WAKEFIELD—If there’s one thing that should not be lost amidst the unexpected termination of manager Phil Davidson it’s this; the Ocean State Waves are playing good baseball.
The Waves may be just four games into the Rian McCarthy era – one officially as of Tuesday’s 6-5 victory over the Sanford Mainers at Old Mountain Field – but the change has had little effect on the field as Ocean State won its third straight.
“At first it was a little bit of a distraction for the team but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of moving on,” right fielder Christian Muscarello said. “[We’re] just focusing on baseball.”
A number of the players – as well as McCarthy – would not comment on the circumstances surrounding the firing of Davidson but did say their main focus would be on the field.
“I’ve never had to personally deal with anything like that in my life before,” catcher Nick Sebastian said, “but the players have done a really good job of keeping focus, just coming out and doing what we’re here to do during the summer and that’s play baseball.”
It’s hard to argue with the results.
After a tough, 5-4 loss to first-place Newport Saturday the Waves responded with a 10-0 win Sunday over Mystic and a 4-3 victory against Holyoke Monday.
Early in Tuesday’s game it seemed as if just one or two runs would be enough as Ocean State starter Jimmy Duff and Sanford’s Scott Heath each posted three scoreless innings to start the game.
“I’ve been looking for that all season, the consistency with all my pitches,” Duff said. “I had that for the first five innings or so.”
In the bottom of the fourth the Waves finally got on the scoreboard after Sebastian started the rally by reaching on an error with two outs and then quickly moved to second on a pass ball.
The University of Rhode Island’s Pat Quinn then hit a single to left but it wasn’t deep enough to allow Sebastian to score from second – at least that’s what it seemed.
Sebastian took a hard turn around third, which forced the Mainers to rush the throw home.
The ball one-hopped its way to the plate, caught catcher Cole Martin in the face and skirted left towards the Sanford dugout.
Sebastian took off for the plate and was easily safe as Mainer third baseman Connor Castellano’s throw to Heath – who covered the plate with Martin down on the play – sailed long.
Quinn ended up at third base after the wild series of events but could not score as North Kingstown’s Mike Sherburne flew out to right to end the threat.
After another strong inning on the mound for Duff the Waves went back to work in the bottom of the fifth and took a commanding 6-0 lead.
After a Evan Ocello was hit by a pitch to start the inning Exeter’s Reed Gamache belted an RBI double to increase the lead to 2-0.
Muscarello was then hit by a pitch while trying to bunt – the home plate umpire ruled he had pulled back the bat in time, which led to the subsequent ejection of Sanford manager Aaron Izaryk – and Mike Gerber followed with a double to plate Gamache.
After Shaun McGraw – who was named to the NECBL All-Star Game this year with Gerber and Muscarello – struck out, Caden Bailey grounded out to short to plate Muscarello from third to increase the lead to 4-0 with two outs.
The Waves were not done though as Sebastian followed with a two-run shot over both the temporary and permanent fences in left to increase the lead to 6-0.
“He had been pitching me pretty well all night and I had a feeling he was going to go back to the curveball as he had done in the first two at-bats,” Sebastian said. “He left it up and I just tried to put a short, good swing on it and it ended up going over the fence.”
Slowly the Mainers crept back into the game though, as Duff lost his control in the top of the sixth and was lifted for Zachary Soulier.
Three singles off Soulier ultimately led to three runs in the sixth to cut the deficit in half and the Mainers tacked on one more in the seventh to get to within 6-4.
Sanford continued to inch closer over the final few innings as a Troy Black single allowed Kyle Moore to score from second to make it 6-5 after eight but in the top of the ninth Oliver Powers shut the door.
The 6-foot, 4-inch right hander from Newtown, Conn. delivered a one-two-three inning, getting Nic Wilson to fly out to right before striking out Martin and Anthony Papio to end the game.
When it was all said and done Ocean State used six pitchers to get the job done as Soulier, Matthew Cook, Nicholas Cooney, Austin Hill and Powers combined to preserve the win for Duff.
“That’s the story of the team this year is the bullpen,” Duff said. “They’re all doing their jobs, Oliver coming in and closing it out again. That’s two games in a row for him.”
As if things weren’t hectic enough for the Waves of late, Tuesday’s game was the keystone in one of their busiest stretches in the team’s schedule – seven games in seven days.
Ocean State’s win streak came to an end with a 3-2 loss to Mystic Wednesday and the team will wrap up the week with games at Sanford – 6:30 p.m. Thursday – and Mystic – noon Friday – before getting three off days in a row.