Warwick American earned a trip to the Red Andrews Tournament championship game when it broke open a close game to beat Warwick National in the semifinals.
Unfortunately for American, Wickford was the one breaking things open in Saturday’s title game.
American fell behind early, and though it cut into the lead in the third inning, Wickford kept on rolling and used one last big inning to run away with a 27-6 victory. The championship is Wickford’s first in the Red Andrews Tournament since 2004.
“Just a bad night for us,” said Warwick American manager Mike Cook. “It happens – it’s Little League. But you know what? We made it to the championship, so we did something right. Wickford is a real good team and they played a great game.”
A Warwick team had won the Red Andrews Tournament every year since 2006, when North Kingstown won. American was hoping to keep that streak alive after beating West Side and National.
Instead, American found itself in a deep hole against an experienced Wickford squad.
Wickford’s Zach Johnson and Billy McNeil both legged out infield hits to open the first inning. From that innocent start, Wickford was off and running. Zach Lapointe walked to load the bases and Zach Moniz cleared them with a double to deep left-center. Ben Schapira and Jason Flanagan knocked in runs later in the inning as Wickford raced to the 5-0 lead.
“Staying focused has always been the key for us,” said Wickford manager Mark Zingarelli. “I always tell the kids 85 percent of the game is mental, and when they’re not focused, they make mistakes. The first game we played was a close game and we struck out 13 times. We were lucky we won. After that, strikeouts went down and we stayed focused the rest of the way.”
American got a rally of its own going in the bottom of the first when leadoff man Mike Sollenberger looped a single into left. Sean Blackmar followed with a ground ball back to the pitcher and the throw to first sailed into right field. Sollenberger tried scoring on the play but was thrown out at home.
Still, American put a run on the board when Blackmar came home on a base hit by Ryan Costa.
At that point, Johnson, the Wickford starter, settled in. He struck out the next two batters to end the inning, and then worked out of a bases-loaded jam to post a scoreless second.
Meanwhile, Wickford kept adding to its lead. A two-run double by Lapointe keyed a three-run rally in the second inning. In the third, Wickford added five more runs, with McNeil and Lapointe driving in two apiece.
Now facing a 13-1 deficit, American made its best run of the day in the bottom of the third. Blackmar walked and Costa singled to start the frame. Mike Angell followed with an RBI single, Meagan Ursini walked and Jake Brodeur reached on a fielder’s choice when Costa beat the throw to home on a ground ball to the pitcher.
Zyahna Bernard then drew bases-loaded walk and Shaun Bibby knocked in a run with a single to right, making it 13-5.
With the bases loaded, though, Wickford found a way out for the second straight inning. Schapira came on in relief and struck out two to end the inning.
After American pitcher Jake Langevin worked a scoreless fourth with two strikeouts, American again tried to get something going. Blackmar singled to start the fourth and Costa walked. Angell followed with a hard line drive to first, but Jacob Easter squeezed it for the first out. Ursini got a run home when she reached on a fielder’s choice, but Wickford got out of the inning without further damage.
In the fifth, American’s comeback trail got a whole lot tougher. Wickford sent 20 batters to the plate in the top of the fifth and put 14 more runs on the board. Brady Richter led the charge with a three-run double, while Mike Moan, Johnson and McNeil all had RBI triples. Lapointe, Moniz and Joe Zingarelli also had RBI.
Facing the big deficit, American got a double from Langevin to start the sixth but couldn’t get anything else going. Wickford celebrated the championship.
“It’s nice to win but it’s more about having a good time,” Mark Zingarelli said. “We keep telling the kids like that. For a lot of them, this is their last year in Little League, so it was a good experience for them.”
And even though it ended with a loss, it was a good experience for American, too.
“It was a real good run,” Cook said. “I don’t think anybody thought us to make the championship, so we we’re happy with that. I wish we could have played a better game at the end, but what are you going to do?”