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WARWICK â€“ Another day, another offensive explosion by Cumberland American.
Manager Dave Belisleâ€™s club moved within one win of claiming the Major Division state championship Sunday, throttling Cranston Western 15-0 in a four-inning mercy-rule affair at Warwick West Side Little Leagueâ€™s Abe Klitzner Field.
The District IV champions next play Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., when they will oppose the winner of Tuesdayâ€™s losersâ€™ bracket final between Central Coventry and Cranston Western. A win in that game would send Cumberland American to the New England Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn. A loss would force a winner-take-all contest Thursday for the state title.
One night after pounding Portsmouth to the tune of 13 runs on 10 hits, Cumberland American treated District I titlist Cranston Western even harsher.
â€śWe got on a nice hot streak over the weekend,â€ť said Belisle, whose squad totaled 12 more hits Sunday. â€śThey hit the ball really, really well.â€ť
Surely Belisle couldnâ€™t have expected a 28-run, 22-hit weekend, right?
â€śIâ€™m very surprised,â€ť he said. â€śFifteen runs against Cranston Western? Yeah, Iâ€™m not saying Iâ€™m shocked, because we have a great hitting team, but itâ€™s surprising that they can do this well.â€ť
Ryan McCormick and Jake Glod began the game with back-to-back home runs off Cranston Western starter Hayden Parkes, who was pulled after walking No. 3 batter Connor Mastin. McCormickâ€™s homer landed above the 220-foot marker in center field, while Glodâ€™s sailed just beyond the right-field fence.
The three-run lead was more than enough for Mastin, who cruised through three hitless innings during which he walked two and stuck out three. Belisle plans to start the ace right-hander again Wednesday.
â€śWe got a nice lead for him so we can use him on Wednesday,â€ť Belisle said. Thatâ€™s big for us. I think that was the most important thing. He pitched well, and he gets to pitch again.â€ť
Glod collected his second RBI of the night in the second, when his scorching ground ball scooted past Cranston Western shortstop Steve Salisbury and into left for a run-scoring single.
But Glod wasnâ€™t done. Neither were his teammates.
Saturdayâ€™s game-deciding inning was an eight-run fifth. This time, it was a nine-run third. With two runs already home and the bases loaded, Glod promptly cleared them by clocking a Dillon Bordeleau offering deep to center for a game-breaking grand slam.
Just like that, Cumberland American had itself a 10-0 advantage, and it tacked on three more for good measure in a top of the fifth that featured 15 batters against three different Cranston Western pitchers.
Glod finished 3-for-3 with a walk, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored â€“ one night after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Portsmouth.
â€śWe took some time with him,â€ť Belisle said of his No. 2 hitter. â€śHe had a little one-on-one with me [before Sundayâ€™s game], and it worked, obviously. He was doing a little something different [Saturday] and he seemed to have fixed it. Hopefully it continues, because he is a big stick for us.â€ť
Chris Wright capped a three-hit performance with an RBI knock to left as part of Cumberland Americanâ€™s two-run fourth. Relieving Mastin in the bottom of the inning, Conor Lavallee worked out of a two-on, one-out jam by fanning consecutive batters to end it.
Though he has several reasons to like his teamâ€™s chances, Belisle was quick to caution against overconfidence heading into Wednesday.
â€śWe have to wait and start all over again,â€ť Belisle said. â€śItâ€™s a new ballgame. We canâ€™t take any of these 15 runs with us on Wednesday. Itâ€™s a great victory for us, but whoever comes at us on Wednesday, we canâ€™t take them for granted.â€ť
With a trip to Bristol tantalizingly close, Cumberland American must keep its eye on the prize.
â€śYouâ€™ve got to put the pedal to the metal, because thereâ€™s too many good teams in this tournament,â€ť Belisle said. â€śThe two teams that are sitting there playing on Tuesday, I know theyâ€™ve got a couple good pitchers down there that can pitch on Wednesday and Thursday, so weâ€™ve got to go get it Wednesday. Weâ€™ll stress the importance to the kids, but I like the way theyâ€™re relaxed right now at the plate. Weâ€™ve got to continue that.â€ť