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WOONSOCKET â As soon as senior Zack Viveiros grounded out to third to end the top of the sixth inning, Tolman High skipper Theo Murray huddled his troops in front of their first-base dugout early Friday afternoon and implored them to exhibit outstanding defense.
âThis is it,â he told them, referring to the Tigersâ 2-1 cushion. âTheyâve got 9-1-2 (the ninth, first and second batters) coming up! Weâve got to get out of this inning!â
In the back half of the sixth, senior starting pitcher Carlos Sanabria walked sophomore Randy Reyes, and junior Cody LâHeureux moved him up with a sacrifice bunt. Reyes tagged to third when sophomore Victor Hunt flew out to right, leaving his classmate, Will Andino, with a pressure-packed at-bat.
With the count a ball and two strikes, Sanabria threw a curve into the dirt, and Andino seemingly swung. Junior backstop Chris Baldwin immediately tagged him to, apparently, halt the frame.
From the bench, Murray immediately asked the home-plate umpire, âCan we appeal? He swung at it!â That ump pointed to the field official, who issued the safe sign, and Andino stepped back into the box.
On the very next pitch, Andino crushed a high fly to deep center, one senior Joey Maynard couldnât catch up to, and seconds later slid into the plate with a two-run, inside-the-park dinger. That mighty poke gave the Villa Novans a most satisfying 3-2 victory over the Tigers in a Division I crossover tilt at Barry Field.
That wasnât all for Andino. With Tolman senior Zack Taber at third and two outs in the top of the seventh, classmate Andrew Larson ripped a hard grounder up the middle, one destined for center field, but Andino, the shortstop, dove to his left to stop it, stood and fired to first to end it.
Woonsocket improved to 7-1, while the Tigers fell to 6-2.
âHeâs an enigma,â âNovansâ head coach John Marsella grinned afterward. âThe kid has a lot of potential, but he can be inconsistent. He checked his swing at the pitch in the dirt, then made the adjustment and made a great swing on the next pitch. He bobbled a routine grounder, but then adjusted and made a fantastic play over the middle.
âWe all have to do that,â he added. âWe have to be more consistent when weâre at bat and in the field. Weâre a very young team, and young teams make mistakes. I just want our kids to make less of them.â
Stated Murray: âWe thought it was a swinging strike 3. Thatâs why we appealed it, but the kid put a great swing on Carlosâ fastball and drove it deep.
âAfter the game, I told the kids that our outfield saved us about four times (Friday),â he continued. âWith the wind blowing out, they crushed the ball a few times, but our guys tracked them down. The fact they play in such a big park, I thought that hindered them because those hits wouldâve been gone.â
When asked his thoughts about Andinoâs diving stab, Murray offered, âThatâs probably the biggest spot play Iâve seen in my 15 years of coaching. We had a guy in scoring position, and Larson had what I thought was a base hit up the middle, but he made an unbelievable stop.â
Sanabria (2-2) took the loss, despite yielding only four hits and two walks while fanning a half-dozen in his six-frame stint. Junior righty Scott Tucker, who relieved freshman Josh Mousseau in the fifth, upped his record to 2-0 with the win.
Mousseau scattered three hits and two walks while allowing an earned run, but whiffed two in the first four. Tucker threw two wild pitches, yielded three hits and an earned run, but didnât walk anyone while fanning a pair.
âMousseau didnât know he was going to start until we took the field,â Marsella said. âHe pitched fantastic. I just asked him to give me two good innings, then weâd take it inning by inning, but he gave us four solid (frames).
âOriginally, I was going to go with Scott, but I didnât want to put Josh into a pressure (relief) situation with guys on base, so I talked to my pitching coach (his son, Anthony), and we decided to flip-flop them.â
With one down in the first, Larson banged a double to left-center, and Sanabria plated him with a ground single to center, but Mousseau forced senior Joey Maynard to fly to second and classmate Zack (âBig Daddyâ) Viveiros to ground to the same.
Sanabria fanned three of the first four batters, but senior Kory Lawrence walloped a one-out triple to right-center in the second. Fellow senior John Parenteauâs sacrifice fly to left plated him to knot it at 1-1.
The Tigers regained the advantage in the fifth. Leadoff batter Taber roped a single to left, stole second and scored on Brandon Gagneâs soft hit to right-center. Gagne later took second on Larsonâs groundout to second and third on a wild pitch, but Tucker whiffed Sanabria and got Baldwin to ground to first.
Before that fateful sixth inning, Sanabria had allowed only a single and a walk in the third and fourth frames, including a crisp, well-executed 1-6-3 double play to end the former, and got the âNovans in order in the fifth.
Following Andinoâs heroics, Taber started the seventh with an infield single to short, one Andino bobbled but had no play on, went to second on Gagneâs sacrifice bunt and third on Tuckerâs second wild offering. All that did was set up Andinoâs spectacular play near second.
When asked if Andinoâs semi-swing shoudâve been called a third strike, Murray shook his head.
âI donât buy into that kind of stuff,â he said. âItâs got nothing to do with luck or a call. The kid put the bat on the ball and tagged it.â
After the tilt, Murray finalized with his players plans for Tolmanâs trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. It will face Wheeler at Abner Doubleday Field at 10 a.m., Sunday.
âWeâre leaving (today) at 6:30 a.m. from Wheeler Farm (in Seekonk),â he smiled. âWeâll bus to the Hall of Fame right away, and weâll do the tour before we play on Sunday. The kids are really excited about it; in fact, we all are.â