CRANSTON – Time and again this summer, the Coventry 11-year-old All Stars have shown the resiliency reserved primarily for teams of destiny. Dramatic victories, combined with dominant starting pitching and stellar defense, has allowed them to continue playing ball deep into the month of July, as they continue their push for a state title.
On Tuesday, that run of success faced its latest and most difficult test yet, only to see them pull another rabbit out of the hat in dramatic fashion. Trailing 4-1 at one point in their must-win game against Cranston Western in the losers’ bracket, Coventry rallied for a string of five unanswered runs before holding off a rally on the other side of the field in a 6-5 victory.
“Hats off to these boys who just continue to work hard,” manager Jack Ellison said.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all season long. Hard work pays off and we’re seeing it happen right now.”
With their rotation stretched thin following a 5-2 win over Lincoln the previous day, Zach Voelker got the start on the mound on Tuesday, matched up against Cranston Western’s Michael Parks, as Coventry looked to avenge a 4-3 loss from Saturday.
Voelker would hold the opposition scoreless over the first two innings of play, while driving home Travis Howman on an RBI double in the first to give the visitors a 1-0 edge, but ran into trouble in the third. Travis Howman came in for relief midway through and would wind up throwing the duration of the game.
“They put it together and we came back in with Travis Howman who has been a gem. He pitched hard, he threw hard. Zach Voelker got us to where we needed to be and then our bats came alive,” Ellison said.
Cranston Western, after stranding four base runners over the first two frames, struck for four runs in the third, chasing Voelker from the mound after 2 1/3 innings of work and the game tied, 1-1. Howman came in from centerfield, looking to limit the damage with the home team threatening for more offense.
An RBI bloop single off the bat of Thomas Tierney combined with a two-run single by pinch hitter Jared Patalano had the game turned on its head for the time being, as Cranston Western took a 4-1 lead into the fourth.
Following a brief team meeting outside the dugout, Coventry went to work offensively right away in the top of the fourth and got themselves right back in the game, though they nearly squandered the opportunity.
After Voelker reached safely on an infield single, Brady Shaw and Alex Donnehower connected on back-to-back singles to load the bases with nobody out for Matt O’Neill. The pinch hitter worked his way into a hitter’s count at 3-1 before ripping a pitch right into Chris Malise’s glove at second base for the first out. Kaden Osenkowski was able to work the count full before Parks struck him out looking for the second out, with the rally coming down to James Bessette.
A routine ground ball appeared to spell the end of any potential rally, but a throwing error by shortstop Devin DeAngelis to Malise, plated a pair of gift runs to make it 4-3. Gavin McCoy drew a walk on four straight pitches, but Caeden Joyce popped out to third on the first pitch of his at-bat to end the frame.
The top of the fifth saw Coventry load the bases with nobody out once again, and just like the fourth inning, they would manage to get two runs out of it. An infield single off the bat of Alex Donehower plated a pair of runs as the throw from third to home went sailing high. Jacob Moore extended the lead to 6-4 on an RBI single up the middle.
The home team got one of those runs back in the fifth, but Howman was able to shut the door in the sixth, preserving Coventry’s season.
Weather permitting, Coventry will be back in action tonight, as they face off against Bristol, needing to beat them twice in order to win the tournament. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.