Warwick PAL made a surprising run in the Connie Mack playoffs last summer, with a young team hitting its stride when it mattered most. This season, many of the same players are back as veterans.
And playoff success won’t be a surprise.
After posting the best record in its division, Warwick opened the postseason with a 6-1 victory Sunday in game one of its best-of-three first round series with Providence. Game two was scheduled for Monday, with results unavailable at press time.
Warwick is hoping Sunday was the beginning of something big.
“That was a great way to come out,” manager Pete Palermo said of Sunday’s game. “The team has really played well this year. We had a great regular season. We went 11-4 and the games we lost, two of them were close. We were in every game except for two. We have a nice group of kids and good chemistry.”
And on Sunday, Warwick had lights-out pitching. Bobby Lineberger struck out 14 and gave up just an unearned run in 6.1 innings. After Providence loaded the bases in the seventh thanks to two hits and an error, Mike Broccoli relieved Lineberger and escaped the jam to finish off the victory.
Lineberger’s performance was exactly what Warwick was looking for from its veteran ace, a 2013 graduate of Bishop Hendricken.
“He was really mixing it up and he was confident throwing different pitches than what you expect in certain counts,” Palermo said. “He really did a good job.”
After Lineberger struck out the side in the first inning, Providence actually scratched out a run in the second. Zach Odsen singled and took second when the ball was misplayed in the outfield. He then took third on a passed ball and when the throw to third skipped into the outfield, he raced home.
But Providence’s lead didn’t last for long. Lineberger struck out two more in the second and struck out the side around a walk and an error in the third.
Warwick finally got its bats going after that. Four walks and an error in the bottom of the third sent two runs home, before an RBI single by Bryant Palermo made it 3-1. Odsen, Providence’s starter, rebounded with a one-two-three fourth inning, but Warwick came to life again in the fifth. Evan Broccoli drew a leadoff walk and Brandon Paiva legged out a bunt single. After Odsen came back with two strikeouts, he walked a batter to keep the inning alive. Palermo, who was already 2-for-2, battled back from an 0-2 count for another base hit, this one scoring two. Another run scored on a passed ball as Warwick opened up the 6-1 lead.
“We seem to hit better when we face better pitching,” Pete Palermo said. “If we’re facing a guy who doesn’t throw as well, we’ll struggle. We’ll pop it up, try to kill it, get overconfident. Their pitcher threw well and we did a good job against him.”
The five-run cushion was plenty for Warwick’s pitching. Fourteen of the 19 outs Lineberger recorded came via the strikeout. When Providence threatened in the seventh, Broccoli got a pop-out and a ground ball to third to end the game.
“A couple of games at the end, we had guys on vacation and we ended up with a couple of slow starts,” Palermo said. “We wanted to get some consistency and try to jump out early. We did a pretty good job today.”
If a game three is necessary in the series, it would be played today. The second round of the playoffs would begin on Thursday.