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WARWICK â€” A Coventry little league team will be meeting a team from Cranston in the opening game of a state tournament in Warwick.
One week after Central Coventryâ€™s Major Division All-Stars played Cranston Western in the opening game of the state tournament, Coventry Little leagueâ€™s 11-Year-Old All-Stars will play the leagueâ€™s first state tournament game when they meet Westernâ€™s 11s at 1:00 p.m. at Warwick Continental.
â€śWe have to reinforce that the talent we are going to see this weekend is right on par with a Narragansett and how they hit,â€ť Coventry coach Chris Lopes said earlier this week. â€śAnd how we have to defend that kind of offense better than we did in the 18-17 game last week.â€ť
See COVENTRY, Page B-2
While Western and District 1 champion Portsmouth hare regular visitors to Little League state tournaments, Coventry and District 4 champion Smithfield arenâ€™t. As a matter of fact, last weekâ€™s District 3 championship was the first in Coventryâ€™s history.
Lopes, however, said his team wonâ€™t be too nervous Saturday because Coventry has already played contests against perennial District 3 champions like Central Coventry, Wickford, Continental and Narragansett.
â€śI donâ€™t think this team has any reason to feel overwhelmed,â€ť Lopes said. â€śTheyâ€™ve swung the bats very well and â€“ hereâ€™s another thing â€“ this district has a very vaunted history. When you think of what we did to get here and who we had to beat to get here.
â€śCentral Coventry, all the banners that theyâ€™ve put up in this district. Wickford, all that theyâ€™ve put up for this district. Warwick Continental and Narragansett and all that theyâ€™ve done in this district. Now hereâ€™s little oleâ€™ Coventry and our one, lonely flag. We beat four exceptional teams.â€ť
Lopes said he went to Westernâ€™s game Sunday at Johnston when they won by 10-run rule. Western came back later in the week and finished the job to claim the District 2 title at the Chafee Complex.
With seven days off between the end of the District 3 tournament and the start of the state tournament, Lopes can line up his pitching anyway he wants for Saturday. Ace Manny Bjorklund, who started three of the four district games, will get the start.
Bjorklund pitched well in wins over Central Coventry and Warwick Continental, but he struggled in his two-inning outing against Narragansett. Lopes said Bjorklund was done in by the heat that hot July night and that he should be ready to throw the first pitch for Coventry Little League in state tournament play.
â€śWe feel very good about ourselves going into this tournament,â€ť Lopes said. â€śThe opponent is not as important as how we play.â€ť
Westernâ€™s biggest concern heading into Saturdayâ€™s game should be finding a way to slow down Coventryâ€™s potent offensive attack. Coventry scored at least eight runs in three of their four tournament games. The highlight, of course, was the 18-run performance against Narragansett in the district final.
Jarrad Grossguth, who will likely start on the mound Sunday, was the teamâ€™s most consistent hitter. Grossguth was nearly impossible to keep off the base paths in district play. The only blemish on his line was when he reached base by error in the Narragansett game.
Cam Reid, who is Coventryâ€™s No. 3 pitcher, hit a team-high three home runs in district play. Reid capped off his marvelous performance in the district tournament with eight RBIs in the win over Narragansett.
Joey Barter, Bjorklund, Steve Verrier, Brandon Lamothe, Cam Toussaint and Josh Andrade also played key roles during the District 3 championship run.
The winner of the Coventry-Cranston Western game will play Sunday at 7:00 p.m. against the winner of the Smithfield-Portsmouth game. The two losers Saturday will play an elimination game Sunday at 4:30 p.m.