After its dramatic win on Friday night, the Senerchia Post 74 American Legion team had a fairytale finish already mapped out for the following day.
But instead of carrying momentum into Saturday, Senerchia dealt with the hangover of its 11-inning, four-hour-plus win. Looking sloppier than it had all tournament, Senerchia saw its run come to an end with a 5-3 loss to Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 in the state semifinals.
Gershkoff went on to lose to Navigant Credit Union-Woonsocket Post 85 in the championship later that day.
And Senerchia was left with a third-place finish. It got close to the title once again – it was the runner-up last year – yet couldn’t get all the way through the long week.
“Overall, we had a good run,” Senerchia manager Chris Sheehan said. “Yesterday’s game really takes a lot of energy out of you. It’s tough to bounce back. But I’m proud of our guys – we had a good season, a good run.”
In the double elimination tournament, Senerchia went behind the 8-ball immediately with a loss in its first game. From there, every game was a must-win, and Senerchia managed to win three in a row, culminating in a 14-13 marathon win on Friday over Upper Deck Post 86/14.
The win made Senerchia believe that it could finish the job, but Gershkoff ended the dream.
“Not quite the storybook ending we were looking for, but you tip your cap to them,” Sheehan said. “We beat them three times in the regular season, 10-runned them twice. They’re a resilient bunch. They really have played well these playoffs.”
Short on pitching, Senerchia threw Anthony Graziano to start the game, but he lasted only 3.1 innings, allowing three earned runs. Anthony Cofone came in with two runners on in the fourth and they both scored, putting Gershkoff ahead 5-1 at the time.
Cofone settled in from there and pitched nearly perfect baseball the rest of the way, but Senerchia’s bats went cold at the worst possible time.
Senerchia scored a run in the first against Gershkoff starter Ryan Faria, as a sacrifice fly by Gian Martellini scored Rob Henry, but it didn’t score again until the fifth inning.
It had a runner picked off in the third and left two baserunners in the same inning, and it stranded two more in the fourth. In the fifth, it picked up its second run on an RBI single by Nick Boland to get back to 5-2, but still left two other runners on base.
“We didn’t hit great today,” Sheehan said. “Some of our guys didn’t hit when we really needed to. It just wasn’t our day.”
Cofone kept Senerchia in the game with his shutdown effort, but Gershkoff brought in Rich Reo out of the bullpen in the sixth, and he essentially shut the door.
In the teams’ three meetings this year, Senerchia hadn’t faced Reo once.
“We knew he was good,” Sheehan said.
Reo allowed an unearned run in the sixth when Sam Boulanger walked, went to third on a Reo error and then scored on a passed ball, but he didn’t allow anything beyond that.
Senerchia put one runner on in the seventh courtesy of a walk, and put a runner on in the eighth due to an error, but never really threatened. In the ninth, Mike King singled with two outs, but Martellini popped out to end the game.
Overall, Senerchia had just six hits, and none of them were consecutive. Defensively, it committed two errors and allowed two unearned runs.
“We had a couple tough plays that really gave them runs,” Sheehan said.
Gershkoff’s first run came in the top of the first when Peter Esposito walked, stole second and scored on a single by Joe Nicolace. That made the score 1-0 before Senerchia tied it in the bottom half.
In the third, Esposito walked, stole second and scored two batters later on a single by Frank Pettinato. The following inning, Matt Corey walked to start the frame and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Singles by Mike Castillo and Esposito scored Corey, and a single by Tyler Donahay brought home Gershkoff’s fourth run. Its fifth run scored on an outfield error.
“We just didn’t finish right, like last year,” Sheehan said.
Cofone was the silver lining for Senerchia, as he pitched 5.2 innings, allowing just four hits and no runs. He walked only one.
“Awesome job by him today coming in and keeping us in the game,” Sheehan said. “He threw awesome. If we had gone into extra innings, he was going back out there.”
And there’s also some solace in Senerchia’s youth. It was the only team in the state without any college players on its roster, something it may seek to change going forward.
“We have a young team,” Sheehan said. “We don’t have one college player on our team. That’s really something that I want to change next year. I want to bring back a couple of these guys and really give us a good shot to win it all.”
If the past two years have shown Senerchia anything, it’s that they’re right on the brink.
“Overall, very pleased with the summer,” Sheehan said. “A lot of guys really got better as players. We came together as a team, had a lot of fun. It was a pleasure coaching all of them.”