PROVIDENCE — With the second half of the league season approaching quickly, Wednesday afternoon seemed as good a time as any for Woonsocket High head coach John Marsella to analyze his club’s play up to this point.
Keep in mind Marsella was asked to grade his Villa Novans following a 4-2 loss to division-leader Central High at Joe Williams Field. Though Woonsocket owns an impressive record – 7-2 Division II-North – there is still room for growth and improvement, at least according to the top guy.
“Pitching gets an A. Defense gets a B. Hitting gets an A,” offered Marsella just as he prepared to board the bus. “We’ve got to work on our hitting.”
More specifically, Woonsocket needs to pick up the pace with runners on base. Even though Marsella’s club managed just five hits against Central starting pitcher Wali Luna, the Novans were presented ample opportunities to score runs. The only favorable circumstance the visitors cashed in on came in the top of the fifth, Andreas Brackett delivering a booming two-run single to the centerfield fence to score Kory Lawrence and Josh Houle. At that point the Novans trailed 4-0.
Other than Brackett’s hit, the Novans were unable to muster a timely knock. Luis Chala led off the fourth inning with a double, but the senior wound up being stranded at second after three straight groundball outs to the left side of the infield. Woonsocket found itself in a position to make some noise in the fifth after Luna issued consecutive walks to begin the frame. Once again, nothing came of it – even after a passed ball moved the runners into scoring position with two down.
Woonsocket’s last gasp started off promising as pinch hitter Ryan Boulanger reached on an error and Kevin Reyes followed with a single. That placed two on with one out, but that’s when Luna seized control. The Central sophomore finished off his complete-game performance with two strikeouts, giving him six for the contest.
All told, Woonsocket wound up stranding five runners in scoring position. That may not seem like a tremendous amount, but in a low-scoring affair, such squanders tend to stand out even more.
“We’ve gotten runners in scoring position. We just haven’t gotten that clutch RBI hit,” offered Marsella. “That’s been our problem all year.”
Marsella was quick to tip his cap to the body of work turned in by Luna, who was briefly hoisted up in the air by his teammates as the Knights (8-1 II-Central) offered congratulations on the mound. Relying almost exclusively on a fastball and a changeup that had several Woonsocket hitters out in front, Luna finished with just two walks.
“Sometimes you come across a pitcher who’s on his game, and that’s what happened today,” said Marsella. “(Luna) threw strikes; I don’t think he walked a lot of guys.”
A Woonsocket error in the second inning set up Central’s first run. Two batters later Sam Pimental jumped all over the first pitch he saw from Villa Novans starter Brandon Perrico and deposited it down the right field line. Central’s Manny Melo, the beneficiary of said Novan miscue, trotted home from second on Pimental’s single.
Central broke out the big bats in the fifth as two of the first three hitters reached. Both would score on Richard Guzman’s single as the Knights upped their lead, 3-0. Jose Caraballo capped off the three-run frame with a single that would make Woonsocket’s climb even tougher.
“I don’t think it was his best game, but I think it was good enough to keep us in it,” said Marsella about Perrico, who pitched five innings, striking out four while issuing two walks. “It was good enough to keep us within reach. We expect big things from him. He’s a senior and he’ll bounce back.”
Collectively that figures to be Woonsocket’s first order of business as the Villa Novans head to McCoy Stadium to face Tolman High Thursday afternoon.
Woonsocket 000 002 0 – 2-5-2
Central 019 030 x – 4-6-2
Brandon Perrico, Aaron Andrews (6) and Jose Rivera. Wali Luna and Jonathan Salcedo. 2B: Luis Chala; Moises Javier.