WEST WARWICK — The regular season is about finding an identity which will carry you through the playoffs.
Monday afternoon the West Warwick baseball team took a big step toward finding an identity, while defending Division II-South champion Prout is still trying to find its footing with a young group of players.
Fresh off two mercy-rule defeats last week, the Wizards bounced back Monday with a more patient approach at the plate which led to eight runs. The Crusaders battled back with two runs in the seventh inning, but West Warwick senior Kyle Beck forced junior Paul Langevin to ground out for the final out in an 8-6 Wizard victory.
“This feels really good. This is going to help our confidence a lot,” Beck said. “Hopefully this
will stay with us through out the season and keep us going.”
“I thought this was a total team win today,” West Warwick coach Richard Grenier said. “You can get a game sometimes where you have a couple of hitters who are in the zone and pounding the ball all over the place or you can get that pitcher who is on his game, but today this was a total team win.”
Prout (3-2 Division II-South) hasn’t lost more than three regular season games since 2006, but this is a different Crusader squad than the last few editions. Most of the Crusaders’ pitchers are underclassmen and many of the players weren’t on the varsity team last season.
Crusader coach Mike LaBarbera said the biggest issue with the team right now isn’t something he can fix, it’s up to the players.
“This game is indicative of the team I’ve been trying to explain to people,” LaBarbera said. “There are no excuses, we just have to be better. I’ve been searching for mental toughness on our team. I think you saw [Monday] our team lacks mental toughness.
“It’s tough to coach mental toughness, but maybe they can learn it. So you coach mental toughness by yelling and screaming? Of course not. That doesn’t do it. I’m searching for that mental toughness that will help us win these types of ball games.”
West Warwick (2-2 Division II-South) needed to win a ball game like Monday’s because they hadn’t played a sixth or seventh inning of a game this season. After humbling Mt. Hope in the opening game of the season, the Wizards were belted by Narragansett and Chariho last week.
Monday West Warwick didn’t have to face a pitcher the caliber of Narragansett’s Zach McKanna and they took advantage. West Warwick walked six times, was hit by two pitches and had six hits, two off the bat of senior Richard Grenier Jr.
“I thought the two kids pitched very well against us last week, but I thought our adjustments weren’t very good at all,” Grenier said. “[Monday] we made adjustments. We had several players go to the opposite field when they were pitched away and I thought that was the big difference.”
LaBarbera wanted to start freshman Mason Feole on the mound, but because starting first baseman James Pirch was unavailable, Feole was moved to first and Patrick Quarters earned the start on the mound.
Quarters struck out three batters in the first inning, but he gave up a run in the second on a single by Ray Zincone and an RBI ground out by Tyler Boisclair.
Prout immediately tied the game in the top of the third on a run by Langevin, but then the Wizards exploded for four runs in the third inning.
Ryan O’Kelly, Matt Masse, Rich McNeil and Gregg D’Ambrosca all scored runs to put the Wizards up 5-1. D’Ambrosca and McNeil had an RBI and a run in the inning.
McNeil pitched the first three innings and then senior Drew Doran came in to throw a scoreless fourth. Prout took advantage of two Doran walks in the fifth to score three runs and cut the deficit to just one. Jack Lambrecht scored a run and drove in a run to make the score 5-4.
“If we’re tough outs 1-through-9 then we’re going to win a lot of games,” LaBarbera said. “I felt like we gave a lot of at-bats away and teams are going to beat you when that happens. We’re working hard to fix our issues.”
Quarters was relieved by sophomore Ryan Smith in the sixth and the Wizards pounced. D’Ambrosca and Zincone worked walks before Grenier loaded the bases with a single. Boisclair hit a two-run double and then Grenier scored on a sacrifice fly by Doran.
The Crusaders clawed back into the game in the seventh and moved the tying run into scoring position after Feole looped a single to left to score Lambrecht. With Alex DeLuca on third and Feole on second Langevin grounded out to Masse.
“Facing Prout is always difficult and they’re like a rival because of the game I pitched down there last year,” Beck said. “I just wanted to come in and do work against Prout.”