EAST GREENWICH — Turns out there was a very good reason why the St. Raphael baseball team elected to tread carefully with Jonathan Quinn during the regular season.
“We didn’t rush him,” said head coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine, “but we knew once we got to the playoffs, we were going to need him.”
In a win-or-go-home contest, Quinn was masterful on the bump. The sophomore righthander tossed a complete-game seven-hitter as SRA, the No. 3 seed from Division II-A, upset East Greenwich, 5-1 in D-II quarterfinal-round action on Thursday. The Avengers were the top seed out of II-A.
Throwing 108 pitches, Quinn navigated his way in and out of trouble on several occasions. When the moment called for a big pitch, he delivered. Quinn carried a shutout into the seventh inning before running out of gas. East Greenwich did scratch out a run with two down, yet Quinn did have enough left in the tank to get Chad Coppola – the Avengers’ No. 4 hitter – to bounce one back to the mound for the game’s final out.
Quinn finished with seven strikeouts with two of his three walks coming in the final frame. Recent graduates Taylor Gaspar and Ben Force helped Quinn take the mound with a one-run cushion after scoring in the top of the first. It was a confidence boost that agreed with the sophomore as Quinn set the Avengers down in order.
“He had a cushion to start off the bat and he rolled with it,” said Gaspar, who led off the game with a booming double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Force. “He pitched a great game.”
Added Quinn, “(The early lead) gave me the confidence to go out there and throw strikes and let the defense make the plays.”
“We wanted to put the pressure on them,” said Sorrentine.
The Avengers did have their chances to strike against Quinn. Alas, the timely hit with men on base proved to be elusive. They stranded two in scoring position to end the second, then ended the third with a runner left at second. Two more runners were left aboard in the fifth. All told, East Greenwich placed the number “eight” in the LOB column.
“They have a lot of good hitters and Quinn handled them pretty good,” said Sorrentine.
St. Raphael continued to sit on a 1-0 lead heading into the fifth. That’s when “Saar ball” was unleashed. With the bases loaded – the result of two walks and a hit batsman – and second and third occupied by SRA’s two fastest base runners, Nolan Potter dropped down a bunt as freshman Michael Frausto came charging to the plate. It was a suicide squeeze that went in the books as an RBI single for Potter, a 2021 grad.
Gaspar was halfway down the third-base run when recent graduate Cooper Arnold – the next batter after Potter – placed a bunt that made it 3-0.
“We knew going into the game that we were going to be a small-ball team. Obviously, it paid off,” said Gaspar, who finished 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs.
The Saints tacked on some insurance in the seventh. Force led off with a double and was at third base after dropped fly ball enabled Arnold to reach second. Force scored on a passed ball before new SRA alum Sam White sent a single up the middle that made it 5-0.
From there, the only question that remained was whether the Saints could keep the Avengers off the scoreboard. East Greenwich did mount a bit of a charge in its final at-bat, yet it was fitting that the game ended with SRA’s young pitcher making the final play.
“He stepped up and came through,” said Sorrentine about Quinn.
In addition to his pitching efforts, Quinn added a double. White collected two of SRA’s seven hits. What shouldn’t be overlooked is that the Saints played error-free ball behind Quinn.
Next up for SRA is a best-of-three semifinal round series against Middletown, which defeated Mount Hope, 1-0, on Thursday. Game 1 of the series is this afternoon at 4 p.m. at Gaudet Middle School. Game 2 is Saturday morning at 11 o’clock at Vets Park.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03