Ricci boys pull stunner, then lose
Ricci boys pull stunner, then lose
NORTH PROVIDENCE - They pulled off the stunner of the playoff season.
The Ricci Middle School baseball team rattled the entire state when they dumped Portsmouth, the second-seeded team in the tournament, 9-7 last week.
The team then took on Ponaganset with a berth in the final four at stake and battled throughout the game before coming up on the short end of a 13-12 score.
Ricci had to win their final four regular season games in order to assure themselves of a berth in the state playoffs, and that's exactly what they did.
To get into the playoffs, Ricci stunned highly favored Feinstein of Coventry, 6-4, to claim fourth place in the Central Division, the final playoff spot.
"The team has gotten hot at the right time and is playing great baseball," said coach Bob Arrighie. "We are really clicking and each of the past four games has been like a playoff game because we had to win to keep the season alive."
Portsmouth entered the game against Ricci with a gaudy 14-1 record, second only to North Cumberland, which was undefeated. But Ricci was on a roll, having won five straight, and when the final out was made, the North Providence boys had themselves a 9-7 victory.
The score was tied going into the top of the second inning when Jared Rubino singled and eventually scored on a double down the left field line by Mikey Sollitto, who pitched four and two-thirds innings to start the game for the Eagles.
Portsmouth battled back with runs in each of the next two innings. But in the fourth, Ricci bats were on fire. Paul Rizzo was hit by a pitch with one out, then Rubino and Mike Sollitto drew walks to load the bases.
Luke Gigure followed with an RBI single up the middle. The next hitter popped out with the bases loaded. Christian Anzeveno got two quick strikes on him, but then he cleared the bases with a shot over the left fielder's head for a three-run double. Chris Caraciollo kept it going and drove in Anzeveno to make it 7-2 Ricci.
In the bottom of the inning, Portsmouth plated a pair with two outs, making it 7-4. The home team added three more in the fifth, and Ricci's lead was gone.
But in the sixth, Gigure led off with a single, followed by walks to Anzeveno and Christian Materese. The next batter hit into a double play to leave runners on second and third with two outs.
But Andre Solis came through with a clutch base knock to drive in Materese and proceeded to steal second. Scott Domenici then came through with a monster hit, a shot to the gap in left center that plated a pair and gave Ricci a 10-7 advantage.
"But Portsmouth appealed the final run, saying a runner missed the base and they won the appeal, so we had a run taken off the board," said Ricci coach Bob Arrighie.
Paul Rizzo came on in relief and set down the side in order in the sixth. He gave up a pair of hits, but no runs in the final inning as the North Providence team began its celebration.
"After that appeal play, a lot of middle school aged kids would shut down and cash in," said Arrighie. "But our kids stayed mentally tough and kept battling through it, knowing they can beat anyone."
The run ended against Ponaganset in the next game.
Ricci got the bats going and took a 5-2 lead in the top of the second, started by singles from Christian Anzeveno and Chris Caraciollo. Domenici, who drove in four runs in the game, drove them both in on a deep double to left. Paul Rizzo followed with a base hit, Rubino drove in Domenici with another single. Mikey Sollitto joined in with an RBI to score Rubino.
Paul Rizzo got the first two batters of the bottom of the second out on three pitches, then got into some trouble and had to be relieved by Christian Materese.
Going into the third it was 7-5 Ponaganset. Ponaganset got two more to make it 9-5. With the bases loaded and two outs, a Ponaganset batter hit a ball to the left center gap that would have cleared the bases and blew the game open for Ponaganset, but left fielder Scott Domenici laid out for a diving, inning-ending catch and fired up the Ricci team, which ended up getting six runs in its next at bat.
"I've been coaching this team for 11 years and that was probably the best catch I have seen in a middle school game, especially considering the importance of it," said Arrighie.
In the Ricci rally, Rizzo led off the inning with a double over the left fielder's head, Rubino reached on an error, Sollitto drew a walk, Luke Gigure drove in Rizzo on a fielder's choice. Materese walked to bring in a run, followed by an RBI single by Anzeveno, and another run by a walk to Andre Solis.
Domenici came up huge again with a two-run double to the left-center gap.
The Ricci boys were three outs away from the final four with a 12-11 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
The first Chieftain batter got a blooper into right and was safe at first. A walk and passed ball left runners on second and third, but Ponaganset got two more singles to plate the tying and game-winning runs.