CRANSTON – The Lincoln All-Stars didn't just dominate their games among Rhode Island's best, but turned all of them into cakewalks.
Their mastery of the bat was a major reason why.
Skipper Matt Netto's offensive-minded crew once again derailed Cranston Western, this time by a 13-2 count, to claim the R.I. Little League Major Division (11-12) Tournament title at CWLL's Michael P. Varrato Field home on Friday night.
With 14 hits, including six for extra bases, Lincoln manufactured its third straight “mercy-rule” triumph of the tourney, and with it earned a berth in the U.S. New England Regional event slated to begin next weekend in Bristol, Conn.
David Bordieri and Braedon Carney paced the offense statistically, as the former finished 3-for-4 with a double, home run, three RBI and two runs scored (he gained Offensive Player of the Game honors for the feat), while Carney went 2-for-4 with a dinger, stolen base, four RBI and a pair of runs.
They had plenty of help: The guy teammates affectionately call “Trick or Treat,” Steve Andrews, closed at 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run; Blake Zaniol went 3-for-3 with a two doubles, an RBI and a three runs; and Dominic Cunha 1-for-1 with a walk and a run.
When asked the key to these All-Stars' prowess with the club, hitting coach Dale O'Dell softly explained it this way: “The kids just work hard. They're very coachable, and – obviously – they've got a lot of talent. The biggest thing, I think, is we work harder than most teams. We do have a couple of secrets, and we won't reveal them, but it's just doing the fundamentals well.
“We teach them about looking for a good pitch to hit, and to be patient.”
When it was over, and after he accepted his trophy for being a state champion, “substitute” (if there is such a thing on this squad) Tyler Santilli's reaction was unlike most of his teammates. After running back to his spot on the first-base line, he raised the physical achievement to the heavens, then lowered it and kissed it.
He had reason: He and his brethren had mustered 35 hits and 37 runs in their three state tourney tilts while surrendering only two runs. Both of those came in this finale against Cranston Western.
“We work on a lot of things in practice,” Carney stated. “Left-handed and right-handed pitchers, looking for inside and outside pitches, curveballs, fastballs, everything. Everything we may see in a game, we've already seen in practice.
“I guess we're just a talented group of boys,” he added with a grin. “I'm not surprised with our hitting. We get so many swings all year, we get more focused, I guess. We owe Coach O'Dell for a lot of it.”
Lost in all of the offense was the fine mound outing of southpaw fireballer Kyle Marrapese. He tossed all four frames (due to the mercy rule) and scattered four hits and two walks while whiffing eight. The two runs he allowed were both unearned.
When Lincoln faced CW in the state opener last Saturday, they jumped out to a 2-0 cushion in the first frame en route to a 13-0 pasting. This time, they plated nine.
Leadoff Aaron DeSousa reached on an error, and Bordieri pushed him to third with a double off the fence in center off of righty starter Anthony Eacuello. On an 0-1 count, Andrews them crushed a 235-foot shot over the right-field wall to give the All-Stars a 3-0 cushion.
Marrapese then started another mini-rally with an infield hit, though was thrown out at second on Connor Benbenek's fielder's choice, but Zaniol ripped a double to send courtesy runner Santilli to third.
At that point, CW manager Gary Bucci replaced Eacuello with talented lefty Jake Procaccianti, who yielded Carney a two-run double to right-center.
Cunha and Zarek Larisa then walked to load the bags, Carney scored on a wild offering, and – with two down – Bordieri walloped a three-run “tater” well over the 220-foot sign in center to give the “visitors” a 9-0 lead.
CW assembled a threat in the back half, but – with runners in scoring position – Marrapese fanned both Matt Poulos and Kyle McCutcheon to end it.
Lincoln mustered another two in the second off of Procaccianti, and it took only three pitches. Zaniol knocked a two-bagger to center, and Carney lined a first-pitch fastball over the wall for the 11-0 cushion. Cunha and Marty Gaughan Jr. followed with hits, but the southpaw recorded three straight outs.
In the bottom half, Eacuello reached on an infield miscue, then moved to third on Matt Lombardi's impressive double to the fence. When Eacuello tried to score, however, second baseman Zaniol rifled a perfect toss to backstop Benbenek for the second out.
Marrapese escaped the possible flurry when he struck out Anthony Cardi.
As for the third, Netto's squad collected another pair when Marrapese singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Zaniol's RBI single. When the outfielder bobbled the ball, he raced to third, then hustled in on an ensuing throwing error to the plate.
The District I champions didn't roll over, though. Mike DiCenzo and Procaccianti both beat out infield hits, and moved up on a passed ball. The former scored on another passed ball, and the latter did the same on a third.
With two runners on, however, Marrapese again settled himself and registered two straight whiffs.
Those were the only runs Lincoln allowed in its three contests.
“This was the hardest team I've ever had to put together,” Netto said later. “There were 19 or so guys capable of making it, so the selection process was difficult. The big thing is the team stayed humble and went about their jobs, and that was critical.
“Every time I thought we were going to have a close game, they'd score six, seven, eight runs in the first inning,” he added. “Honestly, it's not really that hard to coach this team; anyone could do it.”
Lincoln 922 0 – 13 – 14 – 2
Cranston Western 002 0 – 2 – 4 – 3
Kyle Marrapese and Connor Benbenek. Anthony Eacuello, Jake Procaccianti (1), Cooper Krusz (4) and Matt Poulos, Brian Schattle (3). 2B – Bordieri, Blake Zaniol 2, Matt Lombardi. HR – Andrews, Bordieri, Carney.