Wickford tops Continental for title

Crown is second in last three years for Wickford


Each team played three games, but it really took only one inning to decide the 28th annual Red Andrews Tournament.

With Warwick Continental and Wickford as the clear-cut best teams, the championship game was competitive all the way through – except for the third. That’s when Wickford scored six times, as it sent 10 men to the plate, banged out five hits and capitalized on three Continental errors. Continental couldn’t recover, falling 7-2 and settling for second-place in the tournament.

Wickford won the title for the second time in three years and the fifth time in 12 years.

“That one inning just had too many mental errors and it cost us the game,” Continental manager Carl Gothberg said.

Early on, the game had all the makings of a pitcher’s duel. Continental’s Matt Dapari and Wickford’s Jordan Benzoni each looked sharp, as Dapari kept Wickford off the board for the first two innings, and Benzoni allowed just one hit – a leadoff single by Ryan Clary – and one run, on a sacrifice fly by Mike Negri.

But the duel took a turn in the third. After Wickford stranded four runners in the first two innings, without a run, it finally broke out.

Patrick Asher led off the inning with a dribbler towards second base that he beat out for an infield single, and Alex Swartz followed that with a single. Benzoni singled too, and a wild throw home allowed the tying run to score, making it 1-1.

Ben Haberman continued Wickford’s streak of singles, as he knocked one to center that scored two and gave Wickford the lead. In the span of four batters, Wickford had four singles and three runs.

“Wickford had a good team,” Gothberg said. “Can’t take anything away from them.”

Dylan Powers reached on an error, and Matt Paull brought home the fourth run of the inning on yet another infield single – the third of the inning. And another wild throw home, Continental’s third error of the frame, allowed Wickford’s fifth run to score.

That was it for Dapari, and Continental brought in Clary to pitch. But he faced only one batter, then got two pitches into the second hitter – and threw a wild pitch, allowing the sixth run to score – before exiting due to arm issues.

Gavin Hames took over on the mound and did the job, walking the first man, but coming back to get a strikeout and a double play to end the inning.

Still, the damage was done. Wickford led 6-1.

“They didn’t hit as well as they did the whole tournament,” Gothberg said. “That one inning where we had a few errors, that set us back.”

And Wickford’s pitching didn’t give an inch.

Benzoni set the side down in order in the third, including two strikeouts, and allowed only a single run in the fourth when Clary singled, took second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a groundout by Giovanni Zabata.

He ended up going four innings total, allowing just two runs on two hits while striking out four.

“We thought we could come back and make a game of it,” Gothberg said. “Their pitching shut us down.”

Benzoni was then replaced by Paull, who didn’t miss a beat. He walked the first batter – Hames – in the fifth, but then struck out the next guy and induced a six-three double play to end the inning.

Wickford scored its seventh run in the bottom of the fifth when Powers touched home on a wild pitch.

In the sixth, Dapari reached base on an error to open the frame, but Paull got two groundouts and a strikeout, giving Wickford a championship to celebrate.

Continental, playing in its last tournament of the summer, was presented the second-place trophy.

“I actually felt we had a very good chance of winning the whole thing,” Gothberg said. “The way we hit the ball during the whole tournament, the way we hit the ball in the St. Greg’s Tournament, I thought we had a great chance of doing it. But we couldn’t put the bat on the ball in the first three innings, and they could. That’s what cost us the game.”

All in all, though, Continental was satisfied. It won two games in the tournament, including one against a strong Chariho team, and came up just a little bit short of capturing a title.

“This is it for the boys,” Gothberg said. “Some of them, it’s going to be the last Little League game, maybe last baseball game they ever play. It’s nice coaching them.”


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