WICKFORD – A baseball force is brewing in Wickford and it comes in the form of the town’s 11-Year Old All-Star Little League team.
The team dominated once again last Friday night as they defeated Warwick Continental 10-0 in five innings in the championship game of the District 3 Tournament at Wilson Park.
“Tough to put into words, really. Awful proud of these guys,” said Wickford manager Joe Walsh. “Just a lot of work and they all just came together.
“…District Championship? 10-0? I’ll take that every day of the week.”
It was only for a brief moment to start the game that Continental seemed to have any life as a walk and single given up by Wickford starter Cam Lindberg put the first two hitters of the game aboard.
The defense, however, quickly turned a double play in the next at bat and followed it up with an easy groundout to end the threat.
From that point on the juggernaut was off and running.
With the tone set, the Wickford offense went to bat in the bottom of the first and came through with the first of their clutch, two-out rallies in the contest, plating three for the early lead.
With runners on first and second, Brendan Kearns drove in the first run of the day on a double to straightaway center.
Meghan Gormley followed suit in the next at bat, bringing two more home with a double of her own for a 3-0 lead.
“It’s all the way through the order, too, so it isn’t any one guy that steps up,” Walsh said. “I think everyone going up doesn’t even think about how many outs there are. It’s just, ‘it’s my turn now, what am I going to do?’ And everyone’s thinking hit. It just so happened, unfortunately, that we had to do it with two outs, but they all did it.”
Wickford plated individual runs in the second and third to extend their lead to 5-0.
Nick Hines drove a solo shot to right-center field to lead off the second inning.
Tommy Lanowy hit a shot to right in the third and though this one stayed inside the fence, the speedy outfielder caught the Warwick defense sleeping and came around to score on the play.
Wickford staged another three-run, two-out rally in the fourth to make it 8-0, getting RBI from Lindberg, Brett Maloney and Kearns before wrapping things up an inning early in the bottom of the fifth.
A sacrifice to left by Mason Walsh with one out and the bases loaded brought in Lanowy one at bat before Lindberg started the banner ceremony by driving in Hines on a single to right.
While the offense has been stealing the headlines – Wickford 10-runned their opponents in three of their four wins in the tournament – their manager was quick to note it was not the clutch bats driving his team, but the pitching and defense that put them in the state tournament.
“Honestly, it’s been defense all year,” the elder Walsh said. “It’s great scoring the 10 runs again, love to see the bats, but the defense was just outstanding. …Everybody’s ready for a ball to come, that’s all I ask.”
After the key double play to end the first, Wickford retired the side in order in the second and third, with Lindberg striking out two in each inning. Then, as Lindberg began to labor slightly in the top of the fifth, the defense truly shined.
Hines recorded the first out by making a tremendous diving catch in left to start the inning. With the bases loaded, the Wickford turned its second double play of the contest, a highlight-reel 1-6-3 to end the Continental threat.
“As long as the defense and the pitching’s there it’s tough to beat us,” Walsh said. “Really tough to beat us.”
Wickford, having finished the districts a perfect 4-0, now advances to face Rhode Island’s other three district winners in a double elimination tournament set to begin on Saturday in Bristol.
The first game will be against host team and District 2 champion Bristol at 1:30 p.m. at Veterans Park.