WEST WARWICK --- If Navigant Credit Union plans to win the first state championship by a Woonsocket-based ballclub in 23 years, it will need to play some of its best baseball over these next 48 hours and produce three victories over the next two days.
Eighth-seeded Navigant’s marvelous drive through the state playoffs, which featured four straight wins and included victories over the tournament’s No. 1 and 3 seeds, hit a speed bump on Friday night in Post 85’s winners’ bracket final against fourth-seeded Senerchia Post 74 at McCarthy Field.
Senerchia starting pitcher Dillon Manfredi, who next month, will begin his senior year at Bishop Hendricken, blanked Post 85 on five singles through eight-plus innings of work to help the Hendricken-based squad nab a 3-0 triumph and move one win away from seizing the state crown.
Navigant (15-13) will now fight for its postseason life in the losers’ bracket final today at 3:30 p.m. back at McCarthy against the winner of the loser’s bracket game at noon pitting Gerhskoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 and New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43.
If Navigant wins that contest, the team will have to return to the West Warwick complex on Sunday for a noon clash with Senerchia, and a victory there will set up a winner-take-all showdown with Post 74 for the state title, and that game will start 20 minutes after the completion of the first game.
Senerchia broke out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second off Post 85 starter Brandon Perrico, when with one gone and the bases loaded, Sam Boulanger drove in Nick Boland with a soft infield single along the third-base line and Rob Henry knocked in a run with a long sacrifice fly to center field.
After being unable to get a runner past first through the first four innings, Post 85 tried to get something going in the fifth when Kory Lawrence and Will Andino opened the inning with hard-hit singles to center.
The next batter, Matt Bare, then belted an 0-2 pitch into the gap in left-center, but center fielder Ron Henry made a nice running catch, and seeing Lawrence rounding third, threw the ball to second to double him off. The next batter then flew out to center, and Post 74’s two-run cushion was preserved.
In the seventh, Navigant again put a runner on second with no outs, as Brandon Rainville led off with a single down the left-field line and jogged into second on a fielding miscue. But Manfredi bounced back to retire the next three batters on seven pitches.
Senerchia added some insurance to its lead in the eighth when Mike King led off with a single, and after stealing second and taking third on an errant throw, he came home on a line single to left by Gian Martellini.
That hit spelled the end of the night for Perrico, who in his 7 1/3 innings of work, yielded eight hits and three walks and struck out three batters. Jon Flynn relieved him and quickly picked up the next two outs.
Manfredi, meanwhile, didn’t exit the game until he gave up a leadoff line single to Tyler Geffert in the ninth. Anthony Graziano then came in to put out the fire, but after inducing a groundout for the first out that sent Geffert to second, he walked Brandon Rainville.
But after another infield grounder to the right side of the infield produced the second out and put both runners into scoring position, he ended the contest and picked up a save by getting the next batter he faced to tap back to the mound.