COVENTRY — From the second inning through the sixth inning of Wednesday’s Division I-South home game against Middletown, Coventry senior pitcher Justin Jadach allowed just two hits, one walk and one unearned run.
The first inning? That’s something Jadach and the Oakers would like to forget about.
The Islanders took advantage of walks to lead-off hitter Justin Sellar and No. 2 hitter Justin Sullivan to explode for five runs in the opening frame. Senior Spencer Gradley punctuated the inning with a three-run home run to left field to lead the visitors to a 7-4 victory.
“The first inning was so rough,” Jadach said after his solid, six-inning outing. “I’m so nervous because I go out there and I want to get some wins – that’s it.”
“He might’ve missed a few spots in the first inning, but he really kept us in this game,” Coventry coach Leo Bush said. “He’s the one guy who laid it on the line for us today because that’s what we needed. In the future we’re going to need more than one guy to shoulder the load. When we do that we’re going to be the team that finds a way to win.”
Coventry (1-4 Division I-South) can blame the first inning for a number of its defeats this season. Barrington scored a run in the first against the Oakers and won 3-0, Toll Gate scored five in the opening frame in a 10-0 win and NK scored in the first in a win last week.
Offensively, it took the Oakers a while to figure out Middletown starter Stewart Braman’s breaking pitch. The Oakers only had one runner reach scoring position in the first four innings, but then everything began to click in the fifth inning.
Junior first baseman Bobby Beaudoin, who was 2-for-3, began the inning with a single. Connor Briden (single) and Jadach (walk) loaded the bases for Shawn Pacifico, who struck out in his previous plate appearance against Braman.
The second baseman laced the second pitch he saw from Braman into the gap in right field to score Beaudoin and Briden. Jadach scored on an Anthony Masseur single and Pacifico was plated by a Nick Palumbo ground out.
“The kids were saying he was throwing a knuckler and he finally left a few up in the zone and the kids were able to deal with those,” Bush said. “If it’s high left it fly and if it’s low let it go. He was throwing his break pitch for a strike and he was doing a good job early of keeping us off balance.”
Masseur, who went 2-for-4, went to second base on Palumbo’s ground out, but he was stranded in scoring position when Shaun Vigeant grounded out to short.
“Ya, we felt pretty good, but we needed to get a stop the next inning,” Bush said. “I give our guys a lot of credit because we’re finding ways to get back into games. We’re not at the point where we can rely on a run an inning. That’s something we need to get to.”
Coventry needed to keep the deficit at one, but that didn’t happen because an error allowed Middletown sophomore Liam O’Regan to score an unearned run and stretch the lead to 6-4.
Beaudoin singled with one out in the sixth to bring the tying run to the plate, but relief pitcher Greg Eng struck out Briden and forced Jadach to ground out to end the threat.
Middletown (3-3 Division I-South) added another unearned in the seventh against reliever Aaron Guenet before Eng pitched a clean seventh inning to earn the save.
“A team like us that is trying to find ways to score and create runs, walks and errors are going to hurt us,” Bush said. “An eyeball test tells you that walks and errors quickly turn into doubles and they’re able to play the type of game against us that we would like to play against them.”
Errors hampered Coventry’s effort at the end, but it was walks which put Coventry in trouble early in the game. After walking three of the first four batters, Jadach struck out Chris Paiva and he thought he had limited the damage to just one run with a perfect 2-2 pitch to O’Regan.
The umpire called the pitch a ball and O’Regan knocked a runner in before Gradley connected on a 2-2 pitch for a three-run home run.
“I was obviously frustrated after the first inning, but I composed myself, calmed down and talked to my team,” Jadach said. “We finally started getting hits and that motivated me to pitch a little better.
“I have zero experience. I have three varsity starts in my whole high-school career, so obviously I don’t have much varsity experience. I’m starting to feel comfortable.”
The Oakers will look to snap their five-game losing streak when Portsmouth, fresh off a mercy-rule loss to East Greenwich, visits Thursday afternoon.