District 1 Champion Cranston Western defeated District 3 Champion Warwick Continental American 4-2 on Monday evening at Randy Hien Field during the opening round of the 2018 Rhode Island 8-10 year old Little League All-Stars State Championship Tournament.
Felix Henderson got the start on the bump for Cranston, but was driven from the mound in the first inning after walking three hitters. Cranston didn’t need to worry as the team’s other ace Michael D’Ambra came in and bailed him out by striking out 11 batters over 4 1/3 innings while earning the win.
“Michael’s excellent,” Cranston manager James Sweeney said. “He is as good of a kid as he is a baseball player. I’ve had him all season long, from rec league on to all-stars. The kid is our team leader. He is positive day in and day out and he’s a big-time player. He showed up again, I was very proud of him.”
“We always look at Felix and Mike as our guys at the top of the rotation and if one doesn’t pan out, the other picks him up and that’s exactly what happened today,” Sweeney added. “They’ve been excellent all summer long and I’m confident in both of them for sure.”
On the other side, Mason Broomfield started on the hill for Warwick and struck out seven batters over 3 1/3 innings. The tall right-hander fanned the side in order during the bottom of the first inning.
“Mason did his job,” Warwick manager Jamie Luisi said. “He was strong throughout the game. It wasn’t the pitcher, I just think we didn’t put the bat on the ball. I think it was more of the hitting. They had a good pitcher and it was just one of those defensive games with good pitching.”
With the bases loaded in the first inning, D’Ambra, who came in relief of Henderson, drilled the first batter he saw in Joseph Riviera and home from third came Charles Brown to give Warwick an early 1-0 edge.
Cranston evened the score at 1 in the bottom of the third when with the bases loaded, pinch runner Chase D’Ambra scored from third on a passed ball.
Broomfield was pulled in the fourth inning after giving up a single and a walk. Then with runners at second and third, Nico Testa lofted an RBI single to shallow right field and scored Shane Gaudreau which put Cranston up 2-1.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Warwick’s Riviera hit a pop up to shallow right field that was dropped which allowed Korbin Anderson to score from third, tying the game at 2.
However, in the bottom of the fifth, Cranston’s Chase D’Ambra earned a lead-off walk before taking second, third and home plate during three passed balls, putting Cranston up 3-2.
“Chase is probably our most improved player,” Sweeney said. “We have 14 kids and he has worked hard day in and day out and has found himself a role on this team as arguably our best baserunner and the kid just finds a way to score. He’s an awesome kid and he’s as clutch as it gets.”
DiNezza added some insurance in the fifth when he smashed a double to center before eventually scoring after two passed balls and increasing the Cranston lead to 4-2.