WARWICK – Upper Deck Post 86/14 skipper Steve Reynolds Sr. admitted before his squad's final regular-season tilt against Senerchia Post 74 early Monday night that he'd be a bit shorthanded, as four or five of his players were home nursing minor injuries.
“It's a long season, and those things are going to happen,” he stated. “We're OK.”
The club was much better than that after recent Cumberland High grad and southpaw Dylan Boisclair scattered five hits and three walks while mowing down a half-dozen Senerchia batters in a satisfying 3-1 victory at Hendricken High's Ray Pepin Field.
With the decision, Upper Deck not only finished the campaign with a stellar 17-5 record (24-7 overall), but also captured the R.I. American Legion League's North Division championship.
As soon as it ended, Reynolds Sr. and his assistants – among them his son, pitching coach Jay Rainville, etc. – led their troops to the right side of the infield for a little post-game meeting.
It included several rounds of applause from the guys.
“I just told them, 'Hey, we're division champs,' and I congratulated them for what they accomplished,” the manager explained. “That's what we played for all year, winning the division and earning a first-round bye. Now, I believe we're automatically in the (state's) Final Eight.
“What was nice about it was the kids went out and won (the crown) themselves; they didn't have to back in to it,” he added. “When I took over during the winter, the kids worked very hard, worked well with the coaching staff and responded to what we were teaching. They all take baseball very seriously, and that's what we were preaching from the outset.
“Dylan put forth an outstanding effort. When he gets ahead of the hitters, he's dominant. If he did get himself into a jam, he worked himself out of it. He was a bulldog out there. He was spotting his fastball well, and he's stick in some sliders occasionally. Again, he was just a bulldog.”
American Legion games are not won by pitching alone. Brody Santilli paced the offense, going 2-for-4 with a double, a RBI and a run scored, while Dante Baldelli finished 2-for-3 with a RBI; Sam Brito 2-for-3; and Justin Conti 1-for-2 with a run.
In fact, Reynolds Sr.'s final trio in the lineup – including No. 7 Matt Billington, No. 8 Conti and No. 9 Baldelli – combined for four hits, and RBI and two runs scored. Between the three, they went 4-for-8.
Only two starters failed to record a hit, but Pete Travers collected an RBI, and Josh Brodeur reached after being struck by a pitch.
“The bottom of our order was tremendous (Monday),” he noted. “Dante played a helluva game, and Justin was solid, too. As for Matt, he's our captain; he's our leader on and off the field, so I'm really proud of those guys.”
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Righty starter Anthony Cofone took the loss after surrendering 10 hits and three earned runs while fanning just one in six frames. Mike Webb hurled a flawless seventh and struck out one for Senerchia, which fell to 14-7 with one game left on its slate.
Post 86-14 didn't need long to grab a 1-0 advantage. In the top of the first, Santilli drove a two-bagger to the right-center gap, then took third on Doug Harrison's bloop, opposite-field hit to short right. Travers plated Santilli with a sacrifice liner to right before Tyler Calabro reached on an infield single. Sam Brito followed with a hit up the middle, but center fielder Rob Henry threw out Harrison attempting to score, catcher Gian Martellini applying the tag.
It looked as if Senerchia (made up entirely of Hendricken varsity and JV players) may knot it in the back half of the second when Martellini whacked a ground hit up the middle, Nick Boland (2-for-3) walked and both moved into scoring position on Brady Chant's sacrifice bunt.
Boisclair then walked Sam Boulanger to fill the bases, but he whiffed John Willette. At that point, Kevin Sutyle lofted a high foul down the third-base line, but Conti made a superlative, over-the-shoulder, sliding catch with his back to the plate to end the frame.
Reynolds Sr.'s crew added two more in the fourth to cushion its lead to 3-0. Brito knocked a one-out single to right-center, but was thrown out at second on Billington's fielder's choice. Conti immediately drove a hit to left-center, taking second on Henry's bobble and pushing Billington to third, and the latter scored on Baldelli's screaming single up the middle.
Cofone then struck Brodeur with an offering to juice the bags once more, and Santilli poked a seeing-eye ground hit just past second base to plate Conti.
Senerchia appeared ready to bite into the deficit when Boland crushed a leadoff double to deep left-center, but Boisclair got Chant looking, forced Boulanger to ground back to the hill and fanned Willette on a called third strike.
Boisclair wasn't as fortunate in the sixth. Martellini started off the Post 74 flurry with a single to left, Boland did the same to center and Chant knocked a hit to right to load the bases – with no one out. Boulanger flew out to right, and Willette reached on a fielder's choice grounder to short to knock in Martellini.
With Boland and Willette at the corners, though, Boisclair got Sutyle to ground to second.
As for the bottom of the seventh, Baldelli made a spectacular driving snag of Henry's sinking liner, Harrison made a superb stop of Matt Murphy's skidding grounder to first and Tyler Calabro kept his balance in grabbing Mike King's bouncer up the middle.
“The guys were great, top to bottom,” Reynolds Sr. offered as his players began walking off the diamond.
Just like that, he yelled to the guys out front, “Hey, back here! We're walking off this field as a team.”
Seconds later, he issued this demand: “Don't forget. Practice tomorrow at 5 at Lincoln High.”
That stated, he turned back, flashing a satisfied grin.