Seedings for the American Legion baseball playoffs came down to Tuesday, the final night of the regular season. Senerchia Post 74 took care of what it could control with a 16-1 victory over Providence Post 56, but that wasn’t enough to make it a good night.
Navigant Credit Union-Fairmount Post 85 beat Gershkoff Auto Body 9-0 on Tuesday to edge Senerchia for the No. 4 seed and a bye to the double-elimination round of the playoffs. Senerchia will have to play a best-of-three series beginning Friday.
Senerchia finished the regular season with nine wins in its final 11 games, but a surprising loss to a struggling South Kingstown Post 39 team on Saturday set the stage for the seeding disappointment. Senerchia would have had the head-to-head tiebreaker over Navigant, but when Navigant won Tuesday, that meant the tiebreaker wouldn’t come into play. Navigant, the defending state champ, finished 16-6. Senerchia was 15-7.
“We lost a tough one to South Kingstown and that really hurt us,” Sheehan said. “We lost to Upper Deck too but you can live with that. South Kingstown is the one that hurts. We really needed Gershkoff to win Tuesday but it didn’t work out.”
Senerchia doesn’t plan to dwell on what could have been, though. It’ll play the hand it’s dealt, while keeping in mind the fact that the missed opportunity could be a good thing. Teams that get byes will have a full week off before beginning play in the Final Eight. For teams that have played nearly every day all summer, it can be a trouble spot. Last year, New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 was the No. 1 seed but, after the bye, it lost to a streaking Navigant team.
“It might be a good thing that we don’t have the week off,” Sheehan said. “Hopefully it’ll help us. The hitters won’t lose their timing and we’ll have a chance to get some momentum. The teams that have the bye will practice but a practice and a game are not the same thing.”
Senerchia’s first-round opponent is still to be determined. The league’s bottom six teams are in play-in games Thursday. Survivors of those games will be re-seeded and slotted into best-of-three series. Senerchia, the highest seed without a bye, will get the lowest-seeded team still remaining.
However the match-up shakes out, Senerchia will be ready.
“Looking at how we finished last year, we’re pretty confident,” said Sheehan, whose club was the state runner-up a year ago. “We have a deep enough pitching staff to withstand the nine-inning games. The playoffs are about who’s hot, and a lot of our guys have been swinging the bats well.”
The offense has featured a balanced attack, with contributions from mainstays like Mike King, Nick Boland, Rob Henry and Matt Murphy, plus some big summers by legion newcomers like Brady Chant and Kevin Sutyla. Sutyla actually finished with the team’s best batting average and an on-base percentage over .600.
“Everyone had a decent summer,” Sheehan said. “There isn’t anybody in the lineup I’m not confident in. We’ve had a lot of people contributing at different times.
Sheehan isn’t sure how he’ll line up the pitching staff for the three-game series, but he has plenty of options. Murphy has been the closest thing to an ace for Senerchia but there isn’t much of a gap between No. 1 and any of the other starters like Mike McCaffrey, Anthony Graziano, Anthony Cofone, Dan Thadeio, Mike Webb and Kyle Barbato.
“I don’t think there’s a big margin between the top and our fifth or sixth guy,” Sheehan said. “We’re comfortable with everybody.”
And Senerchia feels pretty good in general. Last year, it had a better regular season, but this year’s team has been just as hot over the stretch run. After going 6-5 in the first half of the year, it went 9-2 in the second half.
“I think we can make a run,” Sheehan said. “The goal is to win the first two and see where we end up.”
The first game of the best-of-three series is slated for Friday at 5 p.m. at Hendricken’s Ray Pepin Field. Time and location for game two will be determined after Thursday’s play-in games. If necessary, a third game would be Sunday at Ray Pepin Field.
The Final Eight begins on Tuesday at McCarthy Field in West Warwick with games at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
NEFL is the top seed, Upper Deck is No. 2, R&R Construction is No. 3 and Navigant is No. 4.