COVENTRY — Coventry American 11-year-old Lucas Garcia is getting used to the closer role.
After earning the final two outs in Sunday’s win over Wickford, Garcia entered Tuesday’s District 3 Major Division winners’ bracket semifinal with East Greenwich in the third inning of a tie game.
All Garcia did over the final 3 1/3 innings of his outing was strike out six batters and allow just one run. Offensively, Garcia belted a crucial three-run home run in the fifth inning, while first baseman Anthony Braddock crushed two home runs and delivered four RBIs in a 16-8 victory at Wood St.
“It was huge what he did,” Coventry American coach Brendon Furtado said of Garcia’s much-needed relief. “He has great composure. I compare him to (teammate) Sean Helfrich. I knew that giving the ball to Lucas in that situation, I knew he was going to do what we needed him to do in that situation.”
“My dad (assistant coach Mark Garcia) told me to be consistent and not give up a lot of runs,” Garcia said. “I just threw strikes and kept people off balance.”
The victory moves Coventry American one step closer to claiming the town’s fifth straight Major Division district title. American will face Chariho, which won last year’s 11-year-old state title, in the winners’ bracket final Monday night at a sight to be determined.
After the top of the third inning it looked like American was headed to the losers’ bracket after East Greenwich lead-off hitter Robby Ayers hit a three-run home run off of American starter Jack Lacombe to square the game at seven.
Gunner Fontaine followed with a single before Furtado brought in Garcia, who immediately gave up a single to center to Harrison Leonard. Fontaine tried to score on the play, but Helfrich made a great throw to catcher Zach Furtado to end the inning.
Patrick Shea kept American off the scoreboard in the third inning and the home side looked to be in trouble.
“You just have to be calm,” Furtado said about the momentum swing. “You just have to come back and play baseball. Like I’ve said before, we have a good squad of kids.”
American rebuilt its lead in the fourth inning against Shea. Helfrich delivered a one-out single and then he scored on a two-out single by Furtado. After Lacombe drew a walk, Braddock crushed a three-run home run to left field to extend the lead to 11-7.
“Anthony Braddock had a great game,” Furtado said. “Lacombe did a good job and hit a home run. I would agree that if we can get the bottom of the order to put the bat on the ball we’re going to be that much more dangerous.”
Garcia made the lead stand up in the fifth inning when he pitched around a Sam Lewin single and an Ayers double. Garcia struck out the dangerous Fontaine with the tying run in the on deck circle.
American put the game away in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jamie Donahue and Kolye Bankauskas reached base to start the inning before Garcia launched a three-run home to put his team up 14-7.
“My dad told me just to get a base hit,” Garcia said. “We are a good hitting team. We got a lot of good pitches and we just hit them.”
Not for the first time during District 3 play a team decided to walk Quentin Dearden and, not for the first time, Furtado made them play. The catcher, who hit a crucial home run in the win over Wickford Sunday, belted a two-run home run. It was American’s seventh homer of the contest.
“That’s why Zach Furtado has to hit home runs in that spot,” Furtado said. “That’s what he did.”
Balls we’re leaving the park early and often. Ayers, who started on the mound, gave up a two-run home run to Helfrich and then Dearden followed with a mammoth shot over the trees in center field. Lacombe and Braddock also homered in the inning.
Lacombe couldn’t make the lead stand up. The 12-year-old allowed a run in the second inning and then he gave up six in the second. Ayers tied the game with a grand slam. That would be the last run EG scored until Shea hit a consolation homer to start the sixth inning.
“This is a good baseball team,” Furtado said. “With the help from the 11-year-olds this team can hang with anybody in the state. I think our record shows that.”