The East Greenwich Avengers baseball team opened their 2013 schedule on a high note, looking to build upon last year’s success, as they defeated the Middletown High Blue Dragons, 1-0, at home in Monday afternoon’s season opener.
The 2012 season had quite the crescendo for the Avengers. Plagued by a slow start, EG finished the regular season with a losing record, 8-10, near the very bottom of the Division I-South standings. They caught fire late in the spring and into the playoffs, however. EG earned wins over Cranston West and Portsmouth High School to advance all the way to the Regional Finals, where they fell to eventual state champion Bishop Hendricken.
“We have experience now,” said Avengers head coach Bob Downey of how last year’s playoff successes will influence this year’s squad. “This year’s senior class didn’t have a whole lot of varsity experience [heading into last season], so they got their feet wet at the beginning of last season and caught fire near the end before getting knocked out by the
eventual state champion.”
As was the case in Monday’s opener, the key to success for the Avengers this season, according to Downey, is going to be his team’s play in the field, defensively and on the mound. Both the pitching staff and defensive infield are anchored by Rhode Island’s 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year, shortstop/pitcher David Hopkins.
“He’s our leader,” said the Avs skipper of his starting shortstop and #2 pitcher. “He’s the first guy on the field every day. He doesn’t say a lot, he just goes out there with a glove and bat, and is very well respected here and around the league.”
To help take some of the pitching load off of Hopkins shoulder this season, Downey has moved Monday’s starter, senior Ryan Gavin, to the top of his rotation.
After a slow start in 2012, Gavin rose to prominence as the season went along, putting his own exclamation point on the year when he threw a three hitter against the Portsmouth High Patriots in last year’s playoffs to get the Avengers to the Regional Final against Hendricken.
“He kind of grew up that day,” said Downey. “Just dominated and that is what he is capable of doing.”
Gavin picked up where he left off, throwing five scoreless innings, giving up just one hit with four strikeouts and no walks, to record the victory. Gavin gave way to Jake Moss, the teams No. 3 starter and Downey’s “secret weapon,” who threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning before Hopkins came in to close the door and get the save.
The Avs skipper could not have asked for a better start to the season following Monday’s win. As important as his team’s play in the field will be for EG to be successful, Downey knows his team cannot repeat the kind of early season struggles they had last year if they want to advance deeper into this season’s playoffs.
“Quick start, that’s what I was hoping for. I was hoping to get a win today. Hopefully we get a win on Thursday. Get out 2-0,” said Downey. “In our division right now, there are a lot of equal teams and then you have the SK’s and the NK’s that are always good, so I’d like to get a fast start with this group.”
Halfway to the coach’s 2-0 start, EG can complete that first step in 2013 in Thursday’s trip to the East Side of Providence for a contest against the Moses Brown School.