Smithfield ends 34-year title drought

Smithfield ends 34-year title drought

The members of the Smithfield Little League’s ages 11-12 all-star baseball team, which captured its first District IV championship since 1987, are, in front from left, Dom Tortolano, Trevor Sullivan, Nate Cameron, Luke Dwyer, Noah Antunes, and Wyatt Speakman; in middle row, Colin Goding, Tucker Byrnes, Sam Cicchitelli, Dom Lombardi, Lucas Desjardins, and Josh Turner; in back, coaches Bill Cameron and Jeff Byrnes, John Rinaldi, and manager Dave Antunes.
Major Division ages 11-12 all-star team beats Cumberland for District IV crown, awaits Saturday afternoon’s state tournament opener vs. Warwick Continental

SMITHFIELD – Before the Smithfield Little League’s Major Division ages 11-12 all-star baseball team stepped onto the field for its Division IV championship game against Cumberland, manager David Antunes wrote a simple message to his players on the side of the lineup card that he posted in their dugout.

“Make history today!”

While Cumberland was seeking its sixth district title since 2007, Smithfield was looking to win its first championship since 1987, and before a large crowd at Whipple Field, the all-stars beat Sunday afternoon’s heat and a formidable opponent to silence its 34-year drought.

Tucker Byrnes got the job done on the mound by striking out six batters and scattering seven hits and two walks, and Smithfield broke a 2-2 tie with a four-run rally in the top of the third inning before cruising to an 8-2 victory and parading around the field with its elusive championship banner.

“Tucker was awesome today,” said Smithfield manager David Antunes. “That might have been the best game of his life. He was very good in the recreation league, but that’s a different level from facing all-star kids. For him to go out and throw a complete game (on 82 pitches) was unbelievable.”

“Defensively, we turned three double plays and we were almost flawless,” added Antunes. “Cumberland earned their two runs, but after that, it was all Tucker, and we got some timely hitting and good fielding, and that’s the recipe for a win.”

Smithfield will now shift its attention to the state tournament at Cumberland’s Garvin Field and its opening game of the double-elimination format on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against District III champion Warwick Continental. District I champion North Providence, which won its first district title since 2006, and District II champion Riverside will kick off the tournament by facing each other at 11 a.m.

Saturday’s winners will then play next Monday at 7:45 p.m. for a spot in Friday’s championship round, while the losing teams will take the field at 5:30 p.m. that night and try to keep their state title hopes alive.

“We’re excited to represent District IV at the state tournament,” said Antunes. “It’s going to be a tough challenge, but we were there two years ago (in the 8-10 tourney) and we got knocked off by Cranston Western, so we’ll see what happens this time.”

In Sunday’s title game, Smithfield broke out to a 2-0 lead off Cumberland ace pitcher Dylan Poloski on a two-out RBI single by John Rinaldi in the first and a two-out run-scoring double by Nate Cameron in the second. Cumberland quickly tied the game in the bottom of the second, but Smithfield went right back to work in the third.

Byrnes led off by getting hit by a pitch, and he raced to third when the next batter, Dom Lombardi came off the bench to drop down a bunt single that was thrown away for an error.

Noah Antunes then walked, and after Byrnes sped home on a wild pitch on Poloski’s fourth ball to Antunes, Dom Tortolano moved Lombardi and Antunes into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.

Josh Turner was also called off the bench to keep the rally going, and after he lofted a long fly ball to right that just hooked wide of the foul pole, he ripped a two-run single into center field. He ended up scoring when Trevor Sullivan’s sacrifice bunt was also misplayed for an error.

Smithfield’s other two runs came in the sixth, as Wyatt Speakman doubled to right-center (for his second hit of the game) and eventually scored on a passed ball, and Lucas Desjardins came home on a groundout by Colin Goding.

Smithfield, which went 3-0 in pool play, reached the title game by posting an 11-1 win over Scituate-Foster in the semifinals on Wednesday, July 14. The game, which was halted after five innings by the mercy rule, saw Byrnes and Goding team up to pitch a four-hitter that included eight strikeouts and Smithfield play errorless defense behind them.

Offensively, Smithfield pounded out 13 hits, with three of them coming from Luke Dwyer. Cameron, Byrnes, Rinaldi, and Antunes each added two.