The Babe Ruth 13-year-old state tournament ended on Sunday, but Warwick PAL’s summer slate is still in full swing.
It earned the right to keep on playing.
After winning its first two games at states just over a week ago, Warwick didn’t slow down one bit this past week as the tournament heated up. It knocked off Coventry 12-3 in the winners’ bracket final on Thursday before disposing of Coventry again on Sunday in the state finals, this time by a 6-4 score, claiming the crown and advancing to the New England regional.
It was a dominant tournament for Warwick, which outscored its opponents by a combined score of 39-14 in the four games.
“We’ve got a good team,” Warwick manager Brian Hawkins said. “We’ve got a chance. Hopefully we keep playing good ball – that’s all. They’re all positive.”
The regional will be held in Westfield, Mass., and it begins this Friday. Warwick is leaving as a team on Thursday, and will play its first game the following day at 1 p.m. against the state champion from Maine.
It’s a quick turnaround, but it still gives the team enough rest to be at full strength pitching-wise when the regional gets underway.
“I’m really trying to get them ready for it,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have much time.”
Yet, if its four-game track record at the state tournament is any indication, Warwick will be ready to roll when the time comes.
Knocking off Cranston in the second game of the tournament was a key moment, as it put Warwick only two games from the title and it gave them a leg up on their chief rival.
Warwick didn’t waste the opportunity.
Facing Coventry in the next game, Warwick got a four innings from Elijah Brown on the mound, and he surrendered only one hit and one run.
Mike Kiernan relieved Brown in the fifth and threw two scoreless innings before giving up two in the seventh when the game was already well out of reach.
Offensively, Warwick got contributions from just about everybody, which is exactly what Hawkins was hoping for.
“Our bats, from one through nine we were all hitting the ball,” Hawkins said. “We hit very well.”
That win put Warwick one win from the title, and it had some time off to wait for its opponent.
Once again, though, the opponent was Coventry, which won its game in the loser’s bracket to set up the rematch.
This time, it wasn’t a blowout – but Warwick still got the job done.
The game was scoreless into the third inning before Warwick struck first. With men on second and third, Nick Grenci sent them both home with a base hit, and he scored not long after.
That gave Warwick a 3-0 lead, and it never trailed.
“Grenci really got it all started for us,” Hawkins said.
David DeFusco made the lead stand up on the mound, as he went the distance on his way to tournament MVP honors.
Trailing 6-2 in the seventh, Coventry tried to rally. It scored two runs to get within two, and had the bases loaded with two outs. But DeFusco induced a groundball to Brown, who made the play to end the game.
“Again, our bats were outstanding,” Hawkins said. “Our fielding was great.”
It all added up to a state tournament to remember. The next step is keeping it going.
Warwick will almost certainly be facing a step up in competition at the New England regional, but even though having success there is a daunting task, it’s not one that anyone is deeming impossible.
“I told the kids, ‘We’re going to see better ball out there. It’s going to be the best of everybody now,’” Hawkins said. “I think we’re solid, so I think we can compete. Hopefully we can win a few games out there.”
If Warwick were to come out of the regional, it would advance to the Babe Ruth 13-year-old World Series, which is held in Kitsap County, Wash., in the middle of August.
Warwick will be attempting to become the second straight Rhode Island team to advance to the World Series, as the Cranston 13-year-old team made it that far a year ago.
“As long as the kids stay positive and play as well as they’ve been playing, we’ve got a shot,” Hawkins said.