EAST PROVIDENCE â€” It was a great irony, how Woonsocket High sophomore hurler John Flynn allowed only two hits â€“ and a mere six batted balls to leave the infield dirt â€“ but still dropped a crazy 3-1 decision to Prout School at Pierce Field on Sunday afternoon.
â€śIt's a funny game,â€ť sighed skipper John Marsella from his third-base dugout after his Villa Novans suffered the defeat in this, the initial game of a R.I. Division II Final Four best-of-three semifinal series.
â€śFlynnie pitched his heart out, and did everything expected of him, excepting maybe a few too many walks,â€ť he added. â€śThe bats weren't producing with the many opportunities we had. I also thought our defense let us down a little bit, too. If we had a couple of clutch hits, it could have been a different outcome.â€ť
Marsella did admit he thought Crusaders' senior righty Shane Sandoval pitched a solid seven innings. In his stint, he allowed just five hits, an unearned run and one walk while fanning a quartet.
Flynn, on the other hand, had a no-hitter through the first 3 2/3 innings, but closed with seven walks and two wild pitches with four strikeouts.
â€śYou've got to give that kid some credit,â€ť Marsella said of Sandoval, who â€“ with his effort â€“ lifted No. 2-seeded Prout to 19-4-1 overall. â€śHe threw a fine game, and kept our hitters off-balance.â€ť
Flynn sailed through the top of the first, but the Crusaders put up a pair in the second â€“ without benefit of a hit. Senior leadoff hitter Brendal Natal reached on an unusual dropped fly by junior second baseman Cody L'Heureux, then took second on a passed ball.
Flynn followed with a pair of walks to both sophomore Jim Partington and junior Ryan Walsh, then yielded another base-on-balls to senior Andrew Horsfield, and that plated Natal.
The bags still juiced, Partington raced home on a wild pitch.
The 'Novans (18-7) sliced their deficit to 2-1 in the third when sophomore Randy Reyes earned a leadoff walk and freshman No. 9 batter Josh Mousseau drilled a ground single down the left-field line. L'Heureux's sacrifice bunt attempt didn't work, and â€“ with two down â€“ junior Brandon Rainville grounded to shortstop Jack Lambrecht, but first baseman Ryan Walsh dropped the throw, allowing Reyes to score.
With runners at the corners, however, Sandoval got senior Andreas Brackett to fly out to short to end the surge.
Fourth-seeded Woonsocket looked as if it would at least tie the game in the top of the fourth when senior Jon Parenteau ripped a leadoff single to left and classmate Kory (â€śSkipâ€ť) Lawrence reached on a stellar bunt hit past Sandoval.
Sophomore Victor Hunt, however, struck out, and â€“ after Walsh made a nice catch of Reyes' line drive at first â€“ he tagged the base for the unassisted double play.
The 'Novans had another shot in the fifth when L'Heureux took advantage of a dropped fly by right fielder Partington, then robbed second. But Sandoval again shut down the possible rally when he fanned Will Andino and forced Rainville to ground to third.
Prout notched an insurance run in the fifth after two Brackett putouts. Lambrecht walked, stole second and hustled to third when catcher Alex Denoyelle threw wide to second, then scored on Flynn's second wild pitch of the contest.
Hunt started the seventh with a base hit to center, then took second on Reyes' groundout, but three infield outs squelched that chance.
â€śI take pride in us being a pretty disciplined team,â€ť said Crusaders' head coach Mike La Barbera. â€śWe're not going to win simply by outhitting another team, certainly not at this level. I do stress to all of our pitchers that you can't throw the ball in the dirt with a runner at third.
â€śOur base-running certainly helped us (Saturday), no doubt about it,â€ť he added. â€śI also thought we played pretty solid defense (despite two miscues).â€ť
The Villa Novans, now facing elimination, will face Prout at 7:30 tonight at Pierce Field if Johnston defeated Westerly in another semifinal held Sunday afternoon. Should the Bulldogs win, the two will play at 6:30.
â€śWe're just going to come back (Monday) and do the best we can,â€ť Marsella said. â€śWe'll come back here ready to battle.â€ť