BRISTOL – The ride finally came to an end for the Wickford 11-Year Old All-Stars at Veterans Park in Bristol last Thursday evening.
While Cumberland American may have hoisted the state championship banner at the end of the night, one thing was clear; no matter what, baseball was still in the future for the Wickford 11-Year Old All-Stars.
“First thing Nick Sacchetti said [after the game] was ‘Wiffleball tomorrow?’” said Wickford manager Joe Walsh. “That’s all we care about. As long as we’re doing something baseball oriented, we’re having fun.”
And a fun ride it was for Wickford through the district championship to the state title game, even if it was not the end they had hoped for as they were doubled up by Cumberland, who rode the long ball to a 10-5 victory.
It was a strong start to the contest for Wickford. After some defensive miscues led to a pair of Cumberland runs in the bottom of the second, Wickford came out and not just erased their deficit in the third, but went on to take a two-run lead of their own by the end of the top of the frame.
Geoffrey Coyne came home for the first run of the inning, scoring easily from second after the throw home on a Cameron Lindberg single to center went wide.
Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Brendan Kearns went back to centerfield with a single that scored both Sacchetti and Lindberg to give Wickford the lead. Meghan Gormley then capped the frame with a bloop single that landed just inside the first base line in shallow right to give her team a 4-2 advantage.
That, however, was the beginning of the end for Wickford as Cumberland came right back in the bottom of the third to reclaim the lead.
American would never relinquish it either as Tyler Provost took Lindberg deep to center for a three-run home run, the first of two home runs given up by the Wickford starter.
“The bats were working for [Cumberland] today,” Walsh said. “…Cam’s job is to throw strikes and to let the other eight guys do their job. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
“The three-run homer was a big blast. That was a big one. For me, when I go through the book, I think there were several spots and opportunities that we had defensively that we just didn’t make.”
The once dominant Wickford bats went quietly in the top of the fourth and in the bottom half of the frame Cumberland – highlighted by a Mason Matos solo shot – plated another four runs to widen its advantage to a comfortable 9-4.
Wickford stemmed the bleeding with a run of their own in the top of the fifth as a groundball by Kearns took a friendly bounce over first baseman Jayden Struble, plating Brett Maloney, but ultimately – with the exception of the third – the offense could never get much going against Cumberland starter Nick Croteau.
“Not a lot of strikeouts,” Walsh said, “it was we’re hitting the ball, but either at them or, the first couple innings, a few pop-ups, pretty easy plays for them. Just not hitting it with any authority.”
Cumberland responded to Wickford’s offense once again by plating their final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, before Croteau and Brendan Wright combined to toss a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth to secure the state championship.
It was still a memorable month for Wickford, losing just twice – both coming against Cumberland – since first taking the field in the District 3 tournament in early July.
The team was a perfect 4-0 in the district tournament – which included three 10-run victories – to go with its 2-2 record at states.
“The team, all 12, just a tremendous group of players. A lot of fun,” Walsh said. “I’m going to miss it. The good thing for me is Fall Ball starts in two weeks, so I get them all back. …We love baseball, we love to come out here and compete, but hats off to Cumberland today.
“Next year. That’s all we said [after the game]. Next year’s the year that counts.”