WEST WARWICK â€“ Like many American Legion coaches, Collette Vacations boss Ray Ventura was probably hoping that Jeff Diehl was going turn pro after getting drafted by the New York Mets in June.
You could see why Friday night as Diehl single-handily almost won the game for Gershkoff/Auburn Post 20, the catcher belting two home runs in a 6-4 win over Collette in the winnersâ€™ bracket final of the American Legion Senior Division playoffs.
If thereâ€™s a sliver of good news to come out of Fridayâ€™s late night affair at McCarthy Stadium, itâ€™s that Collette wonâ€™t have to wait long to avenge its loss to Gershkoff/Auburn Post 20. The two teams will meet up at 3 oâ€™clock Saturday afternoon. It will be one of two American Legion Senior Division semifinal contests on the docket with top seed Cumberland Post 14 and Hurd Auto Body of Johnston on tap for high noon.
The only difference from Fridayâ€™s encounter â€“ and itâ€™s a biggie â€“ is that Collette will be in survival mode, needing a win to extend its season another day. Post 20 is the lone American Legion Senior Division squad to make it through the â€śElite Eightâ€ť round of the state playoffs undefeated.
â€śIt doesnâ€™t matter who we play,â€ť Ventura said after Colletteâ€™s nine-game winning streak came to an end. â€śWeâ€™ve seen everybody, so it wonâ€™t be anything new.â€ť
While Diehl was torturing Collette with his potent stick, Post 79 was busy stranding a total of 18 baserunners, leaving a runner on in every single inning. The team managing just two hits with runners in scoring position, one a two-run single by Zach Mitsmenn in the eighth inning that cut Post 20â€™s lead to 6-3. Nate Patch would add a sacrifice fly in the frame to close out the scoring for both sides.
Diehl added to his teamâ€™s 1-0 lead in the first when the recent Cranston West High graduate crushed a 1-1 pitch to dead center. Post 20â€™s 2-0 lead stood until the fifth when Patch singled down the left field, scoring Joe Brooks, who led off the frame with a double.
Truth be told, Patchâ€™s base knock represented one of a few Collette recorded with runners in scoring position. The Pawtucket-based club saw the lead runner reach in each of the first six innings, yet couldnâ€™t cash on. Post 79 left the bases loaded in the third and eighth and stranded two runners in the fifth and again in the sixth.
Diehl certainly wasnâ€™t missing. The Post 20 catcher blasted his second home run of the contest in the seventh, a two-run poke that stretched Gershkoffâ€™s lead to 6-1 and ended the night for Andrew Veiga, the Collette starter who was tagged with six earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Collette committed four errors, two of which directly led to runs for Gershkoff.
Collette Vacations Post 79 000 010 030 â€“ 4-9-4
Gershkoff/Auburn Post 20 200 010 30x â€“ 6-8-2
Andrew Veiga, Dom DiSano (7) and Nate Patch. Mike Hayden, Jake Ciolfi (6), Matt Pagano (8) and Jeff Diehl. 2B: Joe Brooks; Jeff Diehl. HR: Diehl 2.