WOOD RIVER JUNCTION – The jump up from Division II to I is never easy, but the Chariho High School baseball team is facing more than just that adjustment in the 2019 campaign. They lost plenty of talent from last year’s D-II state championship team, as well as head coach Andy Devereaux.
So, it’s no surprise that the new-look team has had some early season struggles. They are 0-3 in league play, a 3-1 loss to Smithfield on Tuesday being the latest defeat for the team. Sean Sposato threw a complete-game six-hitter, striking out eight batters in a losing effort.
To replace Devereaux, the Chargers have hired longtime Legion coach Jim Dauber. He, alongside seven Charger seniors, will look to make a seamless transition into a new chapter of Charger ball.
“Defense is picking up right where we left off last year, same thing with pitching,” team captain Devin DiBiasio said. “We still have our three workhorses, Dylan [LaBelle], Ben [Harrison] and Sean. They’ve been doing a great job of keeping us in games. It’s our offense, gotta get those bats moving.”
The Chargers only had six hits on Tuesday against Smithfield, and never had more than in a single inning. Mark Smithey drove in the sole run on a third-inning single, while Kyle Abbot, Zach Snow, and John Pellegrino all had doubles.
“lt’s definitely a challenge to jump up a division,” DiBiasio said. “Lot better competition. The weather – it’s tough playing baseball when it’s cold. As hitters, you could have somebody trying to crush the ball because how dense the air is, the ball stops, it dies down on you.”
“Slow start,” agreed Sposasto. “Last year we knocked the ball around everywhere. As the season goes on, as we get more comfortable with this new level of pitching, I think we’ll be fine.”
Sposato retired the first six batters he faced in order, before running into trouble in the third and fourth innings. Consecutive hits broke up the clean start in the third, with both runners scoring on a ground-out and passed ball.
“Threw too many good pitches in good counts,” Sposato said. “They beat us on a passed ball, what are you going to do? Division I you have to play seven innings of baseball in order to win.
“I’m still confident, not going to let this bother me. Yeah, it sucks, but I only gave up three runs. I’m not going to let this affect me.”
Sposato leads a rotation that will fit right in at the Division I level. LaBelle and Harrison round out the starting rotation, but there are players up and down the roster capable of eating up innings on the mound this year.
“Our pitching is our best aspect,” DiBiasio said. “As we get closer to mid, end of season, where we’re playing games back-to-back, three, four games a week, that’s where we’re really be able to shine. We have more pitching depth than these other teams.”
“We have six seniors who came back,” added Sposato. “They’re all in our starting lineup. Lot of leadership.”
The six senior count doesn’t include DiBiasio, who will sit out his senior season with a torn ACL. He will be present on the bench serving in a leadership role.
Abbot hit a one-out double in the seventh, but the top of the lineup couldn’t drive him in. The senior reached base all three times he batted on Tuesday.
The Chargers won’t have to wait long until they get another crack at the Sentinels. The RIIL is trying out a new schedule this year that features two-game series, home-and-away. The early returns on the shift have been all positive.
“Personally, I like it and I think as a team we all like it,” DiBiasio said. “It’s not like you’ll see a team [once] and then never see them again. Tough loss, just lost 3-1, we now have all this anger and emotion built up. Come Thursday, we’re ready to take it out on them.”
The return game will be played today at Smithfield.