The Pilgrim baseball team knew it needed to win its last two games to have any chance at making the postseason. Last Sunday, the Pats knocked off Barrington to bring them one win away.
On Wednesday, they finished the job.
Behind five strong innings from left-hander Ryan Morris and an offense that churned out 12 hits, Pilgrim beat East Providence 11-1 by way of the 10-run rule and locked up a spot in the Division I playoffs.
The Pats finished the regular season as one of five teams in D-I with an 8-10 record, and they earned the No. 12 seed thanks to tiebreakers. They’ll open the postseason today on the road at 4 p.m. against No. 5 La Salle.
The Rams finished the regular season with a 13-5 mark.
“I think we knew it was on the line,” senior Branden Hoxsie said. “We had to win to give us a shot. I think it’s a good way to go into the playoffs.”
For a team that has struggled to hit most of the season, the Pats picked the perfect time to come alive at the plate.
Going against East Providence starter Scott Mello – considered one of the top pitchers in the state – Pilgrim started off well, but really broke through in the third.
After Mike Mallozzi brought home Hoxsie with a single in the first to give the Pats a 1-0 lead, they struck for six runs in the third to take a commanding 7-0 lead.
“We were worried,” Pilgrim head coach Ed Colvin said. “We knew they probably wouldn’t score a lot of runs against Morris, but we got some runs off of [Mello].”
Hoxsie led off the third with his second single of the game, but he was erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Colin Douglas. Mallozzi then smacked a triple to center field, plating Douglas for the game’s second run.
From there, the Pats kept adding. Mallozzi scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0, and Mark Lenz followed that up with a single. After Cole Furney walked, an infield error on a ball hit by Shawn Clayton brought two more runs home. Hoxsie then made it 7-0 with his third hit of the game, a single into left field.
“The urgency is there,” Hoxsie said. “We were put on the spot. We really haven’t been. It feels like we really want to win now. We realize that we have a shot.”
On the mound, Morris made the lead stand up. He struck out six batters on the day and allowed just four hits.
The Townies’ only run came in the fourth inning, when Alex Hurley doubled and came around on a single by Colin Costa. But Morris buckled down, striking out Jasiah Hatch to strand Costa at first and get out of the inning.
“I’ll take our pitchers against anyone,” Colvin said.
Pilgrim added to its 7-1 lead in the fourth, as Mallozzi scored on a single by Kevin Conway to make it 8-1. An RBI groundout later in the inning from Lenz made it 9-1.
In the fifth, needing two runs to end the game against East Providence reliever Sean Geiger, the Pats opened the inning with consecutive doubles from Nick McGuirl and Hoxsie, followed by singles from Douglas and Mallozzi to finish the job.
“The pitching has always been there,” Colvin said. “Now, the last two games, the hitting has come along. The guys that I thought would hit now are finally hitting.”
Hoxsie and Mallozzi led the way at the plate, as Hoxsie went 4-for-4 with a double and three RBI, while Mallozzi went 3-for-3 with a triple, a walk and three RBI as well.
Lenz added a hit, as did Conway, McGuirl and Douglas.
Now, the Pats will try to get it done against better competition. While East Providence missed the playoffs and finished the year at 5-13, La Salle has been one of the top teams in the state all season. The Rams beat Pilgrim 14-4 back on April 24 in the only meeting this season between the two teams.
Besides La Salle and Pilgrim, No. 4 South Kingstown and No. 13 Warwick Vets are the two other teams in region two, which is one of four double-elimination regions that will determine who makes the state’s final four.
“If we can have good patience at the plate and swing the bats, we can give these teams a game,” Colvin said.