PAWTUCKET – Pineview Big League skipper Joe Clark admitted his club didn't exhibit the kind of superb defense he expected from a lot of high school players in a 3-2 victory over East Greenwich on Tuesday night.
Sure, Clark and Co. won the game, but they looked rather shaky doing it.
That's why he chose to have a short conference with his young men prior to facing Edgewood/South Elmwood in the R.I. Big League (15-18) All-Star Tournament's winners-bracket final at the Doreen A. Tomlinson Athletic Complex' Presidents' Field on Friday night.
“I told them (Friday) we were a little shaky, and I thought it was because they were putting too much pressure on themselves with this being the state tournament,” Clark stated Friday night. “We made four or five errors, and I didn't like it.
“Before this game, we as coaches just told them to relax and trust themselves,” he added. “I said, 'You're 16, 17, 18 years old, and you've been playing a long time, so you know how to play baseball. You just have to trust your instincts.”
Turns out, his players paid attention. Recent Tolman High graduate Carlos Sanabria whirled a complete-game four-hitter and whiffed eight while walking just one as Pineview sailed to a satisfying 5-1 verdict over its Cranston/Providence-based opponent before perhaps 100 fans.
Sanabria also helped himself with the bat; he finished 2-for-3 with three RBI, a run scored and accounted for another with an incredible theft of home.
Other contributions came from Tolman teammate Steve Otis (1-for-3, RBI, run); fellow THS grad and batterymate Chris Baldwin (2-for-3, stolen bag); and fellow Tigers' teammates Adam Ghazal (1-for-2, run) and Zach Taber (0-for-3, two runs).
“On the mount, Carlos was fantastic,” Clark grinned after Pineview remained unbeaten at 2-0, and now will face one of Cumberland, East Greenwich or Edgewood/South Elmwood in a championship tilt slated for 4 p.m., Sunday. (The winner of Friday night's late game between Cumberland and East Greenwich will battle Edgewood/South Elmwood for the right to try to beat Pineview twice for the state tourney title).
“We slated him for this game because it was going to be the most important to have,” Clark noted. “With a win here, you go straight to the state championship game; if you don't, you have to win three more times just to get a chance (for the crown).
“Carlos knew how critical it was, and he brought his best stuff,” he continued. “He's a complete ballplayer, and complete ballplayers show up to play when it counts most. He did just that here.”
Pineview quickly started a rally in the back half of the first; Otis walked, but was thrown out at second when Taber reached on a fielder's choice. In an attempt to pick Taber off first, starting southpaw Brandon Budlong threw wildly to first, allowing him to scamper to third.
Sanabria roped an opposite-field single to right to plate Taber, and on the play, rightfielder Noah Gemma dove for the sinking liner, but it skipped past him, allowing Sanabria to reach second. Baldwin followed with an infield hit, sending Sanabria to third, but Baldwin was picked off first.
While all that happened, Sanabria sprinted to the plate and slid in safely on the delayed double-steal; those gave the Pawtucketers a 2-0 cushion.
Edgewood/South Elmwood threatened in the top half of the second when Budlong led off with an opposite-field single to right-center, but Sanabria forced Alex Figuerido to foul out, then got two more on simple flies.
While Budlong had squelched Pineview, retiring nine straight batters, Sanabria did the same, manufacturing seven straight before the visitors sliced the deficit in half; on his first delivery, Gemma walloped it over the right-field fence, and – suddenly – Edgewood/South Elmwood found itself right back in it.
Pineview – which had sent seven to the box in the two-run first – did itself one better in the fifth. Ghazal opened the frame with a ground single between short and third, took second on Corey Hughes' sacrifice bunt and scored on Tolman junior-to-be Steven Otis' double to deep center.
Budlong then struck out Taber, but the low pitch allowed him to scamper to first on the error. Taber robbed second, and Sanabria ripped an opposite-field single to right to plate both, and he took second on another infield miscue.
Baldwin followed with an infield hit, and Brandon Canuto replaced him as a courtesy runner and immediately robbed third, but Budlong whiffed Joey Fernandes then caused Alex Lopez to ground to third.
Sanabria got two quick outs before surrendering Gemma his second hit to right, but fanned Budlong to end the frame. All told, after that dinger, Sanabria allowed just a walk and a hit over the final 3 2/3 innings.
Seven of those came via the “K.”
“I thought the defense played really well,” Clark offered after the triumph. “Like I said, they were a little shaky against East Greenwich Tuesday, but we didn't make one error here.”
Explained catcher Baldwin about his long-time buddy on the hill: “Carlos started a little slow, but when he gave up the homer to that kid, I thought he was lights out. I honestly think it got him mad.
“His fastball seemed to be working the best,” he added. “It seemed like those guys couldn't catch up to it. In some curveball situations, I (signaled) him to come with the heat. We were just throwing the fastball, and – again – their bats couldn't catch up to it. He’s throwing the same way he did in high school – fast.”
Edgewood/South Elmwood 000 100 0 – 1 – 4 – 5
Pineview 200 030 x – 5 – 8 – 0
Brandon Budlong, Kyle Rush (6) and Tyler Galligan. Carlos Sanabria and Chris Baldwin. WP – Sanabria. LP – Budlong. 2B – Steve Otis. HR – Noah Gemma.