EAST GREENWICH — Coventry baseball coach Leo Bush knew he team was better than the 1-6 record the Oakers brought into Monday’s Division I-South road game against East Greenwich.
The young Oakers proved their coach right.
After they gave up two more first-inning runs – a re-occurring theme for Coventry – the Oakers exploded for 11 runs against East Greenwich lefty starter Jake Moss and relievers Kyle Matus and Andrew Miner. Erik O’Connell had three hits and three runs, while Shaun Vigeant hit a three-run double in the sixth inning to lead the Oakers to an 11-8 upset victory.
“Finally, the timely hitting came through,” Vigeant said. “It wasn’t just me. Those were three big runs I knocked in, but everybody in the lineup was hitting today. This boosts our confidence. We have the potential, we just have to show we can do this every game.”
“Every win is a big win at this point and this is a crazy game when a 6-1 team can get beat by a 1-6 team,” Bush said. “We’re much better than 1-6 and now 2-6. If I could explain our offense I would, but hitting is just contagious and we caught something today.”
East Greenwich (6-2 Division I-South) had allowed just seven runs in its first seven games, but the Avengers committed two errors in the second inning and then committed three more in a three-run fourth inning.
The Avengers trailed by six runs in the sixth inning, but Moss, lead-off hitter Alex Cleary and Kyle Palmer all scored runs to keep the team in the game. Clearly and Palmer scored runs in the seventh inning, but reliever Justin Jadach forced Ryan Gavin to ground out to end the game.
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EG coach Bob Downey said his group was not looking ahead to Wednesday’s first-place clash with North Kingstown.
“Five errors don’t win games,” Downey said. “We gave them some runs. They said they were having trouble scoring runs, but they hit when they needed to. They didn’t look past this game. They’re high-school kids. They’re not pros or college guys. They’re going to have games where they don’t make every play and we didn’t make every play.”
Coventry (2-6 Division I-South) received a splendid effort from starting pitcher Shawn Pacifico, who was making his first varsity start. The junior overcame two unearned runs in the first inning to pitch into the sixth inning.
Pacifico, who earned the victory, only struck out four batters, but more importantly he only walked one batter.
“I just wanted to throw strikes,” Pacifico said. “I knew if I threw strikes my defense is good enough to make the plays and we hit the ball a lot today. This win means a lot. We can beat any team in the state, we just have to hit the ball and make the plays in the field.”
Coventry’s first-inning defensive problems cropped up again Monday when Palmer, who had three hits, three runs scored and two RBIs, and reigning Gatorade player of the year David Hopkins scored runs thanks to two infield errors.
The Oakers tied the game on runs from Vigeant and O’Connell in the top of the second before the Avengers retook the lead when Palmer scored Cleary with a single.
That was the last run Pacifico allowed until the sixth inning. The righty worked around two hits in the third inning and a single in the fourth inning to keep his team in the game. Pacifico also kept Steven Shibley at second after the Avenger hit a two-out double in the fifth.
“I don’t think I could’ve asked for anything more from him,” Bush said. “I don’t think we played a particularly sound game behind him and we probably gave away a couple of runs, but he just kept his composure.”
Coventry grabbed the only lead it would need in a sloppy fourth inning where the Avengers made three errors behind Moss. Nick Merritt doubled and scored, while O’Connell and Jadach added runs in an inning where Moss was forced to earn four outs after an error on a ball hit by Pacifico.
Vigeant stretched the lead to 9-3 in the sixth inning when he crushed a Matus full-count offering to center. Nick Palumbo, Bobby Beaudoin and Merritt all scored on the play before Vigeant was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
EG battled back with three runs against Guenet in the sixth inning to cut its deficit in half and the Avengers – after Coventry scored twice in the seventh – were coming back again after back-to-back RBI singles by Palmer and Hopkins.
“I knew they weren’t going to quit. They haven’t quit all year,” Downey said. “We were down to [Cranston] West the other day and scored 10 runs in an inning. You just have to chalk it up to Coventry today, they played better than we did.”
The Avengers appeared to be in great shape to continue the comeback when Jeremy Streich singled off of Jadach, but Hopkins was thrown out trying to reach third. The game ended one batter later on Gavin’s ground out.