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PAWTUCKET â€” It's hard to win when you make four errors.
Just ask Shea High head coach Dino Campopiano, whose club's mistake-prone ways allowed Wheeler School to escape Max Read Field with a 5-1 Division II-Central victory on Wednesday afternoon.
Still, fair is fair. John Snider, the Warriors' senior righty from Cumberland, proved to be stellar on the hill, yielding only five hits and three walks while fanning a whopping dozen (though he did toss a trio of wild pitches). He also helped himself with the bat, going 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored.
That didn't make Campopiano's post-game â€śpress conferenceâ€ť any less tolerable.
â€śWe had one bad inning; that's been the story of our season so far,â€ť the disgruntled skipper stated. â€śWe had plenty of opportunities, but we didn't make anything out of them. They laid down a bunt and we threw it away. We could've made a play at the plate, or a play at third, and didn't.
â€śYou've got to be able to throw the ball 90 feet to make a play, but we couldn't,â€ť he added. â€śWe're better than this.â€ť
When asked if his rather young squad's inexperience had anything to do with the defeat, Campopiano insisted, â€śYou've known me a long time, so you know I don't care about that. That's an excuse, and it's an excuse I won't make. You've got nine players out there, and they're on the field because they know how to play ball. Age doesn't matter; making good plays do.â€ť
Campopiano, whose Raiders fell to 0-3, couldn't help but praise Snider's outing.
â€śTheir pitcher did a great job,â€ť he said. â€śHe hit his spots, and â€“ when we had runners on base â€“ he bore down and threw strikes. I thought our (starter, senior righthander Zack Ribeiro) pitched very well, but you have to make the plays behind him, and that's something we didn't do. We also didn't capitalize on having runners in scoring position.â€ť
Perhaps Snider's leadoff at-bat in the first frame was a sign of things to come. He laced a shot deep to left-center field, and it seemed sophomore left fielder Patrick Cervoni had a beat on it. He, however, leaped for the catch, the ball cleared his glove and Snider hustled into third with a triple.
With one out, junior Luke Barr walked, and Ribeiro's pickoff attempt at first was wild, allowing Snider to score and Barr to move up. Ribeiro, however, limited the damage by getting sophomore designated hitter Mike Gallagher to fly to short, then fanned junior Hank Killian.
The Raiders managed to knot it in the back half of the second, though they should have produced more. Snider hit junior leadoff hitter Juan Gonzalez, then yielded a single to left to classmate Bladimir Helena. After both moved up on Snider's initial wild offering, Nathan Pina, another junior, walked to load the bases, but Cervoni whiffed.
Ribeiro plated Gonzalez with a sacrifice fly to right for the 1-1 tie, but Helena was caught in a pickle between second and third, and third baseman Nate Balcom tagged him out to end the frame.
Amazingly, after Ribeiro had walked Barr in the first, he retired 11 straight, including fanning the side in the fourth, but he ran into some trouble in the fifth.
Wheeler freshman Aiden Wright led off the inning with a rope single to left, and classmate Will Gordon then dropped down what should've been a mere sacrifice bunt, but Ribeiro's throw bounced to second baseman Juan Gonzalez, and he threw low to third, too late to get the sliding Wright. In the interim, Gordon scampered to second.
Pinch-hitter Alex Saccone then walked to fill the bags (junior Will McConnell pinch-ran for him), and freshman Sam Sullinger's sacrifice fly to center scored Wright. Snider also drew a base-on-balls to load the bases again, and Campopiano chose to pull Ribeiro in favor of righty reliever Jarrod Pacheco.
Sophomore Nate Balcom punched a fly to Gonzalez at second, but Gordon tagged up and beat the throw home, and Barr immediately responded with a two-run double to the left-center gap, giving the Warriors a 5-1 cushion.
It looked as if Wheeler would tack on to its lead in the top of the sixth when pinch-hitter Jay Verma drew a one-out walk off of Pacheco, Wright singled Verma's pinch-runner, Killian, to second and â€“ with two outs â€“ McConnell drilled a hit to right to juice the bases once more.
That's when Campopiano opted for reliever Juan Gonzalez.
On a passed ball, and with Killian trying to score, junior catcher Kevin Botelho threw to Gonzalez, who promptly applied the tag to end the threat.
In the bottom half, it seemed Shea would slice the deficit when Botelho led off with a single to left, though he took second when left fielder Wright allowed it to skip past him. With one out, Snider walked Juan Gonzalez, but Helena flied out to the pitcher and Pina struck out to finish off any Raider hopes for a rally.
Snider fanned the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh, though Jomar Gonzalez and Botelho both cracked singles. They moved to third and second, respectively, on Snider's final wild pitch, but junior transfer Bryan Quinlan took a called third strike to end the contest.
â€śWe've been struggling, as we came into this 0-3,â€ť noted Wheeler head coach Jeff Calista, a Pawtucket native. â€śWe told John before the game that he's a senior with some innings logged, and we needed him to shut down Shea. We were trying to challenge him, and â€“ boy â€“ did he answer it.
â€śYou know, we're very similar teams,â€ť he continued. â€śWe both started (at pitcher) our virtual lone seniors, and we both have a lot of young guys. It seemed whoever made the first mistake, or the most, would come out on top.â€ť
In the end, Ribeiro pitched 4 1/3 frames, allowing two hits, five runs (three earned) and three walks while whiffing seven. Offensively, both Jomar Gonzalez and Botelho finished 2-for-4.
â€śBut our third, fourth and fifth hitters didn't do much at all, and we just swung at too many high pitches,â€ť Campopiano mentioned. â€śWe just made way too many mistakes. I can't think of anything positive that came out of this game. Now we're 0-3, and we need to turn things around in a hurry.â€ť