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WEST WARWICK â€” If there is a margin of separation between the Cumberland Clippers and the South Kingstown Rebels, it doesnâ€™t appear to be a very big one.
Yesterday, behind a shutout pitched by Justin Patrick, the Clippers beat the Rebels 1-0 to send the series into a third game. In seven innings, Patrick gave up just two hits while striking out six batters with only one walk.
Cumberlandâ€™s head coach Paul Murphy could not have asked for more of his starter in a critical elimination game.
â€śHeâ€™s been absolutely fantastic in the playoffs,â€ť Murphy said of Patrick.
But with the Patrickâ€™s performance on the mound, the effort of South Kingstownâ€™s Connor Barrett was over-shadowed. In six innings pitched, Barrett gave up just the one run while striking out seven batters and in the fifth inning, he struck out the side.
â€śIâ€™ve got to give him credit,â€ť Murphy said of Barrett. â€śThe kid threw strikes to us, he kept us off-balance and he did a good job.â€ť
Both teams had small chances at scoring early in the game, but both failed to take advantage of them.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Clippers had their first chance to bring in a run. Junior Greg Joubert, with one out, doubled into right field and then senior Christian Spader drew a walk, putting two runners on base with just one out. Barrett was then able to get senior Matt Billington to ground into a double play to end the inning unharmed.
In the very next frame, the Rebels gave Patrick a tiny bit of trouble. South Kingstownâ€™s senior Ryan Sweenor singled to left field and then junior Nick Hayes drew a walk for the Rebels. After a sacrifice bunt by junior Riley Partridge, South Kingstown had runners on second and third with just one out.
Patrick was able to stay calm and then forced a fly out to right field and a pop out to end the inning without allowing a run.
But after those chances, the game had a dry spell. Starting with the sacrifice bunt, there was one stretch of the game, going from the top of the second through to the bottom of the sixth inning, when 27 of 28 batters were retired from both sides.
The game was a classic pitchersâ€™ duel.
Finally, in the top of the sixth inning, Cumberland was able to manufacture the gameâ€™s only run. Junior Dylan Boisclair started with a double into right field and junior Nathen Robinson was sent in to pinch run for Boisclair. Junior Jacob Keefe then dropped a nice bunt down the first base line to send Robinson to third base with just one out.
Senior Ryan Harris then drove home Robinson with a single to right field that gave the Clippers the 1-0 lead that would end up being the gameâ€™s final score.
Going into Tuesday nightâ€™s third and final game of the series at McCarthy Field in West Warwick, Murphy is hoping to see his teamâ€™s bats come to life.
â€śI wish weâ€™d hit a little behind him, thatâ€™d make these games a little bit easier,â€ť Murphy said.
In an attempt to get his players more familiar with what they will be up against, Murphy said he will be trying to simulate the left-handed pitching the Clippers will face during Mondayâ€™s practice.
Murphy acknowledged the Cumberlandâ€™s pitching is only going to bring them up to a certain point in close games, but the entire team is going to have to step up to reach the finals.
â€śYou canâ€™t ask for a better opportunity than to be one game away from going into McCoy Stadium for the championship,â€ť Murphy said. â€śThis is a very good South Kingstown team team and weâ€™re going to have to be on our game.â€ť
The final game of the series will be played Tuesday night at 6:30.