The Warwick Vets baseball team is in the thick of the Division II playoff chase, and any win over a fellow contender is crucial.
So is a loss.
The Hurricanes welcomed 6-7 Classical to town on Monday, with a chance to move two games ahead of the Purple. Instead, they lost 4-3 in nine innings to fall to 7-6.
It was Vets’ second one-run loss to Classical this season.
“You’ve got to beat the teams behind you,” said Vets head coach Nolan Landy. “You don’t beat the teams behind you, they creep up on you quick and that’s what happened today.”
The ’Canes had won two straight coming in, including a 10-0 victory over Davies. Monday, they scored two runs in the first inning but missed a chance to blow the game open when they left the bases loaded.
It was a sign of things to come. All game, the ’Canes couldn’t get a big hit. Classical took advantage, getting some key hits of its own and capitalizing on some Vets miscues to tie the game and eventually win it.
“Same kind of game as the last time we played them,” Landy said. “The bottom line, like I told them, is we battled at the end but we kind of cost ourselves early on with defense. We paid the price.”
Vets took the early lead thanks to a two-run single by Pat Delsanto in the first, but Classical starter Dan Polanco wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Tyler DePetrillo to line out.
The Purple made it 2-1 in the second when Tim Lombardi doubled and scored on an error. In the fourth, Classical tied it on a two-out RBI single by Dennis Fernandes that just skipped through the middle of the infield
“We made a couple of key mistakes,” Landy said. “Error leads to a run. Not knocking balls down. Those are big plays.”
Vets starter Danny Greaves kept Classical off the scoreboard in the fifth, but the Purple broke through in the sixth. Lombardi walked and moved to second when Steven Denis couldn’t come up with a pickoff throw by Greaves. A base hit put runners on first and third and chased Greaves.
Shane Kittila took the mound and immediately got a ground ball to first base. Greaves, now at first, fielded it and stepped in first. With Lombardi, the runner on third, watching, Greaves threw to second for a double play, but Lombardi raced home with the go-ahead run.
“The play at first base – that was a good play, but the play in that situation is to make sure the guy at third doesn’t go,” Landy said. “Plays like that hurt us.”
Down to their last at-bat in the seventh, the ’Canes drew a pair of walks off reliever Zach Rosen. A wild pitch moved both runners up, and Adam Dorsey brought Andrew Morrissette home with the tying run on a sacrifice fly.
Even then, though, the ’Canes didn’t fully capitalize. Kyle Waters also tried tagging on the play and was thrown out at third. Greaves then reached on an error that would have scored Waters had he remained at second.
“Mentally, we kind of beat ourselves today,” Landy said. “It was many different games in one. The mental part let us down today.”
In extras, Vets had a shot to walk-off with a win, when Morrissette lined a single into left with DePetrillo on second. Landy waved DePetrillo but Fernandes came up firing and got him at the plate by a full 10 feet.
“There’s no way I’m going to stop him on that one,” Landy said. “If they come up with it clean and throw him out, you tip your hat. At that point in the game, with as many subs as we had in, I’ve got to risk it. Yeah, he got thrown out by quite a bit, but I’d do it again every time.”
Classical then took the lead in the ninth on an RBI single by Jeremy Pena. Vets tried one last rally when Cameron Chadwick singled with two outs and Tyler Oliveira was hit by a pitch, but the ’Canes couldn’t get the big hit. Delsanto hit a chopped to shortstop. Pena ranged to his right and threw to third for a game-ending force-out.
“That’s kind of the story of the season – we’re struggling to get timely hitting,” Landy said. “It’s been a little better, but we just haven’t been able to take advantage.”
The result on Monday was a tough loss. Greaves and Kittila combined to allow just one earned run, but Vets had only five hits.
At 7-6 entering Wednesday’s game against Juanita Sanchez, Vets had the 14th-best record in Division II. The top 16 teams make the playoffs.
“We need wins,” Landy said. “We have Juanita, Mount Pleasant and Central – three huge games. We’ve got to take two out of three I would imagine. We’ll go from there.”