PAWTUCKET — Johnston High showed Tolman why it is undefeated in Division II action on Monday.
The Panthers improved to 8-0 with a 5-0 victory over Tolman in a well-played game that took less than two hours to complete at McCoy Stadium. Righthander Gian Bianchi scattered eight hits over six innings to pick up the win. Tolman starter Andrew Larson went the distance, scattering 13 hits and getting some fine defense from his infielders and outfielders.
Johnston’s cleanup hitter, Greg Doutre, smoked a line-drive homer down the left field line as the Panthers opened a 3-0 lead just four batters into the contest.
“If you had told me before the game that Andrew Larson would throw a complete game and give up five runs, I would have thought we had a good chance to win,” Tolman coach Theo Murray said after the game ended. “Andrew did a good job today.”
Johnston’s lineup is loaded with hitters. The Panthers sent Murray’s outfielders scampering all over the spacious McCoy outfield to run down fly balls and line drives.
“We have four hitters who are batting around .500,” Johnston coach Steve DeMeo said. “Greg Doutre is an all-state football player who accepted a scholarship to URI. He’s a strong kid.”
The Panthers lost to Burrillville in the D-II state finals back in 2007. They have been eliminated in the semifinals the past three years.
“We want to get back to McCoy (for the finals),” DeMeo said. “We haven’t been able to get out of Pierce Field (where the semifinals are held) the past three years.”
Johnston could be the class of the division this year. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 84-16 over eight games thus far.
Murray is using this week as a barometer for his team’s ability to compete with the elite teams in D-II.
“We play Westerly on Wednesday and they are undefeated, too,” Murray said. “On Thursday, we have Woonsocket and their only loss is by a 2-1 score to Johnston.”
Tolman is now 5-3 on the season.
Murray gathered his players behind second base after the game and told them they need to improve their approach at the plate.
“I told the team that 15 of our 21 outs today were either strikeouts or fly balls,” the coach said. “We’ve got to start hitting the ball on the ground more often. In this division, you get a lot of hits that way.”
Bianchi, not an overpowering pitcher, beat the Tigers by throwing strikes. He only fanned four batters, When the righty got into trouble, he showed great composure.
After Tolman fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first, the Tigers got one-out singles from Larson and Carlos Sanabria in the home half of the inning. Troy Sawyer looked at strike three and Brad McParlin flied to center for the third out.
The Tigers threatened in the fourth when Sawyer led off with a single and McParlin singled him up a base. Chris Baldwin laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third. Jon Argencourt then popped to short and Joe Fernandes looked at a third strike.
Johnston pushed across two runs in the top of the fifth. Chris Pistacchio one-hopped a double off the wall in left-center field to lead the inning. Bianchi singled him to third base and Ryan Geraghty hit a sacrifice fly to make it a 4-0 game. Doutre singled and Nick Loffredo followed with a RBI single to complete the scoring.
Larson got a couple fly ball outs to end the inning.
“We had a couple of scoring opportunities,” Murray said, “but we didn’t hit with runners on base.”
Johnston reliever Dyan Pingitore, a hard-throwing lefty, struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh, sending a message to the Tigers that the Panthers are deep in pitchers, too.
DeMeo was pleased with the victory and the chance to play in McCoy Stadium.
“I want to thank Theo and the PawSox for letting us play here,” the good-natured coach said with a smile.
DeMeo hopes his team can get back to McCoy for the state finals in early June. If they don’t, it will be a mild surprise.
Johnston 300 020 0 – 5 – 13 – 1
Tolman 000 000 0 – 0 – 8 – 0
Johnston battery: Gian Bianchi, Dylan Pingitore (7) and Ryan Geraghty. Tolman battery: Andrew Larson and Chris Baldwin. WP – Bianchi. LP – Larson.
2B – Mike Pennacchia (J), Chris Pistacchio (J). HR – Greg Doutre (J).