WOONSOCKET — Late last week, St. Raphael Academy head coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine explained to his senior ace, Nick Cesino, that he would draw the start when the Saints took on host Mount St. Charles on Wednesday morning.
He also told the righthander that the Mounties' infield contained a rather tall mound, and suggested he get to know it better over the weekend.
Cesino followed his mentor's order and threw some pitches from the foreign rubber on Sunday, and it became rather obvious as the innings passed he had become rather familiar with it.
For five full frames, Cesino yielded to the MSC lineup only two baserunners, both of whom reached on errors. His no-hit bid, however, ended when junior Ben Drapeau, pinch-hitting for No. 9 batter and catcher Casey Ryan, led off the sixth with a double to the left-center gap.
The possibility over, he buckled down, gave up only three hits the rest of the way – without a single walk – and fanned nine as the Saints rolled to a 5-0 Division I-North triumph.
“I don't know why, but inning by inning, I kept realizing they hadn't hit the ball,” Cesino, now 2-1, grinned afterward. “I was keeping track, and I probably shouldn't have. No one said anything to me, but I guess (junior first baseman Andrew) Veiga mentioned it to somebody, and – the next inning – I gave up that double, to a pinch-hitter, no less.
“Saar kept yelling, 'He's a new batter! He's a new batter!' and so did the guys,” he added. “I just left up a fastball, right down the middle, and he drilled it … I don't care. I'm still satisfied with a four-hitter. My catcher, 'Mo' (as in senior Henry Mota), called a great game. My cutter was working, and my fastball felt great. I also was using my legs a little more than usual, and I think the high mound helped.
“This is such a big win for us; we've really been struggling lately, especially with the bat, but we had a lot of key hits with guys on (base). I love run support, and I got it. I could concentrate more on getting strikeouts, or at least getting them to put the ball in play. I mean, my defense played great behind me.”
A perfect example: Senior third baseman Nick Gagnon. When MSC senior Dan Glod led off the fifth, he ripped a liner at Gagnon, but he leaped to his right and snagged it. Seconds later, senior Brian Campbell drilled a grounder to him, and he made the play, though his throw to Veiga at first sailed over his head.
Glod found himself to be a victim again in the sixth, when he fouled a Cesino delivery perhaps 20 yards from the Mounties' bench. Gagnon hustled to it and – with his back to the plate – made a remarkable over-the-shoulder grab for the second out of the inning.
(His teammates on the bench immediately began hollering, “Just like Willie Mays!” How they knew about the famed catch in center wasn't apparent).
Campbell then provided MSC with its second hit, a blooper to left that sent Drapeau to third, but both were stranded when senior Tyler Geffert flew to deep center.
It should be noted that Mountie senior starter Tyler Sutherland threw well early on, as his breaking pitches seemed to befuddle his opponents. The Saints, however, began looking for his fastball – and slamming it.
He lasted four full innings, gave up nine hits, four runs (two earned) and a walk while whiffing a pair.
“The St. Raphael batters were very smart in their pitch selection; they were just waiting on Taylor's heater. His breaking pitches were working great, (but) they just hit his fastball.
“I also thought Nick Cesino pitched a tremendous game. He was the key to the Saints' win. Our bats just didn't get going until the end, until it was too late. Their defense also played fantastic, especially the third baseman and the center fielder (Mitsmenn, two putouts, one of the diving variety).”
Sorrentine's crew tallied only one in the first. Junior Zach Mitsmenn reached on a one-out bloop hit to left and raced to third on Veiga's opposite-field single.
When Veiga attempted to steal second, Ryan's throw bounced into center, and Mitsmenn scored easily. Mota drilled a one-out ground single to left, but that's where the flurry terminated. (At that point, seven of SRA's nine batters had registered at least a hit).
The Saints loaded the bags in the second after their Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters – Cesino, junior Ricky Vichroski and Gagnon – all clubbed one-out hits, but sophomore Bob Bracken fanned and Mitsmenn grounded to Sutherland, who threw home for the final out.
“I thought Sutherland made clutch pitches when he had to,” Sorrentine noted. “We had the bases loaded a couple of times, but he found the pitches to get out of the jam. I thought we stranded too many guys out there (13 in all).”
SRA notched one in the second after Veiga whacked a leadoff double to left, moved to third on junior Nick Karalekas' ground single past third and scored when Mota's bloop hit was fumbled by left fielder Nolan Hayward; then added a pair in the fourth.
Sutherland hit Gagnon to start the frame, took second when Bracken grounded to first and came around on Mitsmenn's double down the right-field line. Veiga reached on an infield error, which sent Mitsmenn to third, and Karalekas' sacrifice fly to center plated the latter.
The Saints tallied their final run in the seventh. Mota punched an infield hit, hustled to second when Cesino grounded to reliever Matt LaButti (who threw wildly to the bag) and scored on Vichroski's single to right.
With two outs in the back half of the seventh, Simoneau and sophomore Riley Young both laced singles off of Cesino, though he forced freshman pinch-hitter Justin D'Ambrosca to fly out to first to end it.
All told, five SRA batters finished with two hits, including Mitsmenn (2-for-5, RBI, two runs); Veiga (2-for-5, run); Karalekas (2-for-3, RBI), who leads the team with a plus-.400 average); Mota (2-for-4, run); and Vichroski (2-for-4, RBI).
“Cesino's our top guy,” Sorrentine stated. “He came here last weekend because he knew he was pitching (Wednesday) and he knew they had a tall mound. He wanted to get used to it, and I guess he did.
“We know every time he goes out there, he's more than capable of getting the win, if he has run support. He's the consummate pitcher. He wants the ball. He thinks of it as a challenge to him. He's been telling me he wants to pitch against Hendricken; he just wants to be the guy.
“I'll say this: We're getting there; we're not there yet, as we have a lot of work to do,” he continued. “I had a good feeling about this game because we have baseball guys. They're into it. We had some bad luck early on with injuries and errors, but we're going to get there. If we keep working, we'll be OK.”