PAWTUCKET --- For Pineview manager Joe Clark, traveling with his Big League ballclub to Dover, Del. on the second weekend of each July has become almost an annual tradition.
That weekend is when the Eastern Regional Tournament gets under way, and in six of the last eight seasons, Pineview has ventured down Route 95 to represent Rhode Island.
Pineview’s best finish during those six trips has been a pair of third-place finishes, the last one coming in 2010.
“This team has a chance to really cause some damage,” said Clark, whose ballclub begins regional action on Saturday. “We have a lot of pitching, we play really good defense, and we don’t have a lot of power hitters, but we get on base and we’ll take the singles and doubles all day long.”
“I’m confident that with our arms and our defense, we’ll do very well. We should be in pretty good shape.”
The tournament, which continues until the finals next Wednesday, will also feature ballclubs from Massachu-setts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and a host team from Dover.
Pineview was 11-0 in District II play to handily repeat again as district champions, and in the state tournament, the Pawtucket team punched its ticket to the regionals by overcoming two sloppy innings to beat Smithfield in its opener, 10-7, and then producing 10-0 and 7-0 wins over Chariho/East Greenwich.
Smithfield, ironically, was the team that defeated Pineview in last year’s state title game, doing so by scoring four times with one out in the top of the seventh inning and then holding off a late charge in the home half of the frame by Pineview before earning a 7-6 victory.
After beating Smithfield, Pineview was expecting to see its tournament rival again somewhere down the line, but Smithfield never recovered from that loss and ended up dropping a 4-3 decision to Johnston in their losers’ bracket opener.
“I was surprised they got bounced out (in two games),” admitted Clark. “I think it was one of those things where we both put so much into that first game because we knew we were the best two teams in that tournament.
“And I know how it feels to lose that first game. I’ve been there. It’s demoralizing and you never really recover from it, and I think that’s what happened with them. I thought they should have beat Johnston.”
In the first win over Chariho/East Greenwich, three Tolman pitchers took care of business, as Carlos Sanabria worked the first four innings and Andrew Larson and Zach Taber each tossed a frame. In the second win, former Shea ace Eric Geisman was the story of the night as he delivered a masterful three-hitter.
“He only threw 82 pitchers over seven innings,” Clark said of Geisman. “He struck out seven batters and didn’t walk anyone. From the first pitch to the last pitch, Eric was just amazing.”
While Pineview’s pitching and defense has been amazing, so has its offense, which from top to bottom, is dangerous.
“From one through nine in our lineup, we’re a solid team,” remarked Clark. “Joey Fernandes, who is our No. 9 hitter, had five or six hits in the state tournament. And Andrew Larson bats eighth and he gets on base two or three times a game. That’s how good our lineup is.”
Zach Taber is the team’s dependable leadoff batter, the 3-4-5 batters and chief run-producers are Franco DiRe, Ty Karalis, and Sanabria, and Ben Amerault “was also phenomenal in the state tournament,” added Clark.
Nearly half of Pineview’s roster hails from Tolman, and joining Sanabria, Larson, and Taber are Fernandes, Robert Lima, and Adam Ghazal.
Javier Ortiz and Heriberto Rodriguez played for Central Falls, and the rest of the team, including Geisman, are 2011 high school graduates – Harrison Jones (East Providence), Karalis (St. Raphael), Amerault (Bishop Hendricken), and DiRe and Ethan Studley (Barrington).