PAWTUCKET — These No. 2 pitchers looked an awful lot like No. 1s.
Unfortunately for Tolman, Narragansett’s Zachary McKanna pitched a lot better than his counterpart, the Tigers’ Richie Marshall, and his solid performance allowed the Mariners to move one win away from the Division II’s “Final Four” round.
McKanna yielded just one hit – an opposite-field single to right field to the first batter he faced, Steve Otis – and only allowed one runner to advance as far as third base to help the visiting Mariners post a 2-0 victory on Tuesday afternoon in their Region II showdown at Slater Park.
The Tigers, the second seed in the Division II playoffs, will now need to win three games in as many days this weekend if they plan to continue their postseason in the “Final Four” that will take place on June 13, 15, and 16 at Pierce Field.
On Friday at 4 p.m., the Tigers will return to Slater Park to host the survivor of the losers’ bracket contest between 15th-seeded Warwick Vets and 10th-seeded Ponaganset. If they win that game, they will then need to beat seventh-seeded Narragansett twice in order to win the region.
Saturday’s game would be at a time to be announced in Narragansett, and a victory by the Tigers would set up a winner-take-all affair on Sunday back in Pawtucket.
“We’re digging,” remarked Tolman coach Theo Murray. “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we’re fighting for our lives.”
The Tigers got an excellent start from Marshall, who struck out five batters, limited the Mariners to five hits, and didn’t allow a runner to advance past second base through the first five innings. But Marshall also walked five batters, including the first one he faced in the sixth, Austin Butler, and he eventually came around to score the game’s first run.
After a sacrifice bunt by McKanna sent Butler to second, Ross Hodnett hit a chopper to third base that third baseman Carlos Sanabria gloved and made a strong throw to first to nab Hodnett.
But Butler bravely scampered to third as soon as Sanabria released the ball, and he scored when the next batter, Nick Schone, golfed a two-strike breaking ball by Marshall into left for a bloop single.
The Mariners tried to add to their lead by loading the bases on an opposite-field single to right by Connor Butler that he laced off the end of his bat and a walk to Taylor Fleet, but Marshall wiggled off the hook by striking out the next batter he faced.
The Mariners scored their other run in the seventh off Sanabria, the Tigers’ ace pitcher, who threw just 68 pitches in his team’s mercy-rule win over Warwick Vets on Saturday.
Arthur Kershaw led off with a walk, and after he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Butler, he hustled all the way from second to score on an infield error.
McKanna, meanwhile, was dominant from start to finish. The one runner that reached first was Otis, who led off the first with his single, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Nick Kempf, and took third on a two-out passed ball.
Otis almost came home on a line drive up the middle by Nate Gagnon that appeared to be ticketed to center field, but Kershaw, the shortstop, gloved it with a nice diving catch to his left.
After the first, the Tigers were only able to get one runner past first. In the fifth, Anthony Dibiasio worked a one-out out and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jason Maynard, but McKanna stranded him there by striking out the next batter he faced.
“Our pitching was fantastic and we made the plays,” added Murray. “We just had one hit, and in the playoffs, you’re not going to win games with one hit. “You have to tip your hat to Narragansett, and (McKanna) was the reason why we didn’t hit. I thought we had some good swings on some balls. I know Nate (Gagnon) hit the ball hard a couple of times, and Chris Baldwin put a ride on one to left field. But their pitcher did a great job neutralizing us.”