Sports editor emeritus
PAWTUCKET — It’s still April and high school baseball teams continue to search for their identity while Mother Nature struggles to find her own winning form.
On a blustery Wednesday afternoon at Vets Park field, a flock of geese looked for food in the barren outfield as Cumberland and St. Raphael Academy squared off, each seeking a badly-needed victory.
In the end, Cumberland broke open a close game with three unearned runs in the seventh inning, pulling away to a 7-2 triumph that gave the Clippers a 2-3 record in Division I. The Saints, who played a solid defensive game for five innings, fell to 0-5 with the loss.
Tyler Calabro paced Cumberland’s 11-hit offense with three hits in four trips to the plate. Leadoff hitter Josh Brodeur added two hits and scored two runs. Kyle McKenna, hitting out of the No. 9 hole, went 2-for-3 for the Clippers. Jake Rockefeller added two doubles and knocked in a run.
The Saints could manage only two hits against Cumberland pitchers Joe Fine and Ryan O’Neill. They left the bases loaded in both the fourth and fifth innings when the game was still up for grabs.
“This was Joe’s first start of the season,” Cumberland coach Paul Murphy said of his starting pitcher after the game had ended. “Joe gave us five innings. He struggled a bit near the end. That’s his longest outing so far. He pitched four innings in relief last week against Hendricken. I thought Ryan O’Neill came in and did a nice job in relief today.”
The Clippers got off to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Brodeur and Calabro singled. Murphy called for a hit-and-run with Fine at the plate and both runners advanced on an infielder grounder. Brodeur then came home on a sacrifice fly hit by cleanup batter John Sikie.
The Saints would tie the game in the second. Dylan Boisclair reached on a walk to get things going. He moved to second on a dropped fly ball. SRA now had two runners on with nobody out. An attempted sacrifice bunt was popped in the air and caught by Cumberland catcher Kyle Opiekun. Boisclair would eventually score on a wild pitch but the Saints wasted a chance to score at least one more run.
Calabro led off the top of the third with a pop fly down the right field line behind first base that two fielders converged upon and failed to catch. The Clipper junior never stopped running and hustled all the way to third base before the Saints got the ball back in.
SRA second baseman Jacob Roy then fielded a grounder and threw out Calabro at the plate. Roy would also participate in two double plays for the Saints, who showed some good glove-work around the infield.
The Saints took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning when Fine lost his control, walking two batters and giving up a single to Jacob Roy, all this coming with two outs. Fine then walked J.T. Holmes to force in the go-ahead run before recording a strikeout to end the inning.
Cumberland went back ahead in the fifth. McKenna led off with a single and Brodeur singled him up a base. Calabro singled to tie the game. Losing pitcher Rob Bracken then got his opposite number (Fine) to hit into a 6-4-3 double play as the go-ahead run scored.
The Saints would again load the bases in the bottom of the fifth with two outs, only to see Fine get another strikeout, his seventh of the game, to wiggle out of trouble.
Rockefeller and Opiekun led off the sixth two doubles to put Cumberland on top, 4-2.
The visitors broke the game open in the seventh when Calabro hit a one-out fly ball to right field that was dropped for a costly error. Sikie singled him home and then Rockefeller belted his second double of the game, making it 6-2. Opiekun added a single to account for the final margin.
“We played well for four innings,” losing coach Tom Sorrentine said. “We made two double plays and threw a guy out at home. We didn’t get any hits when we needed them. And then things sort of fell apart in the seventh inning.”
The Saints visit undefeated Hendricken this afternoon.
Cumberland, now on a two-game winning streak, hosts Woonsocket on Friday.
“We did some good things today,” Murphy said, “and some bad things. We didn’t get a good jump off third base and got thrown out at home. Those are the kinds of things that drive coaches crazy. But it is still only April and we just have to keep getting better.”