PAWTUCKET — Mythology abounds with pronouncements as to what aspects of baseball are most important to winning.
At Mount St. Charles, the debate is pretty cut-and-dry.
Celebrating a Division II championship at McCoy Stadium on Wednesday was made possible due to stellar pitching from Tommy Burke, stout defense behind him, and aggressive tendencies that were on full display on the base paths. Blend all three together and what you have is a MSC squad that got to celebrate after posting a 5-2 victory over Barrington.
The win completes a finals sweep of the Eagles, who managed just one hit off Burke after collecting 10 hits in the series opener. Just like he did in Game 3 of the semifinals against Tolman, Burke ran into very few road blocks en route to turning in a complete-game, 95-pitch effort that included eight strikeouts and four walks.
A junior, Burke’s pitching accolades also include facing only batter over the minimum over the first three innings, four innings where he retired the Eagles in order, and retiring the game’s final five batters in succession. Only one time did the Barrington hitters end an inning with a runner in scoring position.
“He pitched a helluva game,” said Mount coach Paul Jacques. “He handled the mental aspect of the game very well.”
In these playoffs, Mount made it a habit of playing from behind. It must have felt like a major weight had been lifted off Burke’s shoulders after being staked to a 2-0 advantage before he took the mound for the bottom of the first.
Everett Misto, who shined both at the plate and in the field en route to being named finals MVP, crushed a ball to deep left field to score Trey Bourque for the game’s first run. A Barrington error led to Misto scoring the second run of the first for the Mounties.
“Going out there with the lead, it definitely easies your anxiety and allowed me to get right to work,” said Burke.
“As the visiting team for this game, we knew we had to come out and get those early runs,” said Jacques.
This Mount team had been swinging the bats pretty well prior to winning the semis in three games. Running into some tough pitching explains part of the reason why the offense went cold at the worst possible time, though Jacques and his coaching staff knew they had to adapt. The solution was to apply more pressure via their feet.
The first instance on Wednesday when MSC truly set the wheels in motion came in the fifth inning with the game tied at 2-2. With runners on second and third and one down, Bryan Testa hit one into the gap that resulted in a nice play from Barrington shortstop Sam Tanous. On third base was Bourque, who broke for home as the throw from first base was delivered on a bounce that proved too late.
Two batters later, Alex Gonfrade jumped on a 3-1 pitch for a base hit that made it 4-2 in favor of the Mounties. Once again, Burke was staked to a two-run lead that he made sure would stand up the rest of the way.
The Mounties added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, once again unleashing their speed with the hope of maybe getting the Eagles to make a mistake. Testa led off with a single and was lifted for a pinch runner, senior Martin Piette, who scored the tying run with two down in the seventh of Game 1 of the finals.
In Game 2, Piette stole second, then stole third. The throw from Barrington catcher Jack Kriz sailed into left field, which enabled Piette to score easily and increase Mount’s margin on the scoreboard to three runs.
“We have some good team speed that we were able to take advantage of,” said Jacques.
The only brush with difficulty that Burke ran into came in the fourth, which began with back-to-back walks, a stolen base, and a wild pitch that advanced the runners to second and third. After recording a strikeout for the first out of the fourth, Burke allowed a groundball single to Barrington’s Kriz that plated two runs to tie the game at 2-2.
“The emotions were getting to me,” said Burke. “I knew had a no-hitter going and was overthrowing and missing my spots, but my catcher (Bourque) sat me down between innings and said we’re still up one game and to have fun out there.”
Added Bourque, “He was a little frustrated after the fourth, but he was still throwing lights out. I told him to settle down and that’s what he did.”
Asked about throwing a one-hitter in a title-clinching game, Burke replied, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at McCoy. This is a memory for a lifetime.”
It was Misto who delivered the game-winning hit in Game 1 against the Eagles as the junior left McCoy with four hits in two games and a series of key catches in center field that helped keep the Eagles at bay in Game 2. The Mounties did not commit a single error in the 16 innings that were needed to decide the best team in Division II in 2019.
“We faced some incredible pitching in the playoffs,” said Misto. “It wasn’t so much that we went cold. We had to adapt and make sure we played great defense.”
As the celebration near the dugout that is normally occupied by the Pawtucket Red Sox started to thin out, the Mountie players turned their attention to where the postgame championship celebration would take place. The choice, in unanimous fashion, was Buffalo Wild Wings in Dowling Village. There, the players and coaches could reflect on an incredible playoff run that featured six victories by a grand total of nine runs.
“We knew Barrington was a great team and knew we would have to give it everything we had,” said Burke after Mount clinched the program’s first title since 2015. “We were able to put it together at the right time.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
Mount St. Charles 200 020 1 --- 5-9-0
Barrington 000 200 0 --- 2-1-2
Tommy Burke and Trey Bourque. Henry Johnson, Bennett Durkin (6) and Jack Kriz.