PAWTUCKET â€” St. Raphael Academy had just committed seven sloppy errors en route to a 6-2 loss to North Kingstown High at Vets Park on drizzly Thursday, but veteran mentor Tom Sorrentine remained remarkably upbeat afterward.
â€śDefensively, we just didn't make the plays, but â€“ honestly â€“ I think we're getting better as a team,â€ť he confessed. â€śYeah, we made a lot of errors, but we're improving. I think we're getting better as we move along in the season.
â€śSlow but sure, they're gaining confidence, and I don't know why they didn't show that earlier,â€ť he added. â€śIt's tough right now, being 2-7 in the division (2-8 overall), but I believe the kids are feeling better about themselves, and we can turn this around a little bit.â€ť
The Saints, without question, fell victim to the workman-like mound outing of sophomore southpaw Dom Grillo, who hurled a complete-game six-hitter while walking a pair and whiffing five.
Before junior Ricky Vichrowski's two-run double in the back half of the sixth, Sorrentine's bunch had hit just four balls out of the infield, and only one went for a hit (that being senior Henry Mota's two-out single in the fourth).
â€śDom's our best pitcher; he's been our ace since his freshman year last year,â€ť stated Skippers' head coach Kevin Gormley, whose club moved to 9-2 overall and 8-1 in league play. â€śAt the end of the season, he became our ace for our playoff run, (which saw North Kingstown earn a bid to the Division I finals against eventual champion Cranston West).
â€śHe was 7-0 last year, and he's 4-0 so far (this spring), so he's picked up where he left off,â€ť he continued. â€śWhat makes him so good is he pitches to contact. He doesn't give many away. If we make the defensive plays behind him, like we did (Thursday), then we're all set.
â€śHe has good movement on his fastball, though his breaking pitches are average. It's tough for hitters to pick up because it acts like a slider. (The Saints) squared him up pretty good; that's the hardest we've been hit all year, but he's a big reason we won this game. That's a tough team Tom has over there, because â€“ when they're on a roll â€“ they're hard to stop.â€ť
The Skippers manufactured a pair in the first inning off of sophomore lefty Bob Bracken. Senior Alex Marzilli led off with a single to left, then took second when junior Adam Nabb reached first on senior second baseman Julian Diaz' fielding miscue. Marzilli stole third and scored on junior Chris Hess' groundout to short.
Nabb then stole third and hustled home on junior Austin Barry's sacrifice fly to right.
SRA got out of a jam in the second after Gormley's crew loaded the bags. Senior Joel Diez earned a leadoff walk and went to second on senior Scott Linnone's sacrifice bunt. Bracken then issued a base-on-balls to No. 9 batter Austin Baker, but Bracken's pickoff throw bounced off junior first baseman Andrew Veiga's glove, allowing Diez and Baker to move up.
Bracken walked Nabb, but forced Hess to ground to third to end the threat.
Still, North Kingstown collected two more runs in the third with a two-out flurry. Junior Tyler Rains walked, then moved to third after Diez reached second on a two-base infield throwing miscue. Linnone plated Rains with a bloop hit to right, and Baker scored Diez with a scorched single to left.
All told, Bracken pitched three innings, scattering only four hits with five walks and a strikeout. He also yielded four runs, though only one was earned.
The Skippers added another pair in the fourth off lefty reliever Veiga. Leadoff batter Marzilli ripped a hit to center and took second on a wild pitch. While he attempted to rob third, catcher Mota's toss bounced past third baseman Nick Gagnon, and he scored easily.
Hess then reached on an infield single, stole second and third and hustled home after Gagnon muffed Mota's toss.
It looked as if the Saints would get on the board in the fifth after Gagnon drew a leadoff walk and took second on a wild pitch, but Grillo fanned senior Nick Cesino, then forced junior Nick Sisto and classmate Nick Karalekas to ground to first and short, respectively.
That, however, changed in the sixth. With one down, Veiga beat out an infield hit to second and Mota walked. Both moved up on a passed ball, and Diaz flew to center for the second out, but Vichrowski drilled a groundball, two-run two-bagger down the right-field line to make the score 6-2.
Sorrentine huddled his troops after spinning a pretty 1-6-3 double play (that initiated by second reliever Diaz) in the top of the seventh, imploring them to start a rally, and they did.
Cesino led off with a scorched hit to left, then moved to second on Sisto's softly-lined single to center. Karalekas then ripped a liner to left, and Karalekas ripped a liner to left, though Nabb hustled in and caught it.
In the end, Grillo got junior Zach Mitsmenn to fly to first, then fanned Veiga to gain the triumph.
â€śHe's a tough kid,â€ť Sorrentine said of Grillo. â€śHe's got a tough motion, and it's hard to pick up his fastball out of his hand. He's deceiving, and he's also a competitor. You're not going to bang him around, that's for sure.
â€śHe's smart out there,â€ť he added. â€śHe's a lefty, but he keeps guys close to the bases. I thought he had a real nice outing.â€ť
Nothing gets easier for SRA over the next several days. It will travel to Pilgrim for a non-league tilt today at 3:30, then trek to defending D-I champ Cranston West on Monday for a 3:45 p.m. contest. Two days later, on Wednesday, it hosts Hendricken in another crossover game at 4 p.m.
â€śWe drew the toughest teams in D-I South,â€ť Sorrentine grinned. â€śThis will be a grind; we just have to quit making so many mental and physical mistakes.â€ť