamaire was solid on the mound, striking out two batters and only really getting burned on balls hit to the hill.
“Austin gave up the home run early, and we talked about how you have to execute 0-2 pitches,” Landy said. “Once he started doing that with his off-speed stuff, he was in command.”
The ’Canes tried to mount a comeback, but struggled to get much going against Luna. When they did get runners on, they either ran into an out or stranded them on the basepaths.
In the third, Boyajian walked with one out and Kyle Waters followed with a single. After Danny Greaves struck out, a ball got a way from Espinal, Central’s catcher, and the runners tried to advance. Instead, Boyajian was gunned down at third, ending the inning.
The next inning, Lamaire reached on an error and Lonczak was hit by a pitch with one out. That put two runners on, but Shane Kittila and Tyler DePetrillo both struck out to end the threat.
“We’re struggling with having solid at-bats with guys in scoring position,” Landy said. “Today, two guys on, we go down looking two consecutive at-bats. We’re just having trouble building on the success we have – couple hits, maybe a walk, two guys on, things are going, but we stall at that point.”
That was the last time Vets truly threatened. Greaves reached on an error in the sixth inning, but he was eventually picked off second base. He was the last base runner the ’Canes had.
On the bright side, Greaves did come in and pitch two scoreless innings for Vets, working around two base runners in the fifth and one in the sixth.
But in the end, it was another loss. The ’Canes also lost their Injury Fund game to Prout and a non-league game with D-I Pilgrim this past Saturday.
“It’s early,” Landy said. “It’s only our second game. We just said the same thing – we’re 0-2, but we played decent today. It’s getting better. If you look at our first game, it’s getting better.”
Vets’ next league game is today at home against 2-0 Wheeler at 3:30 p.m. The ’Canes will then host Westerly for a non-league game on Saturday at 1 p.m. before traveling to winless Davies on Monday at 3:30.
“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing,” Landy said. “We will get there. No panic yet. We’ll be alright.”