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COVENTRY â From the second inning through the sixth inning of Wednesdayâs Division I-South home game against Middletown, Coventry senior pitcher Justin Jadach allowed just two hits, one walk and one unearned run.
The first inning? Thatâs something Jadach and the Oakers would like to forget about.
The Islanders took advantage of walks to lead-off hitter Justin Sellar and No. 2 hitter Justin Sullivan to explode for five runs in the opening frame. Senior Spencer Gradley punctuated the inning with a three-run home run to left field to lead the visitors to a 7-4 victory.
âThe first inning was so rough,â Jadach said after his solid, six-inning outing. âIâm so nervous because I go out there and I want to get some wins â thatâs it.â
âHe mightâve missed a few spots in the first inning, but he really kept us in this game,â Coventry coach Leo Bush said. âHeâs the one guy who laid it on the line for us today because thatâs what we needed. In the future weâre going to need more than one guy to shoulder the load. When we do that weâre going to be the team that finds a way to win.â
Coventry (1-4 Division I-South) can blame the first inning for a number of its defeats this season. Barrington scored a run in the first against the Oakers and won 3-0, Toll Gate scored five in the opening frame in a 10-0 win and NK scored in the first in a win last week.
Offensively, it took the Oakers a while to figure out Middletown starter Stewart Bramanâs breaking pitch. The Oakers only had one runner reach scoring position in the first four innings, but then everything began to click in the fifth inning.
Junior first baseman Bobby Beaudoin, who was 2-for-3, began the inning with a single. Connor Briden (single) and Jadach (walk) loaded the bases for Shawn Pacifico, who struck out in his previous plate appearance against Braman.
The second baseman laced the second pitch he saw from Braman into the gap in right field to score Beaudoin and Briden. Jadach scored on an Anthony Masseur single and Pacifico was plated by a Nick Palumbo ground out.
âThe kids were saying he was throwing a knuckler and he finally left a few up in the zone and the kids were able to deal with those,â Bush said. âIf itâs high left it fly and if itâs low let it go. He was throwing his break pitch for a strike and he was doing a good job early of keeping us off balance.â
Masseur, who went 2-for-4, went to second base on Palumboâs ground out, but he was stranded in scoring position when Shaun Vigeant grounded out to short.
âYa, we felt pretty good, but we needed to get a stop the next inning,â Bush said. âI give our guys a lot of credit because weâre finding ways to get back into games. Weâre not at the point where we can rely on a run an inning. Thatâs something we need to get to.â
Coventry needed to keep the deficit at one, but that didnât happen because an error allowed Middletown sophomore Liam OâRegan to score an unearned run and stretch the lead to 6-4.
Beaudoin singled with one out in the sixth to bring the tying run to the plate, but relief pitcher Greg Eng struck out Briden and forced Jadach to ground out to end the threat.
Middletown (3-3 Division I-South) added another unearned in the seventh against reliever Aaron Guenet before Eng pitched a clean seventh inning to earn the save.
âA team like us that is trying to find ways to score and create runs, walks and errors are going to hurt us,â Bush said. âAn eyeball test tells you that walks and errors quickly turn into doubles and theyâre able to play the type of game against us that we would like to play against them.â
Errors hampered Coventryâs effort at the end, but it was walks which put Coventry in trouble early in the game. After walking three of the first four batters, Jadach struck out Chris Paiva and he thought he had limited the damage to just one run with a perfect 2-2 pitch to OâRegan.
The umpire called the pitch a ball and OâRegan knocked a runner in before Gradley connected on a 2-2 pitch for a three-run home run.
âI was obviously frustrated after the first inning, but I composed myself, calmed down and talked to my team,â Jadach said. âWe finally started getting hits and that motivated me to pitch a little better.
âI have zero experience. I have three varsity starts in my whole high-school career, so obviously I donât have much varsity experience. Iâm starting to feel comfortable.â
The Oakers will look to snap their five-game losing streak when Portsmouth, fresh off a mercy-rule loss to East Greenwich, visits Thursday afternoon.