CRANSTON — If the Lincoln All-Stars had any concerns during their R.I. Little League Major Division (11-12) Tournament opener on Saturday afternoon, they didn't relate to their collective performance but the weather conditions, which slowly deteriorated.
As the skies overhead grew dark and thunder resounding in the background, righty reliever Dave Bordieri put the finishing touches on Cranston Western, the crushed victim of relentless Lincoln's 13-0 “mercy rule” triumph at Michael P. Varrato Field.
All told, the District IV champions bashed 13 hits, including four for extra bases, to remain unbeaten in six straight tourney appearances. Southpaw fireballer Kyle Marrapese continuously kept the CW lineup off-balance, recording three shutout innings of three-hit, five-strikeout ball (and with a walk).
The Lincolnites, as usual, complemented the mound brilliance with plenty of thunder with the bats, as Bordieri finished 3-for-4 with a double, stolen base, three RBI and four runs scored; and Aaron Desoiusa went 2-for-2 with a robbed bag, RBI and two runs.
Those, however, were hardly the lone offensive mainstays: The massive Steve Andrews went 1-for-4 with a homer and two RBI; Connor Benbenek 3-for-4 with two RBI; Marrapese 1-for-1 with three free bags and a pair of RBI; Blake Zaniol 1-for-2 with a double and two runs; Marty Gaughan Jr. 1-for-1 with a two-bagger and run.
All but two starters registered a hit, and seven of skipper Matt Netto's 13 players scored at least once.
With the decision, Netto and Co. earned the right to face District II representative Bristol, a 10-5 victor over District III titleist Coventry American, tonight at 7 at this same diamond. CW will take on Coventry American at 4:30 p.m.
“He's an incredible athlete, a ballplayer through and through,” Netto grinned when asked about Bordieri. “You want 13 players just like him on your team. He studies the game, takes it seriously, hits with authority and takes pride in everything he does during a game.
See LINCOLN, page B4
“He came up huge for us,” he added. “I have to say I didn't think it would be that lopsided of a game. Cranston Western's a good team, no doubt, but ended up with the 10-run rule. (Former Lincoln Little League manager) Dale O'Dell has been pivotal for us in that department. He's worked on each kid's approach at the plate, and that's why we've been hitting the ball so well.”
Offered assistant Marty Gaughan Sr.: “He got us thinking about a different style, or approach, in the box. He's told the kids to be more patient up there, and to concentrate on pitch selection. He works with every kid every day, and it shows.”
The tilt began as a battle between two hard-throwing lefties, Marrapese and Jake Procaccianti, but the latter had his issues with location from the get-go. In the top of the first, he walked Desousa, and Bordieri whacked a single to center, one in which center fielder Brad Thies bobbled, and the two moved into scoring position.
Marrapese then ripped a hard, one-out hit to left, plating both Desousa and Bordieri, and – with two outs – the southpaw walked both Benbenek and Zaniol to load the bags. Procaccianti, though struck out Dominic Cunha to shut down the surge.
Mike DiCenzo managed a lined single to start the back half, though shortstop Bordieri made a superb stop of Procaccianti's grounder (he still beat Zaniol's transfer to first). The middle infield tandem then turned a solid 4-6-3 twin killing to thwart any possible rally.
It didn't take long for Lincoln to add another three in the second, and No. 9 hitter Zarek Larisa opened it with a bloop single to center, then took second on a wild offering. Desousa's hit to right sent him to third, and Bordieri's two-bagger to the left-center gap scored both to make it 4-0.
Bordieri tagged to third on Andrews' high fly to center before Marrapese walked and immediately stole second. Benbenek's opposite-field single to right scored Bordieri and pushed Marrapese to third, but Procaccianti closed the frame with his fourth strikeout.
Netto's bunch notched four more in the third, sending nine to the plate in the process. Zaniol led off with a double to the left-center hole and took third on a passed ball. Cunha walked, and the coaching staff pinch-ran Tyler Santilli for him; that's when Desousa's long hit scored Zaniol, and Bordieri's infield single plated Santilli.
Desousa eventually came in on a wild pitch, while Bordieri scored on Benbenek's single to left off of righty reliever Kyle McCutcheon. That gave the District IV champs a 9-0 cushion.
Marrapese whiffed Cranston Western's first two batters in the third, but Brian Schattle poked a Baltimore-chop single to center and DiCenzo followed with a soft hit to left. The lefty quickly fanned pinch-hitter Mike Harris to keep the hosts off the scoreboard.
(Marrapese, by the way, needed just 46 pitches through the first three innings).
In the fourth, Zaniol reached on an infield miscue, then raced to third on Gaughan's double to right. Both scored when Bordieri gained first on another infield error, and Andrews sealed the “mercy-rule” victory by bashing reliever Anthony Eacuello's fastball approximately 235 feet over the right-field fence.
It was his eighth dinger of the season.
Bordieri ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom half, hitting McCutcheon with one out; he took second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball, and also walked Eacuello. The righty, however, got himself out of the jam when he caught pinch-hitter Justin Manzi looking at a called third strike.
“I liked our aggressive base running,” Netto noted. “When we're going through defensive situations in practice, we have the kids run the bases so they know when to take a chance and when not to in a game situation.
“I also though Connor played great,” he added. “It was hot out there, but he did a good job behind the plate. And, when he struck out in the first, he kept a positive attitude. He's a hard-nosed kid who keeps plugging. After the 'K,' he started raking the ball.”