CRANSTON – With Jackson Walsh dealing and the Upper Deck bats supplying enough timely hits, the march continues through the R.I. American Legion Final Four.
The local lads from Cumberland and Lincoln passed their first elimination test with flying colors on Tuesday night, a 4-1 victory over Gershkoff Post 20 that confirmed a third trip in as many days to Cranston Stadium. Upper Deck will face the loser of Tuesday’s late game – R&R Construction vs. South Kingstown Post 39 – Wednesday at 6 p.m.
A 2021 graduate of Cumberland High who’ll be continuing his baseball journey at Wheaton College, Walsh fired a complete-game seven-hitter where he predominantly pitched backwards, i.e. use his breaking pitches to set up his fastball. Pay extra attention to the word “predominantly.”
With Gershkoff enjoying a first-and-third scenario with two down in the sixth, Walsh deployed his trusty curveball on a 3-2 count that bounced in the dirt for a swinging strike three. The normally reserved right-hander let out a scream as he walked off the mound. He ended up allowing zero unearned runs – Post 20 pushed across an unearned run in the top of the seventh – while striking out six and walking just one.
“We were playing an elimination game and knew we had to get it done,” said Walsh. “Pitching has been great for us this year, but we knew we had to get the bats going. That was the key to the game once that happened.”
One night after falling 1-0 to Post 39, Upper Deck saw several key members of its lineup come through in key spots. All the run support that Walsh would need came in the third inning as Upper Deck broke a scoreless game with a two-spot.
The inning began with an infield hit by Vaun Larisa with Adam Vartaian following with a sacrifice bunt that pushed Larisa into scoring position. It was back to the top of the lineup with Shane Calabro blasting a deep drive over the centerfielder’s head for a triple that easily scored Larisa with the game’s first run.
Calabro didn’t remain at third base for long. Michael Clapprood lifted a fly ball to right field that proved plenty deep enough to score his fellow Cumberland High product to make it 2-0.
“It was nice to get some runs and a few timely hits,” said Upper Deck head coach Matt Allard.
Upper Deck stretched the lead to 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Calabro did his part with a ringing double to the left-center gap with Clapprood creating a first-and-third scenario with a single that came with one down. Now with two down, Walsh helped his own cause with an infield single that plated Calabro.
Upper Deck posted a multi-hit inning in the sixth with Connor Allard leading off with a single and eventually scoring on a fielder’s choice by Calabro, who finished with two extra-base hits and scored twice.
“He’s 19 and he’s our leader,” said Allard about Calabro. “As he goes, we go. He played well today.
“We got a win, but we still have a long way to go,” Allard added.
Upper Deck out-hit Gershkoff, 8-7, with Larisa enjoying a two-hit night.