NORTH KINGSTOWN – After having to comeback and win game two of a doubleheader just one day prior to force the rubber match, J2 Design Team Sharks found themselves needing another comeback on Monday in game three of their preliminary round series of the Senior American Legion State Tournament against East Bay-Riverside Post 10 to keep their playoff run alive.
Unfortunately, the Sharks were not as lucky this time, falling behind early and eventually dropping a 7-4 decision to Post 10 at Lischio Field.
Heavy rain late last week forced the first two games of the best-of-three series to be played on Sunday.
The series opened at Lischio with a 13-1 rout by Post 10. Immediately after, the two teams travelled to Victory Field in Barrington, where the Sharks quickly put the lose behind them to earn a 9-7 win, forcing Monday’s game back at Lischio.
“That’s something we’re used to,” Sharks coach Chris Batzinger said of the rain-condensed schedule. “I actually think it helped us yesterday. We didn’t have any time to think about that 13-1 game, just had to drive right up there and take care of business. So, I don’t think that was too big of an issue for us. We had the pitching to get through, but [Post 10] fought hard.”
The struggles started right in the top of the first inning of game three for the Sharks, as starter Nic Mongeon gave up a walk, hit, wild pitch and sacrifice fly for a 1-0 Post 10 lead, and then struggled again in the second.
Mongeon retired the first two batters of the inning, but walked Dan O’Brien and then tossed another two wild pitches in the next at bat to put him in scoring position. Miscommunication amongst the defense on a fly ball hit by Derek Lima allowed the ball to drop in and O’Brien to score for a 2-0 lead.
Offensively, the Sharks went three up, three down in the first two innings, but started to gain a little traction in the third, getting on the board on a sacrifice fly by Adam Nabb to cut the deficit to 2-1.
In the top of the fourth, however, aided by more defensive miscues, Post 10 brought home another pair for a 4-1 lead.
“I don’t know if we were flat, but we definitely gave them a little too much early on,” Batzinger said. “Especially in a short series like this, the more you give them, the less you give yourself a chance to win.
“We settled down from there, but just a couple defensive lapses early on and that was the difference in the end.”
Seemingly dead in the water, the game began to turn over the next few innings as Mongeon and the Sharks defense settled in, allowing no damage over the next three innings to keep themselves within striking distance.
“[Mongeon’s] a young pitcher,” Batzinger said. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience in this type of situation and I thought he handled it great. He maintained his composure, put the last pitch behind him, he just kept making pitches and he really settled in there at the end. His pitch count just got a little too high, so we took him out after six solid innings.”
As their play in the field came around, so did their play at the plate and the Sharks slowly chipped away at the Post 10 lead, plating a run in both the sixth and seven to get back to within one.
A single by Matt Ricard in the sixth brought in Brian Cox from third, while Jason Montanaro came up with a sacrifice fly in the seven to make it 4-3.
“I think we just took a few bad swings early on,” said the coach. “We made a couple errors mentally on the base paths and things. That made those quick innings. The second time through the order we started seeing a few more pitches, getting a better feel for what [Post 10 starter Nathan Bannon] was throwing, seeing his arms slot and we made are adjustments, which is what you’re supposed to do.”
The teams traded runs in the eighth, but Post 10 put the game away in the ninth, plating two in the top of the frame in another two out rally for a 7-4 advantage.
The Sharks managed to get the lead runner on in the bottom of the ninth as Nabb laced a single to right center, but that was as far as the rally went as the next three batters went down in order, ending the game and the Sharks’ season.
“We obviously would have liked to have gone to the next round,” said Batzinger. “We certainly had a lot of obstacles throughout the season with some injuries and things like that. …We kind of stumbled there for a little bit, but everyone bounced back.
“The whole summer baseball thing is all about getting guys at bats, getting guys innings, preparing them for more exposure and just coming out here and having fun. I think in that sense we had a positive season and we definitely had our best regular season in years. We put ourselves in good position to win, it just didn’t work out for us.”