PAWTUCKET – The offense came alive with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning after falling behind 3-0 in a do-or-die game.
Things continued to look up for the St. Raphael baseball team after the ace pitcher stranded a Middletown runner at third base after he advanced there with no outs in the sixth inning.
Alas, the quest to force a deciding Game 3 of the best-of-three Division II semifinals came up short. The Islanders wrapped up the series on Saturday with a 3-2 win at Vets Park. Middletown won Game 1 on Friday by a 4-0 score.
SRA 2021 graduate Nolan Potter did his part on the mound, tossing a complete-game five-hitter with eight strikeouts and one walk. Middletown scored one run in the first before adding two more in the fifth behind RBI singles by Jacob Mello and Pierce Clare.
“I knew I had to be on top of my game and had confidence in the defense behind me,” said Potter. “All season long, I’ve been pitching to contact and letting the defense do the work.”
St. Raphael’s bats came to life in the bottom of the fifth. With one down, 2021 graduate Taylor Gaspar sent a towering drive over the left fielder’s head for a triple. Gaspar was able to jog home after the next batter in the lineup – junior Jason Yany – also played long ball with a blast that forced the left fielder to retreat. Yany’s double got the home team on the board at 3-1.
A pickoff that went awry allowed Yany to advance to third base. He scored on Middletown’s second error of the inning as recent graduate Ben Force grounded one to shortstop.
Potter surrendered a leadoff walk to begin the sixth. In no time, Middletown’s Ryan Andrade found himself at third base after stealing second and advancing an additional 90 feet on a throwing error from the SRA catcher.
Potter got out of the jam by getting a slow roller to first base for the first out. He then struck out the next two batters.
“I knew I couldn’t let that run score. Otherwise, the momentum would have switched,” said Potter.
The Saints mounted a two-out charge in the home portion of the sixth but could not take advantage of a single off the bat of freshman Carson Dupras.
The bottom of the seventh inning looked promising as Gaspar lined a bullet that appeared ticketed for the left-center field gap. He attempted to stretch the single into a double but was thrown out at second base. Middletown pitcher Kenneth Firlings went on to record a strikeout and a flyout to end the game.
SRA batters struck out 48 times in four games against Middletown. Firlings teamed up with Clare to fan 10 on Saturday. The Saints let a bases-loaded opportunity slip through its fingers in the third inning.
Gaspar and Yany each finished with two hits as SRA finishes the season with 11 wins compared to seven defeats.
“We didn’t think we would get 11 wins at the beginning of the year,” said SRA head coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03