Leading into its third game of pool play at the New England Regional in Westfield, Mass., the Warwick PAL 14-year-old Babe Ruth all-star team needed to put its best foot forward or it would be headed home early.
After splitting its first two games of the regional, Warwick had to win Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. game with St. Johnsbury, Vt., which was the last game of pool play in the tournament, to advance into the semifinals. To make it more difficult, Warwick was under the impression that it also had to hold St. Johnsbury to fewer than four runs due to tiebreaker rules.
Just minutes before the first pitch, though, Warwick found out that it simply needed to win to advance, and that it had been misinformed about the tiebreak situation.
It won the tiebreaker anyway. Using a team-wide offensive barrage, Warwick broke open a tie game with a seven-run third inning and ended up with a 15-3 win.
“The kids knew they had to win the game,” manager Bob Creamer said. “They were real anxious. They were fired up, and they were focused.”
As a result of the victory, Warwick reaches the semifinals, putting it just two wins away from a New England title. Its semifinal game with Manchester, N.H., was scheduled for Monday, with the results unavailable at press time.
With a win in that game, Warwick would play for the championship today at 3 p.m. against the winner of Norwood, Mass., and Waterford, Conn.
In the 13-year-old New England tournament last year, Manchester beat Warwick 9-7, eliminating Warwick after the three pool play games.
A full year later, Warwick hasn’t forgotten who ended their summer in 2012.
“Our chances are really good,” Creamer said. “Our kids remember what happened last year. I think they want a little revenge.”
Warwick’s run at this year’s tournament began with a 13-8 victory over the host team and defending champion, Westfield, on Friday.
David DeFusco started the game on the mound fresh off of his MVP performance in the Rhode Island state tournament, but Westfield hit him harder than anybody had so far this summer.
“Westfield was a good hitting team,” Creamer said. “But we were strong on defense.”
After DeFusco’s work, Bobby Garceau came on for the middle innings and Elijah Brown finished the game on the mound to help Warwick get off to an important 1-0 start.
The following day, Warwick took on Waterford, but couldn’t get much going offensively in a 7-2 loss.
Defensively, Waterford held Warwick in check, and the pitching combination of Brown and Garceau couldn’t quite lock-down a talented Waterford lineup.
“We were up against some very strong defense,” Creamer said.
That set the stage for Sunday, where Warwick’s tournament life and dreams of a World Series berth were on the line against St. Johnsbury.
But the outcome wasn’t in jeopardy for very long. The third inning gave Warwick the upper-hand, and it didn’t waste the opportunity.
“It’s the same thing you saw in states,” Creamer said. “Everybody’s bat is hot right now. It’s a coach’s dream. They’re playing well.”
On the mound, DeFusco started and got back on track before he was relieved by Alec Bloominburgh and Sean Creamer.
And now it’s on to face Manchester. Manchester is 3-0 so far in the tournament, beating Pittsfield, Mass. 9-3, Norwood 4-3 and Central Maine 9-8.
Still, Warwick is ready, and confident as ever.
“We’re good to go,” Bob Creamer said.
The winner of the regional advances to the Babe Ruth 14-year-old World Series, which will be held in Moses Lake, Washington from August 17-24.