WOONSOCKET — Skipper John Marsella refused to let junior Brandon Rainville step into the batter’s box after he suffered an injury to his right pinkie finger earlier in the season.
The hiatus: Two weeks, and Rainville was just itching to get back into the lineup.
“He took some swings (Tuesday) and he looked OK; he said he felt OK, so we let him hit (Wednesday),” Marsella stated. “Still, we batted him ninth (in the order) because we didn’t want him to have too many at-bats.”
Turns out, Rainville made the most of one of his three plate appearances against Division II-North foe North Smithfield on mighty raw Wednesday afternoon.
After taking a called third strike to end the second, Rainville bashed a two-out, two-run double to deep left-center in the back half of the fourth to help propel the Villa Novans to a satisfying 3-0 victory over the gritty Northmen at Barry Field.
He wasn’t alone in his contributions. Senior righty Kory Lawrence hurled a workman-like, complete-game five-hitter, yielding only one walk while fanning a quartet. In the process, he raised his record to 4-1 on the spring, and Marsella’s crew improved to 10-3 overall and 10-2 in II-North action.
With the triumph, Woonsocket remained in second place in the league behind Johnston.
“I played (Rainville) in right field against Classical (a 3-0 loss) on Monday, but we DH’d him,” Marsella said. “I didn’t think he was ready to bat, but he put a couple of good swings on the ball (Wednesday).”
As for Lawrence’s mound outing, Marsella’s son and pitching coach, Anthony, thought he combined control and power from start to finish.
“He spotted his fastball, and he kept them off-balance with his changeup and curve,” the younger Marsella said. “He told me he felt good the whole game. In fact, he came back after the sixth and said he still had a lot of gas in the tank.”
To be fair, North Smithfield senior southpaw Aaron Catarina posted a rather solid performance himself. In 5 1/3 frames, he too scattered five hits while walking four and whiffing the same amount.
“I thought ‘Cat’ pitched really well,” sighed Northmen head coach Jon Leddy, whose squad fell to 5-7 overall and 4-7 in II-North. “Actually, he’s pitched great in his last two outings. He was a hard-luck loser at Exeter/West Greenwich (a 3-2 defeat) on Friday; he only gave up five hits and three walks over the course of seven innings.
“Here, he gave up five hits in just over five innings,” he added. “Our problem is we’re getting guys on base with two outs, but we’re not coming up with the clutch hits. We’ve got to get those guys on with less than two and get them across.”
Case in point: In the top of the third, senior No. 9 hitter Sean Simmons ripped a one-out single down the left-field line, and Catarina placed him at second on a ground hit to right. Both moved up on a passed ball, though junior John Almeida struck out.
Senior Carlos Guzman then walked to juice the bags, but Lawrence got senior Brandon Chartier to foul out to first to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third, North Smithfield issued a gift run to the ‘Novans. Junior Cody L’Heureux walked, then stole second. When he attempted to rob third, catcher Chartier threw low to junior third baseman Ryan Masnyk, and the ball bounced past him.
As L’Heureux streaked to the plate, Masnyk’s classmate, left fielder Matt Prudhomme, threw wildly to Chartier, and Woonsocket had snatched the 1-0 cushion.
That would’ve been good enough to win on this day, but the ‘Novans added two in the fourth. Senior John Parenteau opened the frame with an infield single, then robbed second.
Junior John Flynn’s blooper to short center moved Parenteau to third, and – after sophomore Victor Hunt lined out to center – Rainville plated both with his two-bagger.
It looked as it Woonsocket would extend its lead in the fifth after sophomore Randy Reyes led off with a ground single up the middle. With one down and senior Andreas Brackett at the plate, Reyes attempted to steal second, but the home-plate umpire called Brackett for batter’s interference on Chartier’s throw to second.
He not only told Brackett he was Out No. 2, but forced Reyes back to first base. He later stole the bag, but Parenteau grounded to short to end the possible rally.
Senior Kyle Mercier started the seventh, drilling a double to left, but Masnyk, junior Ryan Nelligan and Simmons all grounded out to the infield to seal the verdict.
“I thought Cory pitched real well for them,” Leddy explained afterward. “He doesn’t make many mistakes, so we needed to jump on him from the start. We had faced him earlier in the year, and he struck out 11, but we lost yet another nail-biter, 4-2.
“Like I said, we’ve got to get our bats going earlier in games.”