PAWTUCKET — Minutes after St. Raphael Academy had suffered a 4-2 Division I defeat to previously winless North Providence High at Vets Park early Wednesday afternoon, veteran head coach Tom Sorrentine stood by the first-base line, trying to wrap his thoughts around what had just transpired.
Think of it: Senior southpaw Zach Mitsmenn scattered only six hits and three walks while whiffing a whopping 11, but still took the loss and, incredibly, fell to 1-1.
The culprits on this day were easy to see in the scorebook – four Saints miscues and just five hits, but there's more. SRA also left seven on base, four in scoring position and a trio at third.
“He was a tough-luck loser,” Sorrentine sighed after his squad dropped to 2-2 in league action. “Zach pitched great, no doubt, but we made him throw too many pitches; it's because we weren't making the plays in the field. You can't give any team in our league extra chances, and that's just what we did.
“Honestly, 11 strikeouts is good enough to win; if you do that, it should be enough to seal it,” he added. “We just didn't make the routine plays behind him. I mean, with the 11 'Ks,' all we had to do was get 10 outs in the field.
“What I don't understand is we've been playing great on defense. We had been making plays and our pitchers were doing well. This was just an aberration. When they had guys on, they were able to get the key hits. We got guys on base, too, but we couldn't score runs. We moved them ahead, but couldn't drive them in.”
While thrilled with the triumph, Cougars' coach Dean Garganese explained how even he felt bad for Mitsmenn.
“I love the kid; I love the way he plays the game,” he stated. “I've got so much respect for Zach. He's one kid that I really pay attention to when he's at the plate, regardless of the team we're playing. He's such a good athlete, and plays the game the right way.”
Junior righthander Devin Benson also went all seven and ended up with the victory; he allowed five hits, just one earned run and a walk while fanning three.
Mitsmenn may have had a more impressive number in the strikeout department, though Benson's outing was just as workmanlike.
“There was an inside joke during the preseason; our local paper gave him the nickname 'The Beast,' and we joked during practices, 'We're going to unleash 'The Beast,'” Garganese mentioned. “The thing about Devin, he's not overpowering, but he throws strikes.
“He did exactly what we expected of him (Wednesday). He gave us a chance by throwing strikes. He's got a pretty good curveball, and his fastball is average – it's certainly not like Zach's, but he did a good job of keeping (the Saints) off-balance. At the beginning of the season, he was going more with his fastball, and we had to tell him to mix in his curveball more, let the defense do the work behind him.
“(Wednesday), he listened.”
Mitsmenn ended up striking out the side in the top of the first, but not before North Providence had taken a 1-0 lead.
Freshman Anthony Pescarino led off with a solid hit to left, and he stole second while senior Mariano Nasisi was busy whiffing. Mitsmenn did the same to sophomore Kevin Ciprian, though junior Nick Sollitto's scorched single to left plated Pescarino.
SRA answered that with a run of its own in the back half. Mitsmenn's freshman batterymate Dylan Boisclair drove a hit to left, and he took third on sophomore Ben Roy's single to virtually the same spot.
When Roy attempted to rob second, backstop Nasisi's throw to the bag sailed into center, and Boisclair raced home.
The Cougars failed to take advantage of sophomore Peter Graham's two-out triple in the second, but it looked like they would retake the lead in the third. Pescarino walked, Nasisi reached on an infield bobble and Ciprian beat out a bloop single to juice the bases with nobody retired.
Mitsmenn, however, sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around junior designated hitter Alex Wagoner's groundout to second to get out of the frame unscathed.
In the bottom of the third, Mitsmenn – a tri-captain with seniors Tom Calabro and Ty Seaton (who's missed the past three tilts with a sprained finger) – opened with a double to deep right-center, but Boisclair lined to third, Roy grounded to short and senior Ricky Vichroski ripped a shot right at left fielder Joey Coro.
Calabro opened the fourth with an infield hit and hustled to second on junior Bob Bracken's sacrifice bunt. Senior Nick Sisto then walloped a shot to deep right, though that was caught, and Benson avoided the rally when senior Ben Duarte grounded to shortstop.
With one down in the fifth, Mitsmenn reached on a one-out infield miscue, and he stole second, though nothing came of that, either.
The Cougars finally broke the 1-1 deadlock in the sixth. Sollitto started it with a walk, and Wagoner's sacrifice bunt put him at second. That's when Benson himself drilled a high fly to right fielder Ben Roy, who seemed to have a beat on it and ran in. The wind evidently got under it, the ball sailed over his head and Sollitto strolled in for the 2-1 advantage.
In the seventh, NP notched two more on Nasisi's leadoff walk, Ciprian's triple to deep left and Sollitto's sacrifice fly to right (one in which junior Ben Johnston made a phenomenal leaping grab). Not surprisingly, Mitsmenn whiffed the next two.
The Saints sliced the gap to 4-2 in the back half after sophomore Nate Duffy led off with a three-bagger to the right-center hole and scored on senior Chris Karalis' sacrifice fly to center. Mitsmenn reached on second baseman Mike Belisle's bobble, but Benson retired the next two.
Sollitto finished 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
“Nick has been carrying us the last few games with his bat,” Garganese said. “He actually had back-to-back three-hit games, so he's doing hat he needs to do in the clean-up spot. The balls he hit (Wednesday) were on a line.”
Offered Sorrentine: “We only had five hits, and you can't do much with five. That (shot to Benson) was a routine fly ball, but the misjudgment led to that go-ahead run. You can't make those kinds of errors and expect to win.”