The New England Frozen Lemonade American Legion baseball team fell in three games to Woonsocket’s Navigant Post over the weekend in the opening round of the state playoffs.
The two clubs split the regular season series, but Navigant would get the job done as it took Game 1, 4-1, then Game 3, 4-3. NEFL grinded out a 1-0 win in Game 2.
“Woonsocket is a very good team, they hit the ball, they’ve got decent pitching, we just didn’t hit enough. They match up against us really well. We didn’t hit until Game 3, and when we started hitting our defense let us down. We just had to be sharper,” said NEFL manager Mike Fratus of the series.
Fratus also voiced his frustration regarding the field conditions at Warwick Vets prior to Game 2. When arriving to the school just a few hours prior to the opening pitch, Fratus encountered overgrown grass, as well as a choppy infield that had not been dragged or lined. Fratus, along with a handful of NEFL players, mowed, dragged, raked and lined the field in the hours leading up to the game.
“I was very disappointed with how the field looked at Vets, I had to mow the field myself. The grass was long and if you hit a ground ball it wouldn’t have gone past the pitcher’s mound. There was grass on the mound and at home plate, the field was never turned over even though I was told that it was going to be. It’s unfortunate, the school department is supposed to take care of this, you’re told one thing and then it turns out to be another,” said Fratus.
Fratus also believed that the work that the team put in to maintaining the field may have also affected its performance as well.
“I was there at 1 o’clock for a 5:30 game mowing, raking, dragging the field, the kids came down and helped and by the time the game rolled around, they were too tired to hit. I’m not trying to make excuses, (Navigant) is a great team, but this is why we try not to play any of our home games in Warwick, this is exactly why,” said Fratus. “The Woonsocket coach said, ‘I thought we had it bad.’ It just shows that no one cares to take care of it. To not have a home field, it’s embarrassing. The kids deserve to play on a field that’s nice.”
Despite the early playoff exit, Fratus was proud of his team’s development this season, and is optimistic looking toward the 2020 summer.
“We’ve got a good, young core coming back. We saw a lot of things that we liked, a few things we need to work on, but we’ll be competitive next year. We have a lot of fun and that’s what summer baseball is all about. These kids just love playing the game and competing,” said Fratus.
Fratus also appreciates the work that his veterans put in during their time with the team as well as helping turn the program around. After missing the postseason and having multiple down years, NEFL qualified for the playoffs last season and reached the semifinals and followed it up with another playoff appearance this season.
“They meant everything to the program, we have a lot of good players leaving. Players like Matt Martinez who pitched great (in the championship), we have other kids leaving that have been a big part of the team and it’s sad to see them go,” said Fratus. “It’s the nature of the league, and we have a lot of kids that want to come back and help. We want to continue to build that culture.”
Blake Roberge led NEFL at the plate, finishing the season with a .370 average and 16 RBI. AJ Ucci also had a strong campaign at the dish, finishing with a .459 average. Andrew Merryfield also finished with a .326 average while Jeremiah Mullane knocked in 12 RBI.
Roberge led NEFL on the mound, finishing the year with a 5-1 record and a 0.53 ERA. The club finished with an ERA of just 2.04.