The Warwick PAL 13-year-old all-star team made some uncharacteristic mistakes during its first two games at the New England regional, and it led to an uncharacteristic result – the team’s first loss of the summer.
After going undefeated throughout the state tournament en route to the title, Warwick won its first game at New Englands 7-6 over Maine on Friday before falling 5-4 to New Milford, Conn., on Sunday.
The loss put Warwick into the losers’ bracket, where it will have to win five games in as many days to capture the title.
Warwick was scheduled to play its third game of the Westfield, Mass., tournament on Monday against Manchester, N.H., with the results unavailable at press time. Manchester has also played two games and has a victory over Bennington County, Vermont and a loss to Westfield, Mass.
“We’ve just got to stop making mistakes,” Warwick manager Brian Hawkins said. “I think the nerves got to the kids a little bit.”
Against Maine, Warwick was able to overcome nine errors and a tough first inning to earn the victory.
Elijah Brown threw a complete game on the mound to lead the way, as he shook off the team’s defensive miscues to keep Maine in check.
“He kept us in the game,” Hawkins said. “He kept his head in it the whole way.”
In its second game of the tournament, Warwick again dug itself an early hole.
This time, it couldn’t climb all the way back.
New Milford scored five times in the second inning off of Warwick starter David DeFusco, taking a 5-0 lead.
The fifth run came on a close play at the plate where catcher Sean Creamer tagged out a runner but dropped the ball immediately afterwards, and the runner was ruled safe.
That play proved to be a big one.
Warwick scored three runs of its own in the fifth and one more in the sixth to climb within a run, but it never got any closer than one run.
New Milford didn’t extend its lead any due to the work of Jarrod Houle, who pitched the final five innings for Warwick without allowing a run.
At the end of the end of the day, though, Warwick fell a little bit short.
“We beat ourselves yesterday,” Hawkins said on Monday. “We left nine guys on base. We had a runner on in the top of the seventh, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Warwick also left nine runners on base in the first game it played, bringing the total to 18 in just a two-game span.
There have been some bright spots, as Brown, Jordan Huntoon and Anthony Russo have all stood out thus far, but the act of leaving so many runners on base will have to change if the team wants to continue moving on and keep the dream alive of reaching the Babe Ruth 13-year-old World Series.
“We’re hitting the ball, but we’re not finding the gaps,” Hawkins said. “That’s what I told the kids, ‘Everyone catches the ball out here. We need more line drives.’”
And Hawkins thinks something has to give, as his team is significantly better than the way it has been playing. At some point in the tournament, Warwick should play up to its potential.
If that does happen, then there isn’t anyone in the field who Hawkins doesn’t think his team can beat.
“I still think we can win it all, as long as we play better than we’ve been playing,” Hawkins said. “We’ve had one bad inning the first game and one bad inning the second game.”
And the team feels the same way – it’s just a matter of getting on the field and taking care of business.
“They know hands down we’re better,” Hawkins said. “We just know that we’ve got to sure up the mistakes, play 110 percent. I think we’ve still got a shot.”