WOONSOCKET — The natural question for Navigant Credit Union Post 85 coach Jim Gauthier after his squad eked out a 3-1 verdict over the North Providence Post 29 Senators on Tuesday night was this:
Is it possible for a pitcher to be inconsistent, yet still toss a two-hitter?
“We were just talking about that,” Gauthier grinned, referencing the post-Post 85 meeting on the Renaud Field mound. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept battling.”
That’s how Gauthier summed up the outing of righty hurler Brandon Rainville, who scattered two hits – just one to the outfield – while walking a half-dozen, throwing five wild pitches and fanning a quintet in 6 2/3 frames.
“After the first inning, we asked him how he felt, and he said, ‘I feel great, but I just don’t get it. I can’t locate.’ We (the coaches) thought it was just his mechanics. His arm wasn’t sore, nothing like that, but he sure gutted it out.”
The triumph came at a most opportune time for Navigant, which had lost its last four straight, though moved back to .500 at 7-7.
“Before the game, we just told the guys to get off the schneid; I thought we were just playing lazy for the last week,” Gauthier revealed. “We also said, ‘We’ve got two weeks left before the playoffs start, so let’s pick it up a notch or two.’
“I guess they listened,” he added.
North Providence fell to 5-9 overall, but did receive a solid performance from righthander Dylan McCluskie. In his complete-game outing, he yielded seven hits (without a walk or wild offering) and whiffed one.
The offensive hero on this night for the hometowners just happened to be Woonsocket High senior-to-be Kory Lawrence, who finished 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI; following closely behind was Villa Novan teammate Andreas Brackett, who also went 2-for-3 with a double and a run.
Still, it was Post 29 that struck first – and right away. In the top of the first, Rainville issued a one-out walk to Jon Lapolla, and he stole second, went to third on the pitcher’s first wild delivery and scored when Mike Corin reached on an infield single up the middle, one knocked down nicely by shortstop Will Andino.
It looked like North Providence might tack on another in the second when Rich Calabro walked, moved to second on another wild pitch and took third after Brody Morris took “Ball Four” and the toss got by backstop Brendan Chartier.
With runners at the corners, however, Rainville struck out No. 9 batter Jeff Langellier for the third out.
Navigant didn’t even the score until the fourth, when recent Woonsocket High graduate Andreas Brackett drilled a two-bagger to the left-center gap, took third on E.J. Torres’ groundout to McCluskie and scored on Lawrence’s broken-bat, softly-lined single to left.
North Smithfield grad Aaron Catarina followed with a bloop hit to right-center, but center fielder Corin threw Lawrence out at second, as the latter didn’t want to stray too far from first.
After fanning Langellier in the back half of the second, Rainville quietly retired 10 straight and had faced only three batters over the limit before Post 29 leadoff hitter Frank D’Amato opened the sixth with an opposite-field single to left. Lapolla then punched a soft hit to right, but – like Lawrence – he was tossed out at second by right fielder Catarina.
With Lapolla at first courtesy of the 9-6 fielder’s choice, he hustled to second, then third, on a pair of wild offerings, but Corin fouled out to catcher Chartier and Anthony Garceau flied to center.
For Navigant, Tyler Geffert led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to center, and – with one down – took third on Torres’ double to deep right. Lawrence followed with a two-bagger of his own, this one to the left-center hole, to plate both.
But nothing came easy for Rainville on this night. After getting Matt Massotti to ground to short, he issued a walk to Calabro, who took second on his fifth wild pitch, then did the same to McCluskie and the always-dangerous Post 29 pitcher/infielder Gian Abbruzzesse.
Gauthier and co-coach Buster Perrault immediately chose to pull Rainville in favor of righthander Matt LaBooty, and the reliever responded. He struck out Langellier, then forced D’Amato to bounce into a final fielder’s choice out.
“To be honest with you, this is the first game Kory has hit the ball solidly,” Gauthier admitted. “Even his (second-inning) flyout to right was belted. I knew he was due, and he came up big here.”
Like last week, Navigant is in for a busy stretch over the coming days. It will face this same Senators contingent in a doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m., Thursday before hosting West Warwick Post 2 at 5:30 p.m., Friday. On Saturday at 7 p.m., it will travel to Cardines Field to battle R&R Construction.
“We needed this win,” Gauthier stated. “Now we have to keep it going. That’s something we didn’t do when we had six games in five days last week.”