WEST WARWICK — Matt Laferriere personifies everything West Warwick Post Two coach John Parente wants his program to be.
The CCRI righty wasn’t feeling well in the first game of his squad’s best-of-three opening round series with Cranston’s Gershkoff-Auburn Post 20, but the former Coventry Oaker grinded into the eighth inning to give his team a chance to win the game.
Unfortunately for Parente, the rest of Post Two didn’t follow Laferriere’s example. Even though Laferriere gave up just four runs and eight hits in 7 2/3 innings of action, Post Two dropped the opening game of the series Sunday 5-1 thanks to a lackluster offense which produced just three hits.
“I haven’t been feeling good for about a week now and prior to the game I was kind of all right, but the sickness came back when I was on the mound,” Laferriere said after taking his first loss of the Legion season. “My stomach was bothering me the whole time. The sickness mixed with the heat, it was hard to keep my composure.”
“He gutted it out. He was a warrior,” Parente said. “We wanted to pull him in the fourth, but he kept telling us to let him go out and pull him if he got in any trouble. He never got in trouble. Unfortunately this particular team didn’t feed off of what he was doing. When you have a warrior like that you have to have his back.”
Even though Post Two could muster just three hits against Gershkoff righty Kyle Tracy in eight innings, the No. 8 seed still had plenty of chances to keep Laferriere’s unbeaten record intact.
In the bottom of the fifth inning with Gershkoff up by two runs, an infield error on a ball hit by Zach Bourgeois allowed the inning to continue. West Warwick’s Ryan O’Kelly and Coventry’s Cote Nichols followed with walks to bring West Warwick’s Rich McNeil to the plate.
McNeil battled Tracy for five pitches before the Cranston East product threw a fastball that the home plate umpire deemed caught the outside corner of the plate to end the inning.
Post Two’s top five hitters were a combined 0-for-17 with four strikeouts and two double plays.
“We were only down by two runs for most of that game and we could’ve easily come back,” Laferriere said. “We don’t have that timely hitting sometimes and it costs us the game.”
Gershkoff, which entered the state tournament as the No. 9 seed, took advantage of its situations with runners in scoring position. The Cranston side had six hits with runners on base which led directly to all five runs. Post Two was 1-for-12 with runners on base.
Post Two opened the scoring in the bottom of the second when West Warwick’s Nate Grandchamp doubled to center and came around to score on a single by EG’s A.J. O’Connell. O’Connell’s hit was Post Two’s lone hit against Tracy with a man on base.
Laferriere was dominant early in the game. The righty, who had 12 total, struck out three batters in the first two innings. He struck out the first two batters of the first inning before Mike Castillo (3-for-5 with two runs scored) reached first on an infield single to second base.
“One of those absolutes that we have is every little thing matters. That was a little thing and it mattered,” Parente said. “It mattered big time.”
Castillo stole second base and scored on a hit by Peter Esposito. Esposito stole second and scored on a hit by Myles Levy.
“If you give a team any kind of momentum, especially a team like Gershkoff, they’re going to run with it,” Laferriere said. “Those are the kind of things we have to be careful of. We have to build as much momentum as possible and not let them have it.
Gershkoff added another run in the third inning when Frank Pettinato singled and scored on another two-out hit. This time it was No. 9 hitter Anthony Crudale who singled to right to plate Pettinato.
Tracy made the lead stand up by setting down five straight batters from the end of the fifth into the seventh inning. After Gershkoff added a run in the eighth, Post Two brought the game-tying run to the plate in its half of the eighth, but Coventry’s Troy Fredette struck out and Grandchamp flew out to center.
“We had a few two-men on situations and couldn’t deliver the hit we needed,” Parente said. “A perfect example for that was the ninth inning where they had a runner on third and hit a ball down the right-failed line in fair territory. It’s been that way all year.”