Just two games into the 13-year-old state Babe Ruth state tournament, Warwick has already established itself as the team to beat.
The Warwick all-stars beat Portsmouth 17-5 on Sunday night to open the tournament, but then it really put itself in prime position with a convincing victory on Sunday night.
Facing perennial contender Cranston, Warwick got a combined no-hitter from David DeFusco and Elijah Brown, as it won 4-1 to advance into the winner’s bracket finals.
“I don’t see any weakness anywhere on the field,” Warwick manager Brian Hawkins said. “Our outfielders are outstanding, the infield is so strong. Our bats are crazy right now.”
It’s been a complete team effort.
Hawkins got everyone in the game in the victory over Portsmouth, as Warwick got contributions from the entire lineup as well as multiple pitchers.
“We hit the crap out of the ball,” Hawkins said.
And while beating Portsmouth in that fashion was nice, defeating Cranston was the most important step for a team with state title hopes.
It didn’t start out perfectly, as Cranston took a 1-0 in the first inning when a man walked, stole second and later scored on a groundout.
That, though, would be the last of the damage.
DeFusco kept Cranston in check for the first four innings, and Brown came in and shut the door for the final three.
It was a brief flash of the team’s pitching depth, which Hawkins thinks is perhaps its biggest strength.
“We have, believe it or not, like nine pitchers,” Hawkins said. “There’s one No. 1 and probably three or four No. 2’s. We’re pretty strong this year.”
Offensively, Warwick tied the game immediately, getting a run in the bottom of the first.
It then took the lead for good in the second inning, as it scored one more run to go up 2-1.
From there it was steady, as it scored a run in the fifth and the seventh, both on passed balls.
The offense was led by its No. 3 and 4 hitters, DeFusco and Billy Roberge, both of who have had big two-game stretches.
“One through nine has been crushing the ball,” Hawkins. The biggest kids that stand out to me are DeFusco and Billy Roberge.”
Hawkins, who coached the 15-year-old team that lost to Cranston in last year’s finals, knows the importance of beating Cranston in the tournament, especially this early.
Now, Warwick can look ahead.
“I’ve been with Warwick PAL now for three years,” Hawkins said. “Last year, Cranston beat us in the championship game, that happens. This year is a different year and I’m already glad we got through Cranston.”
The win put Warwick one game away from the state finals. It takes on Coventry on Wednesday at 8 pm. at North Providence High School
Because of the two days off, Warwick’s pitching should be in line as well. Hawkins will have a full staff available, including both DeFusco and Brown.
“They’re playing great ball,” Hawkins said.
Cranston dropped to the loser’s bracket, where it will have to win three consecutive games to reach the finals. If it gets that far, it will have to beat its opponent twice to win the title.