After a strong season last year that saw the Warwick Connie Mack team claim the top seed in the state before being upset in the quarterfinals, Barry Lama’s team has reloaded and has its sights set on the top once more.
Warwick, which is now officially sponsored by Lama & Sons, is already 1-0 on the young season after a 7-6 comeback victory over Providence on Saturday.
One game in, Lama’s hopes are high, but he’s only cautiously optimistic for how it could all play out. Talent isn’t a problem. The issue might center on who is there on any given day.
With a number of the 17 team members playing on separate travel teams, it’s going to be a struggle to have everybody in the dugout for all the games. Against Providence, for instance, only nine players were there.
“Getting them there every game is probably not going to happen,” Lama, the team’s manager, said. “But when they’re there we should be strong.”
One constant should be catcher Jonathan Salcedo, the Central standout who will be attending the University of Maine next season.
A member of the team last year, Salcedo provides stability behind the plate and a presence in the middle of the lineup.
“He controls the game just by being behind the plate,” Lama said.
Another returner is Randy Garcia, who played his high school baseball at Juanita Sanchez. Garcia will play every day when he’s there, and he headlines a pitching staff that figures to be very deep.
Lama was excited about his pitching last year. This year, he thinks it’s even better.
“We’ve got even more pitching this year,” Lama said on Wednesday. “I’m going through tonight, I’ll probably use four pitchers in seven innings.”
Besides Garcia, Warwick will regularly use Wally Luna, Diego Campos and Ed Suero, all of whom are from Providence. Campos and Suero will also play in the field when they’re not pitching.
The same can be said for Cranston’s Alec Chavez and Michael Evans, two other pitchers who will also play other positions when they’re not on the mound.
“They’re not strictly pitchers,” Lama said. “They’re pitchers-plus. All these guys are athletes.
The team also has some homegrown talent, as brothers Ben and R.J. Mann – who played at Toll Gate – are big parts of the squad, as are former Pilgrim players Evan Joyal and Corey Martin.
Also playing is third baseman Tim Warner, outfielder Nick Mongeau, St. Ray’s second baseman Julian Diaz – who can also play shortstop and pitch – and Justin Dure and Chris Almonte, both from Providence.
That gives Lama plenty of candidates for playing time. He’s just still trying to determine who is going to play where, and what the lineup is going to look like with the revolving door of players for each game.
“I’ve never been this deep,” Lama said. “The problem for me is what kids we can get every day. There are going to be some days when they’re all playing in different spots.”
All that said, Warwick still might have enough talent – even when shorthanded – to come out on the winning end. In that first game against Providence, Warwick was down 6-1 before coming all the way back – including scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth – to win 7-6.
“That was a dramatic way to start the year,” Lama said.
Now, Warwick will have to see if it can keep it up. A year ago, Warwick made it all the way to the finals of the district tournament, before it lost to Waltham. Then, it bowed out in the state tournament as well.
The goal this season, as usual, is to qualify for districts, and also make some noise on the state scene.
“Getting into that tournament is big,” Lama said. “This year, can we get enough guys there? We’ve got 17 on the team, but it’s getting them all there. If they’re all there, we should be strong.”
Warwick’s second game of the season was scheduled for Wednesday against Pawtucket, with the results unavailable at press time. After that, the team will play on Saturday at Mickey Stevens against Flood Auto at 10 a.m., and then travel to East Providence for a 5:30 p.m. game on Monday.