Two-time regular-season champion Cumberland Post 14 and red-hot Collette Vacations Post 79 will be among the “Elite Eight” teams that will play for the state championship this week when the R.I. American Legion Senior Division tournament moves into the double-elimination format.
In seasons past, the double-elimination portion of the postseason wouldn’t get under way until four ballclubs were left standing after winning a best-of-three quarterfinal and semifinal-round series.
But this year, with the league’s 16 teams divided into two regional divisions, the format called for the top two finishers in each division to earn a bye into the “Elite Eight” and the third through sixth-place teams to battle for the next four spots in a best-of-three preliminary-round series that took place this past weekend.
One of those lower seeds to advance, Collette Vacations, did so with a sweep of Bishop Hendricken’s Senerchia Post 74 club that included an 11-4 victory in the opener and a 2-0 win in the clincher that saw Andrew Veiga pitch a six-hitter and face just 30 batters.
Those wins extended Post 74’s record to 16-7-1 (24-11-1 overall) and raised the best current win streak in the state to seven games. Collette also grabbed the fifth seed in the double-elimination round and will battle fourth-seed Hurd Auto Mall (15-7) of Johnston in their opening game.
That game takes place today at 5 p.m. at McCarthy Stadium in West Warwick in the opening game of a doubleheader that features No. 1 seed and Northern Division champion Cumberland Post 14 (19-3) and eight-seeded Shoreline of North Kingstown (12-13) in the 8 p.m. nightcap.
Former Shea High southpaw Max Perry is expected to get the start on the hill for Collette, which split a mid-June doubleheader with Hurd Auto during the regular season, and according to manager Ray Ventura, is playing their “best baseball of the season right now.”
Post 10, which won the regular-season title last season with a 17-2 mark, but went on to fall in the championship game to New England Frozen Lemonade, contests a Shoreline team that is fresh off a 6-3 win over East Bay/Riverside Post 10 on Sunday in the deciding game of their best-of-three series.
The winners from today’s games will return to McCarthy tomorrow for the 8 p.m. game of another twinbill, while the losers will try to keep their seasons alive by battling in the 5 p.m. opener.
The tourney’s other four teams will take part in a doubleheader at Pierce Field that begins today, with No. 3 seed Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 (15-6-1) facing the sixth-seeded New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 (16-8) co-op team out of Warwick in the 4 p.m. opener.
The 7 p.m. contest features second-seeded Southern Division champion R&R Construction of Portsmouth (16-6) versus seventh-seeded West Warwick Post Two (15-10), which survived a thrilling three-game opening-round series with Upper Deck Post 86 that saw each game be decided by one run.
Like the series at McCarthy, the four teams will return to East Providence the following day, with the winners from today’s games battling at 7 p.m. and the losers playing for their postseason survival at 4 p.m.
On Thursday, a tripleheader is scheduled at McCarthy that will see two more teams fall from the tournament and Wednesday’s winners’ bracket survivors from Pierce and McCarthy competing for a spot in the championship round at 8 p.m.
First, the winning side from Wednesday’s losers’ bracket contest at McCarthy will play the losing team from the winners’ bracket game at Pierce at 2 p.m., while at 5 p.m., the survivor from the losers’ bracket game at Pierce will duel the loser from the winners’ bracket affair at McCarthy at 5 p.m.
Thursday’s remaining four teams will head back to McCarthy on Friday night for another doubleheader, and on Saturday afternoon at Rhode Island College, championship games are scheduled for noon and (if an extra one is necessary) 3:30 p.m.