Wednesday’s game with Classical didn’t go according to script for the Warwick Vets baseball team, but thanks to the way the ’Canes played in their first two playoff games, they have a built-in contingency plan.
By virtue of coming out of the winner’s bracket in Division II’s Region 4, Vets had to lose twice to get eliminated, and it needs only one win to advance to the Final Four.
Now, the ’Canes can’t afford another loss, but at least they’ll play another day.
Behind senior lefthander Griffin Clark, Classical beat Vets 9-2, setting up a winner-take-all game today at Davis Park at 4 p.m.
“I just told them, ‘This is the one positive of being in the winner’s bracket,’” said Vets head coach Nolan Landy. “‘You get another life. Let it sit tonight, let it fester. Go to bed, clear you head, come here tomorrow ready to go.’”
Fifth-seeded Vets had defeated No. 4 Classical 7-2 on Saturday to put itself one game from the semifinals, and the Purple knocked off Tolman 3-2 in nine innings on Monday to set up the rematch.
The ’Canes simply made too many mistakes on Wednesday. They committed three errors in the field and had two others that were ruled hits but could have gone either way. Meanwhile, with the bats, the ’Canes had just one hit through the first four innings and finished the day with six – three of which came in a meaningless bottom of the seventh in which the team already trailed by seven runs.
Clark struck out six Vets batters and walked three on his way to the complete-game victory. Starting with the final out of the first inning, he retired 10 batters in a row, and didn’t give up a run until his team was already up 6-0 in the fifth inning.
“He throws his off-speed pitch for strikes,” Landy said of Clark. “He threw a good game. We had only hit off him until the fifth inning. It’s hard to win that way.”
Vets’ ace Dan Greaves was pitching against Classical for the fourth time this season, and he worked around singles in each of the first two innings before giving up a pair of runs in the second and another in the third. He was charged with three more runs in the sixth – as reliever Austin Lamaire came in with the bases loaded and allowed all three runners to score – but those runs were unearned.
“He was up a little bit,” Landy said of Greaves. “This is the fourth time he’s pitched against them. They kind of know him a little bit. Again, it’s tough to pitch when you give them extra outs.”
Classical struck in the third thanks to an infield single by Noah Kim – that could have been an error – and a double two batters later by Dennys Fernandez. Tim Shea brought in Fernandez with a single to right.
“The kid pitched a good game and we didn’t field the baseball,” Landy said. “I’ve been preaching it all year long – you can’t give them extra outs. We gave them at least five, in my opinion.”
The Purple added a third run in the fourth when Dan Polanco walked with two outs and then scored on a double to the right-centerfield gap by Kim.
In the fifth, it came unraveled even more for the ’Canes. Fernandez reached on error to start the inning and Jeremy Pena followed with a single. Greaves struck out Shea, but he walked Tim Lombardi to load the bases.
At that point, Landy called on Lamaire, and he retired the first batter on a pop-up to center field, putting Vets within an out of escaping the inning unscathed. Instead, Lamaire walked Zack Odsen to force in a run and then gave up a two-run double to Polanco to make it 6-0.
“When you get guys running around and they hit balls in gaps, they score a lot,” Landy said.
The ’Canes finally got on the board against Clark in the fifth. Lamaire led off with a triple and scored on a groundout by Tyler DePetrillo. Jeremy Morrissette came up next and laced a ball down the right-field line that just kept rolling, allowing Morrissette to round the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
That made it 6-2 and gave Vets a slimmer of hope.
It didn’t last long. With new pitcher Adam Dorsey on the mound for Vets in the sixth, Classical scored three more times to put the game on ice. Aljenis Candelier had a triple and scored on a double by Fernandez. Fernandez later scored on a sacrifice fly from Lombardi, and the Purple’s ninth run of the night scored on a double by Clark.
Vets put two runners on with two outs in the sixth but could get nothing against Clark, and then the first two men singled in the seventh before Clark eventually left the bases loaded, ending the game.
It’s no surprise that the two teams will play one more game to decide which one advances. Playing in the same subdivision this season, they each went 12-4 and have now beaten each other twice apiece.
One game will separate them. Vets has Shane Kittila and Lamaire – who threw only 12 pitches – ready to go on the mound.
“We’ll come back and get them tomorrow,” Landy said. ‘That’s all we can do.”