Tuesday’s game was better for Toll Gate than its first meeting with Barrington, when the Eagles won 12-0.
But that didn’t make the result any less frustrating.
The Titans got a strong pitching performance from Junior Rivas and didn’t make an error behind him, but they managed just an unearned run on four hits and lost 2-1. Dan O’Brien tossed a complete-game to get the win for the Eagles.
While Toll Gate has already clinched a playoff spot with an 8-8 record, the loss still stung.
“Frustrating,” said head coach Dave Hagopian. “We wasted a great pitching performance by Junior. We wasted it. We just couldn’t get the hit with guys in scoring position.”
The win put Barrington into a tie with Toll Gate for fifth place in Division I-South. With teams jockeying for position in the playoff picture, the Titans have dropped two of three. They lost 7-0 to North Kingstown last Friday before breaking out for a 10-2 victory over Portsmouth on Saturday.
On Tuesday, though, they were shut down again, continuing their up-and-down trend. The Titans have had trouble stringing together wins – their longest streak was three games and it ended with a thud in an 18-1 loss to East Greenwich on May 10. But they’ve also proven they can compete with anybody – they were within a run of East Greenwich in an earlier meeting and also lost to South Kingstown by a run.
Tuesday, they looked poised to get the upper hand on Barrington when they put five men on base in the first two innings and watched Rivas dominate.
But it was all for naught. The Eagles got to Rivas for two runs in the fifth inning and a seventh-inning rally by the Titans never gathered enough steam.
In all, the Titans stranded seven runners.
“Just missed opportunities offensively,” Hagopian said. “It’s not like we didn’t have base runners.”
Ben Mann led off the game with a base hit and Zach Bacon followed with a walk. Mann, though, was caught stealing at third base before a single by Rivas. O’Brien then stranded both Bacon and Rivas.
In the second, Alex Lefebvre reached on an error with one out and Ryan Charette lined a single into right, but O’Brien got two quick pop-outs to end the inning.
The way Rivas was pitching, it didn’t look like the early missed opportunities would hurt too much. He needed just four pitches for a scoreless first inning and worked around two singles to put up a zero in the second. He retired the side in order in the third, and pitched around a leadoff single in the fourth for another scoreless frame.
Rivas finished with four strikeouts. He scattered seven hits.
“Junior was excellent,” Hagopian said. “He did a great job. We couldn’t ask for more from him.”
The Eagles got to him in the fifth. David Burbine led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. A base hit by Brett Fay put two on, and Fay stole second to put runners on second and third. With the infield in, Matthew Ferdenzi lined a single through the right side to score Burbine. Fay was cut down at the plate on a great throw by James Meizoso and a diving tag by Mann, but the Eagles weren’t done. Rivas walked the next two batters to load the bases, and Ferdenzi raced home on a wild pitch.
The two runs proved to be enough.
The Titans had stranded a runner on third in both the fourth and fifth innings. In the sixth, Joe Martinez walked but didn’t make it past first base.
Toll Gate got new life in the seventh when Charette reached second on a throwing error. He took third on a wild pitch and then raced home on another, making it 2-1.
But the rally never got going. O’Brien struck out Dave Babcock looking on a pitch on the outside corner. He went to a full count on Mann but induced a groundout, then got Bacon to pop into the final out.
“Pitching was great, defense was great,” Hagopian said. “It’s just too bad we couldn’t get some hits for him. You’ve got to give their pitcher credit too. He did a good job. He kept us off-balance. We tried to work the count. He was throwing strikes. You just wish the results were different.”
The Titans will try to regroup for their final two games. They’ll host 12-4 South Kingstown today at 4 p.m. before closing out the season on Saturday at 7 p.m. with a game against Pilgrim at Mickey Stevens.
“The focus is on SK Thursday,” Hagopian said. “We’ve got to win that game before we win the next game. We’re not even thinking about the playoffs right now.”