CRANSTON — Coventry American Major Division all-star coach Brendon Furtado proved prophetic.
Prior to his team’s opening round game of the state tournament against King Philip of Bristol, Furtado talked about how it was important for his team to make the simple plays because if they don’t the District 3 championships would be in trouble against the other elite teams in the state.
King Phillip scored three runs in the first four innings and they only had one hit as American pitcher Quentin Dearden and catcher Zach Furtado never seemed to be on the right page during Dearden’s 3 2/3 inning outing.
American wasted early chances to score and King Philip made them pay to earn a 10-5 victory Saturday at Cranston Western.
“Give them credit, they hit the baseball and made plays,” Furtado said after his team’s first loss of the summer. “It was tough to keep the kids up during the game. They’ve been winning for a month, so it’s tough to keep them up when they are losing. It’s Little League baseball. It is what it is.”
Of course, Saturday wasn’t the first time American gave up a number of runs. American gave up at least eight runs in its last three games, but they won all three of those games by scoring an average 19.3 run a contest.
That wasn’t the case against King Philip starter Justin Gervais, who didn’t throw hard but he found a way to keep the ball in the park. Anthony Braddock, Sean Helfrich and James Donahue all had two hits, but the combination of Lucas Garcia, Dearden and Furtado combined for just two hits and four strikeouts.
“The kid for Bristol did a great job,” Furtado said. “He threw change-ups. He threw curveballs and he spotted his pitches well. I give him a lot of credit because he did a great job.”
As poorly as the game went, it actually started well for the defending state champions. Dearden, who struck out 11 batters in his outing, overpowered Cam Santerre and Jack Sells to start the game before inducing a groundout to end the inning.
American was quick to pounce on Gervais, who gave up a lead-off double to Garcia. After a Helfrich fly out, Dearden singled up the middle to plate the first run of the game. Dearden moved to second on a single by Lacombe and tried to score on a single to right by Braddock, but he was thrown out at home plate.
“This is the states, so you have to take every opportunity to score as many runs as you can,” Furtado said. “If we score that run who knows what happens.”
American’s defensive problems started in the second inning when Gervais struck out, but he reached base safely when Furtado couldn’t handle the pitch in the dirt. Gervais moved to second on a passed ball and third on a wild pitch before a Nick Simeone ground out tied the game.
A Koyle Bankauskas single to plate special pinch runner Matt Iannotti put American ahead again in the second, but King Phillip tied the game in the third when Santerre singled to plate Max Mascala.
Dearden struck out four batters in the third inning, but he gave up a run when Gervais struck out again and reached base. He moved to second on an error and scored on two wild pitches.
“Mistakes,” Furtado said. “That can’t happen at this level. We’ve talked about that all year long. You can’t give them runners that are out – you just can’t do it.”
Everything fell apart for American in the fourth inning where the District 2 champions sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs. Dearden struck out the first batter of the inning before Santerre, who was named the offensive player of the game, drew a walk.
The inning went from bad to worse when a Jack Sells’ sacrifice bunt led to an error. Santerre, Sells, Trey Moran and Gervais all scored runs to extend King Philip’s lead to 7-2.
“I wasn’t expecting to only have three runs heading into the sixth inning,” Furtado said. “You have your good days and you have your bad days. Unfortunately for us this was one of our bad days.”
Helfrich scored a run in the fifth and he and Garcia added singles against Santerre in the sixth, but those runs proved to be mere consolation after King Philip scored three times in the sixth.
The defeat was Coventry American’s first loss against state competition. Since American started play last season, the Major Division all-stars were 13-0 against Ocean State foes.