WEST WARWICK – It is one of the oldest clichés in the game of baseball; “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
It is also a cliché that may end up defining the summer of 2013 for the South Kingstown Post 39 baseball team.
After struggling early in the season – opening up with a 3-9 record – Post 39 turned it on over the final eight days of the regular season to roll into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league.
SK went 6-3 in that span, which culminated with their 6-5 win over West Warwick Post Two on Monday night at McCarthy Field.
“This is the time to peak,” said Post 39 coach Gary Lessard. “Any baseball season has peaks and valleys. It’s tough to stay hot for the whole season...but we’re on a little roll now. This is three in a row for us.”
The streak started over the weekend winning 8-7 on Saturday against Senerchia Post 74 and then shutting out Post Two 5-0 in the first game of the home-and-home series.
Through the first three and a half innings on Monday, it looked as though the streak would continue with ease as SK jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
Some sloppy defense, control issues by Post Two starter Justin Jadach – who hit two batters and walked another in the frame – and smart base running by Post 39 led to two runs in the top of the first for South Kingstown.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Connor Barrett lined one that bounced off first baseman AJ O’Connell’s foot and into the outfield, bringing home Jimmy Kershaw for the game’s first run, while leaving runners on the corners.
Barrett then attempted to steal second, while Dan Irwin waited for the throw before taking off towards home from third. Both runners advanced safely as the throw down went awry, giving South a 2-0 lead.
While starter Nathan Lessard and the South defense did their job to keep Post Two off the board through the first three innings, the Post 39 bats went back to work in the top of the fourth to further extend their lead with another two-out rally.
Nick Hayes got things going by driving a ball deep to center field, which fell in after Jake Moss could not get a good read on it, bringing home Riley Partridge in the process.
After a groundball to third by Kershaw was misplayed and left a pair of South base runners in scoring position, Irwin smacked a double to right which cleared the bases for a 5-0 advantage.
Irwin then advanced to third on a wild pitch and capped the Post 39 scoring on an infield single by Barrett.
“They seem to be a little more confident,” the elder Lessard said of his team’s recent success hitting the ball. “More guys are stepping up, some of the guys who weren’t making decent contact [early in the season].”
Despite how well things were going, things started to change as Post Two came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning.
With a seemingly insurmountable six-run cushion, Post 39 started to become lackadaisical in their play and it was as though the team from earlier in the season had returned.
“We were up 6-0 and kind of went flat after that,” their coach said. “I kept on trying to get them going. We had a couple of opportunities, but just couldn’t do it.
“That’s what happened early in the season, we could never get a two out hit or a clutch hit.”
South Kingstown put runners in scoring position in each of their final three at bats, but could never push anything across.
Post Two, meanwhile, slowly went to work chipping away at the deficit, plating a pair in each the bottom of the fourth and fifth to get within striking distance.
Hayes, who came on in relief of Lessard to start the fifth inning, got three quick fly outs to retire the side in order in the sixth, but ran into trouble in the seventh with the game on the line.
He induced a groundout to start the inning, but a walk and double to center put the tying run in scoring position.
With their comfortable lead a distant memory and the winning run at the plate, Lessard once again went to his bullpen and called upon lefty Billy Thomas.
“I was kind of thinking maybe I’ll give [Hayes] one more hitter, then the kid hit a gap shot, so I said ‘I have to get Billy some work, anyway,’” Lessard said. “He has a good temperament for a relief pitcher, never gets too up or too down. Doesn’t seem to get rattled.”
It was a short night’s work for Thomas who, though he was unable to hold both runners as one came home to bring the score to 6-5, got two quick groundouts to end the Post Two rally and the game.
The win brings Post 39’s regular season to a close with a 10-12 record, good for fourth in the Southern Division.
The team “lucks out” according to their coach, getting an extra day off while the rest of the league wraps up the regular season calendar on Tuesday before a league-wide off day on Wednesday and the start of the playoffs on Thursday.
While 39 knows they will take to the field Thursday to start their playoff run, they needed to wait for Tuesday’s results (unavailable at press time) before learning who they would meet.
Look for Barrett to take the hill, however, once they do so.