WOONSOCKET — Late Monday night, Navigant Post 85 suffered its most dismal frame of the season during an 11-6 loss to North Division-leading Upper Deck Post 86-14 at Chet Nichols Memorial Field in Lincoln.
It surrendered nine runs while issuing seven walks, committing three errors and striking a batter in the bottom of the fifth, handing the tilt to the visitors, which mustered only three hits.
Co-skippers Jim Gauthier and Buster Perreault, however, gained a bit of revenge on Tuesday evening, and it came in the form of Woonsocket High grad Brandon Rainville.
With the bags juiced in the bottom of the seventh, Rainville ripped a single to center to plate E.J. Torres and give Navigant a thrilling 2-1 R.I. American Legion League Senior Division triumph before perhaps 50 fans at Renaud Field.
“That was amazing,” Rainville grinned minutes after Post 85 improved to 13-5 in North Division play. “We know we gave the game away (Monday), and we really wanted to prove who we think is the better team (Tuesday).
“I wasn’t thinking about anything (at the plate prior to the game-clinching hit),” he added. “I just cleared my mind and went with instinct. I just wanted to hit a pitch I could drive.”
When asked how his teammates reacted, he not-so-innocently stated, “Nothing much. I guess they were happy,” to which Perreault responded, “Are you kidding? They were jumpin’ all over you!”
The victory pulled Navigant (13-5) to within one game of first in the North (owned by
Upper Deck). Should Post 85 muster another win in its regular-season finale against UD on Thursday at 6:45 (again at the Nichols diamond), it could clinch the division title outright (due to a tiebreaker).
Post 86-14 fell to 18-5 overall and 13-4 in league action.
“We gave up nine walks (actually, seven), hit a batter and committed three errors in that (11-6) loss (Monday) night, and Upper Deck scored nine to put it away – without a hit,” Gauthier said. “I just told the kids to forget about it. That’s all you can do. I said, ‘Forget it, it’s over. You can’t do anything about it but come back and work harder.
“Brandon came through for us in the clutch,” he added. “He’s been struggling all year, so I’m glad that he did it. It’ll be a confidence booster for him … This is a little redemption for us. Now, on Thursday night, you could be looking at a game for the division title. If we happen to win, we’d win the tiebreaker (via head-to-head record).”
In that fateful final frame, southpaw Dylan Boisclair hit leadoff batter Torres, but then whiffed Andreas Brackett. With Brendan Chartier at the plate, Torres robbed second, but when the pitch escaped backstop Matt Billington, Torres slid safely into third.
Chartier ended up walking, and manager Steve Reynolds opted to replace Boisclair with righty Alec Cronan.
The Lincoln High junior allowed Chartier to scamper to second on defensive indifference, then intentionally walked Will Andino to load the bases. On a 1-0 count, Rainville ripped a ground hit up the middle, Torres raced in and Navigant began its celebration.
The single culminated a phenomenal pitchers’ duel between Boisclair and starting righthander Kory (“Skip”) Lawrence. In the end, Boisclair yielded just two hits, two runs (one earned) and four walks (with a balk) while whiffing five in 6 1/3 frames.
Lawrence, on the other hand, hurled a complete-game three-hitter. He issued three free bases and struck out six, but did make a wild pitch and hit one.
“Kory was fantastic,” Gauthier offered afterward. “His curve was working all night. His fastball, that he left up, but the curve carried him.”
Post 85 didn’t grab the lead until the back half of the sixth; that’s when Boisclair walked leadoff Andino, who raced to second on Rainville’s stellar sacrifice bunt. The lefty then intentionally walked Tyler Geffert, and had to face former Cumberland High batterymate Matt Bare.
Bare knocked a grounder to shortstop Tyler Calabro, who bobbled the ball but got his flip off in time to second baseman Sam Brito. He, too, couldn’t get the handle, and – in gthe interim – Andino sprinted home on the double miscue.
With Geffert at second and Bare at first, though, Boisclair whiffed Aaron Catarina and forced Victor Hunt to fly out to center.
It looked like Lawrence would snatch the win after striking out Justin Conti to start the seventh, but Dante Baldelli reached second when third baseman Tyler Geffert (who had played superbly throughout) fired a low throw to first.
Reynolds Sr. immediately replaced Baldelli with pinch-runner Brody Santilli, and he moved to third on a passed ball before scoring on Brito’s perfectly-executed suicide-squeeze bunt.
Still with one down, Josh Brodeur grounded to shortstop Andino, who tagged Brito rushing to second then fired to first for the unassisted twin-killing.
UD created a threat in the second when the leadoff Conti reached on an infield single and took second on Baldelli’s safe fielder’s choice, though Lawrence began a pretty 1-6-3 double play to thwart the possible flurry.
In Navigant’s fourth, Geffert walked and Boisclair balked him to second, but the latter sandwiched two flyouts to right around Catarina’s lineout to short.
With two down in the fifth, Boisclair hit Brito, and he moved to second on Brodeur’s lined single to center, though he got Calabro to ground to second.
“That was a great American Legion baseball game, with two good teams battling,” Reynolds Sr. stated afterward. “It was great execution on the suicide, and Boisclair pitched a helluva game.”
As for the intentional walk to Andino to fill the bases in the seventh, he explained, “Obviously, we didn’t have a choice. We had to take the suicide away from them and try to set up the double play. I know we’ll bounce back.”
After its final tilt against Navigant on Thursday night, Reynolds and Co. will close their campaign against Collette Vacations Post 79 in a trio of games; they’ll be held at Vets Park at 5:30 p.m., Friday; at Slater Park’s Ted McConnon Memorial Field at 9 a.m., Saturday; and at Chet Nichols at noon, Sunday.
Post 85 will host a twinbill against North Providence (5:30 p.m.) and R&R Construction (8 p.m.) on Friday, and will take on Gershkoff at Renaud Field at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday.
“Hurd Chevrolet (of Johnston) is a distant third in the North with seven losses,” Gauthier mentioned later. “Our goal is to get a first-round playoff bye. We can do that by either winning the division or finishing with the best record in the other two divisions. If we get that wild card, we’d get the bye, too.
“We’d love that.”