EAST GREENWICH – Even though it was the Avenger baseball team’s fourth consecutive loss – dropping them to 3-5 on the season – the confidence of the young team is far from wavering. In an 8-2 loss to the defending state champions La Salle on Tuesday, EG trailed just 2-0 after five full innings.
A messy final few innings allowed the Rams to shoot out to the big win, but the competitive nature of the bulk of the game was encouraging to head coach Bob Downey.
“They hit the ball at the end,” he said, speaking to the nature of the lopsided final. “They’re the defending state champs, but we beat them last year. We were the last team to beat them before the playoffs. I think we’re as good as them, I think we’re as good as any team right now. We’re just not scoring runs like we should be.”
The Avengers failed to record a hit in the game until Sean Isebrand roped a double to lead off the bottom of the fourth. La Salle starter Jacob Benford went the distance against EG, allowing two earned runs on six hits.
Pat Shea toed the rubber for EG, and was just as dominant as Benford for most of the day. He recorded eight strikeouts and limited the Rams to one earned and one unearned run through the first five frames. At the plate, Shea reached safely all three times he came up, walking twice and then being hit by a wayward pitch in the sixth.
“Pat’s the best,” Downey said. “He works his butt off. He started off a little slow for me on the mound [this year] – like at Moses Brown, but I knew he would be there. He’s got good stuff, I think he’s one of the better pitchers in the state.”
On their four-game losing streak, the Avengers have failed to score more than four runs in a game. The minimum nine batters went up to face Benford through the first three frames, and even when they started to collect some baserunners, they stranded four of them in scoring position.
“We hit a lot of balls right at guys,” today and on the streak, said Downey. “Not taking advantage of guys in scoring position.”
Isebrand had three of his team’s six hits on the day. He drove in a run in the seventh inning on a single. Other hits came from C.J. Coppola (2-3 with a double and run scored) and Sean Hanley (single and run scored).
Inexperience could be a factor in the four-game downswing, but Downey isn’t looking to use that as a crutch. Despite starting three underclassmen in Monday’s lineup – and other upperclassmen with little varsity experience – Downey sees great potential on his roster.
“Jack [McMullen] is a freshman, 5-foot-2, playing shortstop,” he said. “He had a tough day today. He has great baseball instincts [though]. He had the kid picked at home, just threw it away. That’s a freshman play. He’s hit the ball well, he’s a good bunter. Conrad [Swanson] is filling right now in left because [Jake] Goretoy is hurt. He’s got some good bunts down, has done good situational things.
“Sam Lewin is a first-year varsity player. Best athlete on the field, he’s still learning how to play.”
McMullen committed the error that allowed the first run of the day to score, but laid down a solid bunt in the fourth that advanced Isebrand to third base. Swanson manned left field and helped to throw a batter out at home plate.
The Avengers will dive back into action today at home against Cranston East (8-1, first place in Division I)
“It takes a few games,” Downey said. “We have three wins, right in the middle of the pack. Just gotta get them hot at the right time. They will, they have a very good mentality.”