The Warwick Continental American 8-10 Year Old District 3 All-Stars won the 2018 Little League Baseball State Championship on Saturday night, sweeping District 1 Champion Cranston Western in two games during the double-elimination bracket final.
With the victory, Warwick moves on to the New England Regional Tournament where it will represent Rhode Island, starting on Aug. 3.
Warwick shut out Cranston 12-0 in a Game 2 that lasted just four innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. Warwick was beaten by Cranston during the first round of the bracket, but instead of crumbling, it stormed back and rattled off four straight wins, including a 17-2 blowout win in Game 1 of the final to claim the crown.
“They just amaze me every game,” Warwick manager Jamie Luisi said. “That was our fourth win in a row, coming out of the losers bracket. The last two games we put up 29 runs and only let up two. That tells it all right there. These boys are just playing baseball, defensively, hitting, putting the ball in play, everything. Just playing as a team right now. We’ve got good chemistry. We have a great group of talented young athletes on this team that I think are going to do really good moving on to the New England Regional.”
Warwick ace Mason Broomfield got the start on the bump in Game 2 and struck out six in a complete-game effort. On offense, Broomfield added a two-run double, a single, and three runs scored.
Other key contributors to Warwick’s offense included catcher Michael Blair, who hit a two-run single and scored a run, right fielder Joey Riviera, who notched an RBI single with a run scored, and shortstop Ethan Luisi, who had an RBI single with two runs scored.
Broomfield went into the winner-take-all contest with the same mindset as his teammate Nick Stevens, who struck out six over four innings in Game 1.
“Same as yesterday,” Broomfield explained. “Just pitch my best and I know that we’ll have great fielding.”
Ethan Luisi, a stud at short, put on a clinic in Game 1, leading the team with four hits, a walk, and an RBI while scoring four runs. The manager’s son was happy to get to the Regional.
“I just kept on playing, trying my hardest, and trying to win,” Ethan said. “It feels really good because we’ve been working really hard for this and we finally made it here after two games of hard work.
Another solid defenseman for Warwick is Charlie Brown, who was on cloud nine after winning the state title. The second baseman is beaming with confidence as the team heads to the Regional.
“I feel really good,” Brown said. “I feel like we’re going to win the regional and do a lot of damage.”
After two scoreless innings in Game 2, Warwick piled on ten runs in the top of the third.
First, with runners at second and third, Ethan Luisi hit an RBI single to shallow right field and drove in Jeremiah Murphy to put Warwick up 1-0. Next, Brown scored from third during a passed ball and extended the lead to 2-0. Then with the bases loaded, Nick Stevens was hit by a pitch which brought home another run making it 3-0.
With the bases reloaded, Riviera hit an RBI single to knock in Broomfield and then Blair came home on the throw in to the infield and made it 5-0. Stevens, Riviera, and Gabe Politelli all scored during passed balls and upped the Warwick lead to 8-0. Blair later launched an RBI double to left field and scored Ethan Luisi and Tiernan Leahy to balloon the Warwick margin to 10-0.
Warwick tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth. With runners at second and third, catcher Korbin Anderson rocketed a shot at the third baseman, who threw home in an effort to gun down Politelli, but an error occurred which also allowed Leahy to score and increased Warwick’s cushion to 12-0.
When Warwick fell to the losers bracket after their first round loss, it beat Burrillville 12-4 and Barrington 12-2 in four innings before returning to the winners bracket for a rematch against Cranston in the bracket final.
“I told them, if we play, the way we play, defensively, hit the ball, we’re the better team, and we can face them again,” Jamie Luisi said. “Beat Burrillville first, beat Barrington, and get back there and get a chance. . . And we are the better team, we just need to play the way we play, as a team and we’ll prevail. . . And they just didn’t quit. I don’t quit on them. I tell them every day how good they are and that I appreciate them, and they just keep playing, they don’t quit. I love these kids and they play hard.”
Stevens started on the hill for Warwick in Game 1 and struck out six through four innings before Blair came on to close it out in the fifth, striking out the first two hitters he faced before getting the final out on a ground ball.
Cranston manager James Sweeney wasn’t entirely sure why his team gut drubbed in both finals games, but he is proud of the adversity they showed throughout the tournament.
“I can’t really explain it,” Sweeney said. “I wish I could. All I can say is, it’s a group that has gotten better day in, and day out and when we look back on it, I think it’s a team that, as good as they are, they overachieved in a way and exceeded expectations.”
“Coming into this season, I was positive, but unsure of how far we would go,” Sweeney explained. “So, to make it to this point is definitely a major accomplishment. As difficult as looking back on it is, to get beaten twice; Warwick Continental is the better team and they have an outstanding pitching rotation. They hit the ball, they play defense, and they’re well-coached. The last couple of games and this week, they were the best team and they deserve to win.”
Cranston sent its ace, lefty Michael D’Ambra to the hill to start the game, but after two solid innings of pitching, he ran into trouble in the third.
“He hit a wall, unfortunately,” Sweeney said. “Mike has been outstanding all season long. He’s been a gamer, he’s been our go-to guy. And we came into the game recognizing that we were going to go with our top guys and if they beat us then you tip your hat and they were better. And there’s no question about that. It’s unfortunate because Mike ends the season in that way, but he has been outstanding and I take nothing away from him. He’s been our ace and he’ll continue to be that.”
Cranston’s two runs in Game 1 came on a two-run single from catcher Jeremy Silverio during the second inning.