WARWICK – Another day, another offensive explosion by Cumberland American.
Manager Dave Belisle’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 League’s Abe Klitzner Field.
The District IV champions next play Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., when they will oppose the winner of Tuesday’s losers’ 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.
“We got on a nice hot streak over the weekend,” said Belisle, whose squad totaled 12 more hits Sunday. “They hit the ball really, really well.”
Surely Belisle couldn’t have expected a 28-run, 22-hit weekend, right?
“I’m very surprised,” he said. “Fifteen runs against Cranston Western? Yeah, I’m not saying I’m shocked, because we have a great hitting team, but it’s surprising that they can do this well.”
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. McCormick’s homer landed above the 220-foot marker in center field, while Glod’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.
“We got a nice lead for him so we can use him on Wednesday,” Belisle said. That’s big for us. I think that was the most important thing. He pitched well, and he gets to pitch again.”
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 wasn’t done. Neither were his teammates.
Saturday’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 – one night after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Portsmouth.
“We took some time with him,” Belisle said of his No. 2 hitter. “He had a little one-on-one with me [before Sunday’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.”
Chris Wright capped a three-hit performance with an RBI knock to left as part of Cumberland American’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 team’s chances, Belisle was quick to caution against overconfidence heading into Wednesday.
“We have to wait and start all over again,” Belisle said. “It’s a new ballgame. We can’t take any of these 15 runs with us on Wednesday. It’s a great victory for us, but whoever comes at us on Wednesday, we can’t take them for granted.”
With a trip to Bristol tantalizingly close, Cumberland American must keep its eye on the prize.
“You’ve got to put the pedal to the metal, because there’s too many good teams in this tournament,” Belisle said. “The two teams that are sitting there playing on Tuesday, I know they’ve got a couple good pitchers down there that can pitch on Wednesday and Thursday, so we’ve got to go get it Wednesday. We’ll stress the importance to the kids, but I like the way they’re relaxed right now at the plate. We’ve got to continue that.”