WEST WARWICK --- It’s been a number of years since Navigant Credit Union Post 85 enjoyed a postseason run like this one, but on Wednesday night, the Woonsocket ballclub moved closer to a state championship by nailing down another impressive victory.
The eighth and lowest seed remaining in the R.I. playoffs, Post 85 rode the strong arm of Brandon Rainville and held off a late comeback by its third-seeded rival to produce a 4-3 triumph, its fourth straight tournament ‘W’, at McCarthy Field.
Post 85 (15-12), which was only a day removed from its stunning victory over top-seeded New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 in its double-elimination opener, is now two wins away from the first state title by a Woonsocket Legion squad since 1989, when Woonsocket Post 62 brought home the championship.
Navigant will try to grab the first win in the winners’ bracket final tonight at 7 p.m. when Post 85 takes on fourth-seeded Senerchia Post 74. The Bishop Hendricken-based ballclub used runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth inning to nip seventh-seeded Hurd Auto Mall of Johnston, 4-3, in its winners’ bracket contest last night.
Rainville worked seven scoreless innings for the victory, allowing just one hit, a double to center by Tyler Santaniello that one-hopped the fence with one out in the fourth, striking out five, and walking three.
Rainville was also backed up by some excellent defense by his teammates and a few nice plays in the field, with the best of the bunch coming with two outs in the sixth on a great running catch to the warning track in straightaway center by center fielder Kevin Reyes on another long drive by Santaniello.
For the first four innings, both starting pitchers and high school juniors-to-be, Rainville and Upper Deck’s James Meizoso, exchanged zeroes, as Rainville set down the first eight batters he faced and allowed just one hit, and Meizoso surrendered just two singles and allowed no runners to advance past first.
But in the fifth, Navigant jumped on the board. Will Andino led off with a sharp single to right field, and after he went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Bare, he raced to third when the first pitch he threw to the next batter, Brendan Chartier, bounced in the dirt.
Post 86/14 then pulled the infield onto the edge of the grass, but the move backfired when Chartier lined a single over the leap of second baseman Tyler Calabro to drive in Andino.
Post 85 wouldn’t threaten its neighboring foe again until the eighth when they scored its final three runs without the benefit of a hit, but with the help of six walks.
First, Meizoso issued walks to the first two batters he faced. He came back to pick off the runner on second for the first out, but an infield error and another walk loaded the bases and ended Meizoso’s night on the hill.
Upper Deck manager Jim Dawber then brought in Santaniello from his shortstop position to relieve Meizoso, but Santaniello walked the first two batters he faced, Brandon Perrico and Kory Lawrence to force in runs.
Dawber also walked, to the mound to bring in Matt Menucci to pitch. Menucci got the first batter he faced to fly out to shallow left, but then he walked Andino to force in Post 85’s fourth run, a run that would prove to be a very important one.
Post 86/14 (15-9) finally got on the board in the home half of the eighth off reliever Matt LaButti, who with one out, allowed a base hit to right by Santaniello that knocked in Matt Lazarus, who drew a walk.
Aaron Catarina then came in to pitch, but he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Christian Spader to race home with a run, and then put the tying run on first when he walked Chase Sullivan.
An infield grounder by Greg Joubert then drove in Santaniello to make it a one-run game, but Catarina wiggled off the hook and ended the inning by striking out the next batter he faced.
Upper Deck posed one more threat in the bottom of the ninth, when after two strikeouts, Catarina walked Peter Travers and hit Lazarus in the back with a pitch. But a grounder to third halted that threat and set the stage for Navigant’s duel with Senerchia.
Navigant’s game with Senerchia will be the finale of a tripleheader at McCarthy that will feature losers’ bracket games at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Post 86/14 and fifth-seeded Gerhskoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 of Cranston will play at 1 p.m., and NEFL/Shields and Hurd Auto will follow at 4.