PAWTUCKET — It’s always nice to start the postseason slate with your top arm grabbing the ball for the first game.
That luxury becomes even better when your pitcher hurls a top-notch performance, as Elmwood Sports’ Bryan Quinlan exemplified in his squad’s 7-1 win over Westerly on Monday night in the opener of the best-of-three Connie Mack playoff series.
Quinlan, who just graduated from Shea High, started the evening at Max Read Field by mixing his pitches masterfully, striking out Westerly speedster Kyle Hall to lead off the game and inducing groundouts to the next two batters. He then went on to strike out two batters in each of the next two innings.
Until the bottom of the third, the closest Elmwood Sports came to scoring was when the FisherCats left the bases loaded in the first. However, those early-inning runners got to Westerly pitcher Brenton Rayner by the bottom of the frame, as he had tossed 49 pitches in the first two innings.
Showing fatigue, Rayner walked Brett Gaudreau and Adam Duarte to open the third, and with runners on second and third with one down, catcher Chris Baldwin ripped a single to right field to score both runners.
On the very next pitch, Ben Duarte ripped a line drive to right-center field to continue the rally. The next batter, Edwin Gonzalez, plated Baldwin with a sacrifice fly, and Mike Dixon’s single in the hole allowed Duarte to touch home.
“Rayner was dealing for Westerly pretty good,” said Elmwood Sports manager Jim LaRose. “He was throwing pretty hard and doing a nice job until we finally caught up to him. A couple of walks helped, and then we got a couple of good timely hits, so we did a nice job to score some runs.”
Westerly finally got something doing in the fourth. Hall worked a leadoff walk and then stole second base, and with one out in the frame, Joey Baldini gave Westerly its first hit of the day with a single to left field.
With runners on the corners, Baldini tried to steal second, and when Baldwin’s throw scooted past the bag and into centerfield, Hall was able to cross home.
In Quinlan’s final inning on the hill, he retired Westerly hitters in order, all on strikeouts and all on off-speed pitches. He ended the night tossing 46 strikes on 63 pitches, giving up the one run on one hit, walking one, and striking out 10 over five innings.
“The Quin Man’s been doing it for three years for us here,” said LaRose, who also is an assistant at Johnson and Wales. “He is actually going to the college that I coach at and he’s got a really good chance of making it. We took him out today to give him a bit more rest, but he pitched fantastic.”
Another walk to Gaudreau started another Elmwood Sports rally, as the home team scored three more times in the sixth, twice on a run-scoring double to left by Gonzalez.
“We kind of just put Westerly away there,” said LaRose. “They brought in the new arm in (Justin) Algiere and he was a little wild, but we got some more timely hits.”
Westerly had the bases loaded in the sixth, but Ben Duarte, who came on in relief, got Schafer to ground out to end the inning.
Richie Marshall then came in to pitch in the seventh, and after allowing a few runners to get on base, he struck out the side to finish the game.
The series will shift down to Westerly on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., and if a third and deciding game is needed, it will take place on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. back at Max Read Field.