WARWICK — After capturing the state title for 11-year-olds last year with basically the same core of players, Cumberland American All-Star coach Dave Belisle kind of had a feeling his team had what it took to excel in the Major Division this summer.
Just a little more than a month after the season began, his young and talented players certainly proved it.
Continuing to demonstrate its power at the plate, Cumberland American swept through the state tournament in convincing fashion. Capping off a series of three straight mercy-rule affairs, CALL earned the team plaque on Wednesday night with a 17-5 five-inning win over Central Coventry at Warwick West Side’s Klitzner Field.
Cumberland American earns a trip to next weekend’s Eastern Regionals in Bristol, Conn., and becomes the third consecutive team from District IV to represent Rhode Island. Lincoln made the two-hour drive to the regionals in 2009 and last year it was Cumberland National.
“It’s a special group of kids with a lot of heart and a lot of determination,” Belisle said. “They are so passionate about the game. That’s what wins, passion.”
Cumberland American, which defeated Portsmouth, 13-3, and Cranston Western, 15-0, in its other two games of the state tourney, finishes up play in R.I. with a perfect 9-0 mark. Once again, it was its work inside the batter’s box that got the job done.
CALL bashed out 17 hits on Wednesday, led by a 4-for-4, 4-RBI night from Max Hanuschak. Obvious from the offensive output, there were several others that contributed in the hitting barrage, too.
Chris Wright, who was injured throughout the District IV Tournament and joined the team during the states, had another stellar day at the plate with three hits and three RBI, all of those runs coming from a fifth-inning home run. Ryan McCormick (2-for-4, two runs, two RBI) and Jake Glod (2-for-4, four runs, RBI) also went yard for CALL.
“They have had tremendous hitting,” Belisle said. “They work on their hitting, though. It didn’t come without any hard work. They practice every single day and work extremely hard. They focus at the plate. This is the hardest hitting team in our district in the last 10 years. They are a hard-hitting team.”
“That Cumberland American team is phenomenal,” Central Coventry coach Anthony Feole said. “I have been watching them for a few years now and know most of the players. And the coaches are amazing. I think that they have it to go. They have to work on their pitching, but they are a phenomenal hitting team. They recognize pitches. They hang back on curves. They hit fastballs. I give them a shot in Bristol.”
Cumberland American got off to a hot start, scoring five runs in the top of the first off Central Coventry starter Matt Buglio. CALL went through the lineup with Hanuschak belting a two-run single and Colin Cannata driving home two more with a double to highlight the inning.
“I saw this Coventry team play last night (a 4-3 win over Cranston Western in the elimination game) and I knew they were good hitters,” Belisle said. “I knew a good start had to be and we did that. It put a little pressure on them and gave us a little more relaxation. We handled it perfectly.”
Central Coventry did manage to get two back in the bottom of the inning on a two-run double by Justin Brown off CALL ace Connor Mastin. Mastin struggled somewhat with his control with three walks in the inning.
After a homer from Glod in the second to give Cumberland American a 6-2 advantage, Mastin continued to have trouble finding the plate with two straight walks to begin the bottom of the inning.
Belisle took out the righty with a 3-1 count on his last walk victim, Morris Ferrari, and relief pitcher Conor Lavallee accepted the challenge with a solid effort the remainder of the game. He allowed just three hits and struck out four the last four innings.
Cumberland American increased its cushion in the third with two more runs coming on a McCormick homer. To Central Coventry’s credit, it didn’t back down as it responded with two of its own in the home half of the inning.
Cumberland American sealed the deal in the fifth, scoring eight times with Wright bashing a three-run homer and Hanuschak connecting on a two-run single.
It’s now off to Bristol for Cumberland American, which begins action next Saturday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. against the Massachusetts’s state champion.
“They really deserve this championship today,” Belisle said. “From the first day we hit the ball to right up to today. Hopefully they have something left. I know this team wants more.”