After two consecutive wins in the District 3 tournament, the magic ran out for the Warwick West Side 12-year-old all-star team on Sunday night, but just barely.
West Side battled back from a 3-1 deficit thanks to solo home runs by Mike Hampson and Dan Cavanagh in the fifth inning, tying the score with Coventry National at three apiece.
The deadlock was short-lived, though, as Coventry grabbed a run in the bottom of the fifth, then stranded a West Side runner on second base in the top of the sixth to finish off a 4-3 victory.
With the loss, West Side was eliminated from the tournament. It went 2-2 overall, finishing as one of the final eight teams in play and the last Warwick team standing. Coventry moved on to play East Greenwich in the loser’s bracket semifinals on Monday, with the results unavailable at press time.
“We made some spectacular plays in the field,” West Side manager Mike Pariseau said. “They hit two home runs, we came right back and hit two home runs of our own. We just came up a run short, which is unfortunate, but that’s how the game is played.”
Blake Roberge was strong on the mound for West Side, allowing just five hits and four runs – three earned – in five innings of work. He struck out eight batters and walked three.
Through the first three innings, he allowed just two hits. Unfortunately for West Side, they were both home runs, putting Coventry out in front.
First, Jake Organ led off the bottom of the first with a long home run to center field. In the third, Roberge walked Loren Vaughn to open the frame, and then surrendered a two-out, two-run home run to Griffin Pilla. That shot put Coventry up 3-1.
“Blake did a fantastic job today,” Pariseau said. “He’s got a nice fastball, he can locate it. He’s got some nice off-speed stuff to go with it. I thought he pitched a great game. He gave up a couple home runs, but that’s going to happen when you get later on in the tournament.”
West Side came out with a patient approach at the plate in the top of the first, driving Coventry starter Troy Osterhout from the game after just four batters thanks to two walks. Nick Laramee, the fifth hitter of the game, greeted Pilla, the new pitcher, with an RBI double to right for the game’s first run.
However, West Side eventually left the bases loaded, missing a valuable opportunity to jump out to a big lead. That was in part due to the pitching of Pilla, who ended up going the rest of the game while allowing just four total hits. He struck out six men, including the final two in the top of the sixth.
“He was very accurate,” Pariseau said of Pilla. “He was all around the plate, he hit a lot of corners. He was good. He did a very nice job and he threw with some velocity.”
West Side went into the fifth inning trailing by that 3-1 deficit, and it was struggling at the plate. Pilla had retired 10 of the previous 11 batters he faced, surrendering just a walk during that span. He had allowed only one hit.
But West Side didn’t throw in the towel. After the first batter was retired, Hampson stepped up to the plate and hit an opposite-field home run to left-center, cutting the score to 3-2.
Pilla got the second out of the inning, but Cavanagh hit the first pitch he saw out to right field to knot the score at three.
“We had a little huddle in the dugout when we were down 3-1 and you could just see in their faces that they weren’t done yet,” Pariseau said. “To come out and hit two home runs like that was in their nature, it’s in their personality. I wasn’t really surprised.”
Yet, in the bottom of the fifth, Coventry took the lead right back. An infield error put Organ at first, and a bunt single by Cam Toussaint gave Coventry two runners on with no outs.
Roberge retired the next batter, but Osterhout followed with a hard single to center, plating the go-ahead run. Toussaint was out at third on the play, and Roberge struck out the next man to retire the side, but West Side was still down to its final three outs.
It didn’t quit. Laramee led off with an infield single and Will Martino laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Laramee to second.
But that was as far as he would get. Pilla reared back and struck out Adrian Pierce and Nick Jaggi to end the game and West Side’s run.
“Down 3-1, they came out and they were ready to go,” Pariseau said. “They were confident they were going to tie it. They thought for sure we’d get a run to make it 4-4 in the top of the sixth. But we just fell a little bit short.”
Still, it was an impressive run. West Side earned big victories over Warwick Continental and South Kingstown National, and was on the verge of picking up another victory on Sunday.
It wasn’t to be, but everyone’s heads were still held plenty high.
“I told them at the end, they were just a pleasure to coach,” Pariseau said. “Every day at practice they showed up and they would joke around, be teammates, and then they would step on the field to do groundballs, to do our situations and it was all business. They picked each other up, they were very positive.”