After a thrilling run that saw the 9-10 year old Warwick Continental American Little League All-Stars win both the District 3 and state tournament, their season came to an end on Friday night when they were beaten 11-1 by Barnstable, Massachusetts in five innings during the New England Regional Championship game at Michael P. Varrato Field in John H. Chaffee Athletic & Recreation Complex.
Warwick, a team that showed no quit all summer, looked like it ran out of gas heading into Friday’s matchup. It proudly represented Rhode Island in the tournament and both Warwick and Barnstable came into the contest as the only two undefeated New England teams with matching records of 4-0.
Nick Stevens got the start on the bump for Warwick and pitched 2 2/3 innings, yielding five runs before Gabe Politelli came on in relief. Jack Tarbox started for Massachusetts pitching four solid innings, striking out two while giving up just one run on eight hits. Tarbox was lifted with none out in the fifth inning after reaching the maximum of 76 pitches.
“The kid threw strikes,” Rhode Island manager Jamie Luisi said. “We hit him, we put the ball in play, but we just couldn’t put the runs together. We ran into a few outs - a couple of double plays killed us and ended the innings. He threw strong and he threw well.”
With one out in the top of the first inning, Warwick shortstop Ethan Luisi blasted a single to right-center. Then with two down, catcher Michael Blair rocketed an RBI single to right field to drive in Luisi and gave Warwick an early 1-0 edge.
However, it was all Massachusetts after that.
At the bottom of the second, Barnstable’s Brandon Gomes worked a lead-off walk and then with one out, Tarbox crushed a double to deep center to put two runners in scoring position. Braden McCarthy belted an RBI single to center and knotted the game at 1. Then with runners at second and third, Eric Stanley dropped an RBI single into the gap between short and shallow left and put Massachusetts ahead 2-1. Next, with runners at second and third, Logan Our ripped a two-RBI triple down the third baseline and increased Massachusetts’ lead to 4-1. Reed Buckler then smashed an RBI single through the middle and upped the Massachusetts advantage to 5-1.
Warwick squandered an opportunity in the third inning when with the bases loaded and one out, outfielder Joey Riviera hit a comebacker right at the pitcher, who went home to get the lead runner before the catcher threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
Massachusetts got back to back singles from Reed Buckler and Grady Alger in the fourth inning and then Gomes rocketed an RBI single to center field to increase the Barnstable margin to 6-1. Next, with runners at the corners, Daniel Murphy crushed a two-run double down the first baseline and made it 8-1. Tarbox then walloped an RBI double over the head of Blair in left field and ballooned the Massachusetts’ lead to 9-1.
Stanley hit a lead-off single for Massachusetts in the fifth before Our slammed an RBI triple to the warning track in deep center and upped the Massachusetts edge to 10-1. Then with one out and the bases loaded, Gomes shot a laser off the glove of Stevens, who was now playing third, and that led to the game-winning run trotting in from third, in Stanley, which ended the game in walk-off fashion with an 11-1 Narragansett win.
“Nick pitched well, Gabe pitched well, it’s just we couldn’t hit our spots,” Jamie Luisi said. “A team like that, a good hitting team, you can’t put it right over the plate because they’re going to take care of business and that’s what they did. They just put the ball in play. They’re a very good team and they’re very well coached.”
The Massachusetts lineup featured an abundance of left-handed hitters.
“They had a ton of them and they used the field too,” Luisi said. “The lefties went down the left field line, right field, and center. They hit it all over the place. So, I tip my hat off to them for putting the ball in play.”
“But our kids just ran out of gas a little bit,” Luisi added. “It’s been a long run, but these kids played well, and they just need to keep their heads up and we’re beyond proud of them.”
To get to the regional championship, Rhode Island defeated New Hampshire on Thursday in dramatic fashion.
In that contest, Rhode Island led by a score of 8-6 heading into the sixth inning before New Hampshire knotted it at 8 during the top of the inning. Nonetheless, Warwick’s Korbin Anderson, the catcher, drove in Politelli during the bottom of the sixth for the walk-off winning run in a 9-8 victory.
“That was huge,” Luisi said of Anderson’s hit at the time. “That was his job, to put the ball in play and Korbin Anderson did that. He put the ball in play and got us that winning run. I can’t say any more than that. He did a great job.”
“I just had to relax, watch the ball and keep my eye on it and just swing away,” Anderson said.
Warwick’s Mason Broomfield had a hot bat in the semifinal game, going 4-for-4 at the plate with four RBI singles while Ethan Luisi added three singles and an RBI, and Stevens contributed an RBI single while Charlie Brown hammered three hits.
The proud assistant coaches of Warwick during their title runs this season are Patrick Politelli and Derek Leahy.
Massachusetts moved on to the East Region Championship game the very next morning, Sunday at 8:30 am. Massachusetts was beaten in that contest by New York’s Great Kills National 11-2.