Cougars fall to Burrillville, Tiverton

Cougars fall to Burrillville, Tiverton

North Providence High junior catcher C.J. Almagno, right, shows the ball to the umpire after tagging out Burrillville runner Mason Doucette at the plate for the first out of the top of the sixth inning of last Saturday afternoon’s Division II-C game. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the visiting Broncos scored three times in that inning and twice in the seventh to escape with an 8-3 victory. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Playoff-bound baseball team faces Scituate in Thursday’s regular-season finale

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The goal was to return to the Division II playoffs, and thanks to its thrilling 4-3 victory over Burrillville High last Thursday, the North Providence High baseball team clinched a postseason berth and will be one of the II-C’s four ballclubs playing bonus baseball earlier next week.

In the meantime, the Cougars have been trying to win as many games as they can during a hectic six-day stretch in order to earn a high seed and possibly a home game in the preliminary round.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, that stretch of games got off on the wrong foot last Saturday afternoon, as NP couldn’t finish a home-and-away series sweep of the Broncos in front of its home fans. Four errors led to four unearned runs, and sophomore pitcher Jack Farrell delivered a four-hitter that included nine strikeouts and three walks to help the Broncos pick up an important 8-3 victory.

The bad news continued for the Cougars on Monday afternoon when NP returned home to face Tiverton. A long three-run homer to right-center field in the bottom of the first inning by Nick Rioles gave the Cougars a 3-1 lead, but the Tigers scored six runs in the top of the third and five more in the fifth and came away with a 13-3 win that was cut short after five innings by the mercy rule.

Entering Tuesday’s D-II action, Narragansett sat atop the division with a 7-5 record, Burrillville was in second place at 6-4, and Scituate, which suffered a 9-4 defeat to Woonsocket on Monday afternoon, slipped into third place at 6-5. The Cougars fell to 4-7 with their two losses, but will wrap up their regular season by playing Scituate: NP paid a visit to the Spartans on Tuesday afternoon and will host them in their regular-season finale on Thursday at 4 p.m.

If the Cougars don’t sweep their series with the Spartans, “we’re going to be the fourth seed, which means we’re going to play the (number) one (seed) from the (Division) II-B,” reported NP head coach Paul Rizzo. “We’ll probably go to Barrington, Rogers, or Westerly next week. But I’ll take my shot with (ace pitcher) Rioles. When I go into a game knowing he’s pitching – he’s just a horse, he just goes right at you and throws strikes – I know we have a good chance to win that day.”

Last Saturday’s game saw the Cougars receive a strong outing on the bump from one of their youngest players, Jordan Tobin, who struck out seven batters and allowed six hits, four walks, and three unearned runs in five-plus innings of work before reaching his pitch count and giving way to southpaw reliever Noah Frezza.

The Broncos took advantage of the Cougars’ first three errors by scoring runs (all with two outs) in the top of the second, third, and fourth innings, but the Cougars got back a run in their half of the third, when with one out, William Wrage and Max Matarese walked, C.J. Almagno lined a single to center field, and Rioles drove in Wrage with a sacrifice fly to right.

Tobin’s day on the mound was done when he gave up a bloop single to shallow center to the first batter he faced in the sixth. The next batter reached on an infield miscue, and three batters later, cleanup batter Kyle Bousquet socked a bases-clearing double that one-hopped the fence in left.

The Cougars tried to battle back in the sixth when Rioles led off with an opposite-field double to left and later scored on an error. Jayden Tolentino followed with a double to center, and Mike Ficocelli drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to center.

In the Cougars’ 4-3 win over the Broncos last week, Rioles and Ficocelli teamed up to pitch a five-hitter, as Rioles picked up the win by working the first 6 1/3 innings and Ficocelli earned his third save of the year by retiring two of the three batters he faced in the seventh.

Down by a 1-0 score, the Cougars took the lead in the second on a two-run double by Matarese and held a 4-1 lead after 4½ innings on run-scoring groundouts by Tolentino in the third and Nicandro Pistacchio in the fifth.

The Broncos battled back with runs in their half of the fifth and seventh, but they were unable to push across the tying run.

North Providence starting pitcher Jordan Tobin turned in a solid outing in last Saturday afternoon’s 8-3 defeat to Burrillville, as he struck out seven batters and allowed six hits, four walks, and three unearned runs in five-plus innings of work. Tobin and the playoff-bound Cougars will wrap up their Division II-C regular-season schedule on Thursday afternoon by hosting nearby Scituate.