The offense arrived on a windy Thursday afternoon.
It was late – the final inning of the eighth game of the season, when the Pilgrim baseball team was on the verge of getting shut-out two days after getting no-hit.
But it arrived.
And it may be staying awhile.
Pilgrim rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Middletown 3-2 last Thursday then stayed hot Saturday, pounding out 11 hits en route to a season-high 12 runs and a 12-2 victory over cross-town rival Toll Gate.
“For about a week and a half, we weren’t hitting,” Pilgrim head coach Scott Bailey said after Saturday’s win. “We had a big seventh inning the other day. We said to the guys, ‘Let’s use that as a foundation for the rest of the season.’ They were going to wake up. It was just a matter of when.”
The victories moved the Pats to 4-5 and may have turned their season around. Heading into the Middletown game, they had lost four straight while scoring a total of four runs in those games. The struggles came to a head last Tuesday, when three East Greenwich pitchers combined on a no-hitter. Pilgrim’s team batting average fell to .156.
It continued to fall Thursday as Middletown kept the Pats off the board for six innings and took a 2-0 lead in the sixth. Down to their last out, the Pats scored three in the seventh to win the game. Mike Broccoli plated Joe Paliotte with the first run, Ryan Morris knocked in Broccoli with the tying run on a double and Chris Ray walked off with a game-winning double.
“Hitting’s contagious,” Bailey said. “We’ve been saying that to the kids for three weeks. ‘It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.’ It happened.”
And it was just what the Pats needed.
“It gave us a lot more hope,” said Broccoli, who got the win in relief of Elijah Dressel. “We kind of jelled as a team almost.”
Saturday, the positive trends continued. Under the lights at Mickey Stevens, Pilgrim scored four times with two outs in the first inning then pulled away with five runs in the fifth. Paliotte went 3-for-4 with two triples and three RBI and Bryant Palermo blew the game open with a three-run triple in the fifth. Broccoli tossed a five-inning complete game with six strikeouts.
“We’ve been getting good pitching, good defense,” Bailey said. “We just needed to hit and get all three phases of the game together. They can hit. You saw that today.”
Toll Gate lost for the fourth straight time and dropped to 1-7. The Titans’ pitching staff has been decimated by injuries and still isn’t healthy. A key first-inning error further hurt the cause against the Pats, and the Titans never really got back into the game.
“That’s been the story all season,” said Toll Gate head coach Nick Durand. “We have a thin pitching staff to begin with and we haven’t made the plays in the field behind them.”
Toll Gate starter Tim Warner retired the first two batters of the game before Morris and Ray hit back-to-back singles. Palermo then drew a walk to load the bases. Chris Duchesneau followed with a ground ball to third base, but Kyle McGuire’s throw to first was off target and got past Zack Azeredo. Two runs scored on the play, and Paliotte made the mistake hurt more when he smacked the next pitch to the right-field corner for a two-run triple and a 4-0 lead.
The Pats added a run in the second on consecutive doubles by Broccoli and Morris, then scored two in the third. Paliotte hit his second triple in as many at-bats, David McMullen walked and stole second and Tyler Perry cracked a two-run double to make it 7-0.
Armed with a lead – and with twin brother Evan behind the plate – Mike Broccoli cruised. He allowed two runs in the third inning after base hits by Austin Giard and Elvis Pimentel, plus an RBI by Tyler Ekroth, but the inning ended when it was ruled Ekroth missed first base on what would have been a double.
Broccoli didn’t allow another base-runner, retiring the final six batters he saw.
“I felt comfortable,” Broccoli said. “I’ve been pitching here since I was little. And it doesn’t hurt to have your twin brother behind the plate.”
Broccoli, a junior left-hander, owns three of Pilgrim’s four league victories and he picked up a save in the other one.
“He’s been outstanding,” Bailey said.
Pilgrim put the mercy rule into play with five runs in the fifth. Brandon Paiva had an RBI double, Palermo cleared the bases with his three-run triple and Paliotte knocked in the 12th run with a base hit to right.
The 4-5 record put Pilgrim into a tie for sixth place in Division I-South, and the Pats are hoping to climb higher this week as they begin the second half of the season. They were set to play Coventry on Monday, with results unavailable at press time. Pilgrim will host Portsmouth on Wednesday at 4 p.m. before visiting Barrington on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
“We’ve got a big week ahead of us and we want to stay in the pack,” Bailey said.
Toll Gate is also set for a three-game week. The Titans were scheduled to play Moses Brown on Monday. They’ll host Middletown on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. before traveling to East Greenwich on Friday at 4 p.m.
“I hope as we get guys healthy, we can make a little turnaround,” Durand said.