NORTH PROVIDENCE – Extra innings weren’t meant to be for the North Providence-Smithfield Babe Ruth League’s 13-year-old all-star baseball team.
Three days after opening the New England tournament at Connecticut’s Trumbull High School with a defeat to the home team that needed eight innings to decide its outcome, NP-Smithfield suffered a loss in Monday afternoon’s quarterfinals that, like its first game, required an extra frame.
Facing the Tri-County Babe Ruth all-stars of Harrison, Maine, NP-Smithfield was dealt a 2-1 loss that saw the Maine state champions walk off with the victory on a run-scoring single down the third-base line. An infield error, a double to left, and an intentional walk with no outs set the stage for Ryder Kennison’s base hit that just bounced over the third-base bag.
NP-Smithfield, which only collected three hits in the game, but drew seven walks, had taken advantage of three walks and a wild pitch to plate its first run in the top of the first inning, but Tri-County tied the score in the bottom of the fourth on a bases-loaded walk. The all-stars nearly took the lead in the sixth, but they left the bases loaded.
The all-stars had earned their berth in the quarterfinals on Sunday by posting a 7-4 win over Greater Keene, N.H., which like NP-Smithfield, needed to win this game in order to play the following afternoon.
NP-Smithfield grabbed a 3-0 lead without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the first inning, as five of its first seven batters drew walks and two raced home on passed balls. Greater Keene came back with a run in the second, but the all-stars scored three more runs in the third on a run-scoring double by Jaiden Mills and a two-run single by Adam DeCesare.
Those runs were more than enough support for NP-Smithfield starting pitcher Nick Natale and reliever Kyle Castellone, who teamed up to throw a four-hitter. Natale picked up the win by working the first four innings and striking out seven batters, and Castellone earned a three-inning save.
Offensively, Mills ended the game with a pair of doubles and scored twice; Tyler Oliver went 2-for-2 with a walk and a run batted in, and Natale, who batted leadoff, stole four bases.
The all-stars’ pool play opener last Friday night against Trumbull saw the hosts walk off with a 3-2 win on a two-out RBI single in the home half of the eighth. NP-Smithfield had grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Caden Oldham and Castellone scored on a two-out outfield error, but Trumbull tied the score with two runs in the fourth.
This game belonged to the pitchers, as each team managed just four hits apiece and combined for 23 strikeouts. But while Trumbull’s pitching staff walked 10 batters, NP-Smithfield stranded 13 runners on base and left the bases loaded in the first and third innings.
The game’s top pitcher was NP-Smithfield starter Mike Ryan, who worked 5 2/3 innings, struck out 11 batters, and yielded four walks and just one hit, which came with one out in the fourth and knocked in Trumbull’s first two runs. Ryan also struck out the side in order in the fifth.
Less than 24 hours later, NP-Smithfield played the tournament favorite, Pittsfield, Mass., in what coach Lou Zammarelli called “a throwaway game. Based on (the loss to Trumbull) and the results of the other games, we found out that winning or losing this game had no bearing on our seed or actually advancing to the championship series,” he added. “We simply had to beat Keene to advance.”
With NP-Smithfield using a somewhat different lineup and moving players to different positions, Pittsfield rolled to a 15-0 victory that saw the western Massachusetts champions score eight runs in the fourth inning to end the game.
The 15-year-old all-stars, meanwhile, struggled mightily at the plate and dropped all three of their pool play games in their regional tourney at Alumni Field in Keene, N.H. NP-Smithfield totaled just 11 hits in suffering an 8-0 loss last Friday morning to Sanford, Maine; a 12-2 defeat the following night to the host team, Greater Keene, and a 4-0 shutout to Waterford, Conn.
NP-Smithfield collected just three hits in its loss to Sanford, which scored twice in the top of the second inning and added a run in the third and five in the seventh.
NP-Smithfield’s best chance to score came in the bottom of the first. The all-stars loaded the bases with one out on a leadoff single to right by Giovanni Esposito and walks to Vin Pontarelli and Chris Scimone, but an infield pop fly and a strikeout snuffed out that threat.
After producing five hits, two from Michael Allard, in their loss to Keene, the all-stars found themselves in a must-win game for a quarterfinal-round berth on Sunday against Waterford, but they were limited to three singles and managed to get only two runners as far as third base.
Ronnie Paux delivered a solid outing on the mound for NP-Smithfield, as he ended up with a five-hitter that saw him allow just two walks and two earned runs, but his teammates couldn’t take advantage of seven walks from Waterford’s pitching staff.