Summer play in the Rhode Island American Legion Baseball League continued Monday evening with the only undefeated teams in the state squaring off at Ray Pepin Field. Senerchia Post 74 broke a 1-1 deadlock with three runs in the sixth inning to beat Cranston’s Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 4-1.
Senerchia moved to 9-0 while Gershkoff took its first loss and is now 6-1.
Senerchia got a late start to the season thanks to Hendricken’s run in the RIIL playoffs, but the team has wasted no time surging to the top of the league.
“It’s great honestly; we’re here to win,” manager Chris Sheehan said. “I still think that our best games are ahead of us. Our hitting just needs to improve but I think we’re going to keep getting better and better.”
Both teams decided to go with their aces, and the first few innings of action could be described as a pitcher’s duel. Anthony Cofone retired the first five batters he faced for Senerchia. Gershkoff starter Kemi Idowu was just as sharp. He cruised through first few innings only giving up one unearned run on an error made by his third basemen.
Senerchia threatened to score first in the bottom of the third, when it attempted a suicide squeeze play with runners on second and third and no one out. Both runners took off but Nick Boland put just a little too much on the bunt. The ball popped up to Idowu, who caught it and threw out the runner at third for an inning-ending double play.
The game remained close as Senerchia took a one-run lead into the top of the sixth inning. Gershkoff got the inning started with a single by Matt Corey, who hit a hard line drive right up the middle. The next batter, Matt Lonardo, placed a perfectly timed sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second. Harold Corniel continued the rally by hustling down the line on an infield hit to get the single and to move Corey to third base as the game-tying run.
Frank Pettinato followed with a deep fly ball to right field and that was enough to get the run in from third and tie the game. Before the team could do any more damage in the inning, though, Corniel was caught stealing trying to take second.
In the bottom of the sixth, Idowu struck out the first batter but Ron Henry worked a walk and stole second base. This time Boland came through with a runner in scoring position. He hit a slow roller and beat the throw to first. Henry made an aggressive move on the bases, scoring all the way from second on the play.
Senerchia continued the rally when Ed Markowski launched a ball deep into the center right field gap for a double. With runners on second and third, Dante Baldelli came through with a clutch hit of his own, ripping a single past the shortstop that allowed both runners to score and gave Senerchia Post a 4-1 lead. Gershkoff stopped the bleeding there as Andrew Ciacciarelli hit into a double play that ended the inning.
In the top of the seventh inning Senerchia brought in relief pitcher Joe Maynard to close out the game, ending the night for Cofone. Over six innings, the Cranston native struck out six batters while only giving up one run on three hits.
“This was a big game for him actually because he knows a lot of the Cranston kids on that team,” Sheehan said. “He’s actually become known as a big game pitcher, he’s got a lot of guts and he went out there and did a great job for us today by keeping us in the game.”
Maynard recorded two quick outs on a strikeout and line drive but Gershkoff battled. Maynard gave up a single and then back-to-back walks, which left the bases loaded for Corey. Sheehan decided to bring in another reliever, Matt Kennedy, who was able to record the save by getting Corey to hit a slow roller right back to him.
“I thought since both teams were undefeated that we might have been a little more intense out there,” Sheehan said. “That being said a win is a win, especially against a good team like this. You know they’re going to be tough; their lineup, pitching and defense is all good and we know they’re going to be challenging come playoff time.”
Gershkoff had won six straight to start the season, including a 10-0 victory over Hurd Auto Mall in their previous game on Friday. The loss didn’t put too much of a damper on what’s been a big start.
“Any loss is a tough loss,” said Gershkoff manager Dave Schiappa. “We came into the game today without three of our hitters that would normally be in the lineup. So I felt this team played excellent given the situation.”
Senerchia will try to keep its perfect season going Thursday when it visits Team Stores USA Post 22 at Lischio Field in North Kingstown.
Gershkoff was scheduled to play a doubleheader against West Warwick Post Two on Tuesday, with results unavailable at press time. Gershkoff also has doubleheaders Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.