COVENTRY — Coventry Little League 11-year Old All-Star Cam Reid had had a brilliant offensive performance against Narragansett in Friday night’s District 3 final.
Reid had already delivered a two-run home run, a two-run double, eight RBIs and three runs scored through six-and-half inning.
But Reid’s biggest contribution came with his team leading by a run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Facing Narragansett’s Chris Owens, who had already belted a number of home runs in the tournament, Reid struck out Owens with a low curveball to clinch Coventry its first District 3 title after an 18-17 win.
“I felt nervous, but I just tried to keep the ball low,” Reid said after picking up his district championship pin. “I knew he could hit the ball, but I just tried to stay low on him. … This feels awesome. I’m happy everybody is doing well on this team and that we are winning.”
Reid wasn’t the only offensive star, and how could he be in a 35-run contest that took nearly three hours to complete. For the fourth straight District 3 contest a team failed to keep Jarrad Grossguth off the base paths. Grossguth had two doubles, was hit by a pitch and walked once.
“I just put good swings on the ball and it goes far,” Grossguth said. “Both teams played good and they gave us a good run for our money, we just played a little better in the last inning.”
Joey Barter, who actually scored the first run of the game when the sun was still shining, delivered three doubles and scored two runs.
Barter’s father, Mark Barter, has been the Coventry Little League president for the last six years. Barter is retiring this year, but he couldn’t think of a better way to go out than winning the league’s first District 3 title.
“This means a lot because this little league has come a long way from not being one of the most represented leagues in the district to being one of the better leagues,” Mark Barter said. “The kids did it. I’m very proud to be a part of it, but this is about the kids and the coaches.”
It appeared Coventry was going to have to wait three more days for another shot at the title heading into the top of the sixth inning. Coventry trailed 15-10 with the bottom of the order due up in the last inning.
But Steve Verrier, who scored two and drove in two runs, started the inning with a walk. After two Narragansett errors flipped the lineup, Kolye Bankauskas drew a walk. Barter made the second out of the inning and then Reid hit a single
Grossguth looked like he had made the final out of the game when he grounded to sure-handed London Sudduth at second. But the ball eluded Sudduth and two runs scored to make it a one-run game with Bjorklund up next.
“We just said going into the inning, ‘If they can score 15 runs then we can score 15 runs,” Grossguth said. “A lot of the parents were cheering us on, so that gave us a lot of motivation.”
Another Narragansett error on Bjorklund’s fly ball to left allowed Reid and Grossguth to score to put the home side up for the first time since they were up 6-1 entering the bottom of the third inning.
Narragansett added even more drama to the proceedings when Jack Lurgio hit a lead-off double, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored with two outs on a wild pitch. Reid struck out Austin Pratt to second the game to extra innings.
Reid, as he has done through the entire tournament, came up with the big hit. With Bankauskas and Barter in scoring position, Reid laced a double to the gap in right field to score both runners. Reid was cut down at second base, but the damage was done.
“This feels really good, I’m happy we won the game,” Reid said.
Reid allowed Tyler Periera to score in the seventh, but Bjorklund made a great play at first base and Grossguth made a nice play at shortstop to bring Owens to the plate with two outs. Owens saw two strikes and then a ball before Reid struck him out looking.
“Thank god,” Coventry coach Chris Lopes said. “It’s starting to sink in as we speak that we won the district title. Coventry Little League has never won a title and this is a great group of kids who worked really hard.”
Coventry, which went undefeated in the tournament, will face the champion of District 1 to start the state tournament at Warwick Continental on Saturday, Jul 30.
Coventry appeared to be on its way to an easy win when they grabbed a 4-1 lead after the top of the third inning. Reid had already hit his fourth home run of the tournament and Bjorklund was working his way out of jams.
But Bjorklund loaded the bases with no outs and Lopes made a decision that could have backfired if Coventry lost Friday. Lopes pulled his ace with 49 pitches, which meant Bjorklund was available to pitch in Monday’s if-necessary game.
Grossguth came in and only set down one of the sixth batters he faced. Narragansett, on the back of a three-run Laure home run, scored seven runs in the inning to take an 8-6 lead.
“I didn’t want to think about Monday’s game, but you don’t want to take a team this far and then put them in a position where they have no pitching Monday,” Lopes said. “It wouldn’t have been fair to the kids. Narragansett was a very tough hitting team and I didn’t feel tonight was Manny’s night.”
Reid came in and quieted Narragansett in the fourth, but then the South Country squad exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning to take control of the game. Curtis Grundy hit a two-run triple and Pereira delivered a two-run single during the inning.
Coventry responded with six runs in the sixth before Narragansett sent it to extra innings where Coventry finally prevailed.