EAST PROVIDENCE — Dylan LaBelle’s ability to minimize the damage helped the Chariho High baseball team continue to maximize its season.
The Chargers are bound for McCoy Stadium after a 5-2 win over Mt. Hope on Saturday night, clinching the Division II regional title for a date with two-time defending champion Ponaganset High beginning on Monday.
First pitch will be at 3:30 p.m.
LaBelle walked the first batter he faced before immediately giving up four straight singles, each ball seemingly coming off the bat harder than the last.
Chariho manager Andy Devereaux trekked to the mound after the first five hitters for the Huskies produced two runs, pleading with his team to avoid giving up a big inning.
“I told the guys it’s the first inning,” Devereaux said. “Just get some outs and whatever happens, we’ll fight our way back in the game. Just don’t give up a big inning.”
The Chargers took Devereaux’s words to heart, particularly LaBelle.
After the first five batters reached base for Mount Hope, only four got on the rest of the way.
LaBelle proceeded to get out of the first inning jam by inducing a lineout to Will Beaudreau at second base, a strikeout and a ground ball to Sean Sposato at third base.
“I just really found my groove,” LaBelle said. “I started pounding the zone. My curveball...it wasn’t on, but I used it to mix them up and mess up their timing a little bit.”
LaBelle wound up going the distance for the Chargers, giving up the two runs on eight hits. The leadoff walk was his lone free pass and he struck out three Huskies hitters.
Chariho came back from the quick 2-0 deficit almost immediately, grabbing a single run in the first inning on an RBI single for Sposato and four more in the second, never looking back. Sposato finished 2 for 3.
Ben Harrison’s sacrifice fly to right tied the game, while Kyle Abbott scored what amounted to the game-winning run on a pass ball.
Luke Elson and Beaudreau scored on the same Mt. Hope error, padding the lead for the Chargers.
Not that LaBelle needed the extra support, but it didn’t hurt that his defense played an immaculate game behind him.
Both LaBelle and Devereaux agreed that the play of the game defensively for Chariho came in the top of the fourth inning, when London Camelo and Nicholas Simeone managed back-to-back singles to break up a string of nine straight batters retired by LaBelle.
The next batter, Jalen Kopecky, put a charge into a ball to Harrison in right. The junior settled under the ball no problem to record the out, but the ensuing relay to shortstop Dan LaBelle and Sposato at third is what really stood out.
Both Harrison and LaBelle delivered perfect strikes to their intended targets, with Sposato providing a timely tag at third to get Camelo for a double play.
“We’ve been playing fantastic defense in the playoffs,” Devereaux said.
“That relay, definitely,” was LaBelle’s answer when asked what the play of the game was.
Chariho will be playing for the title in baseball for the first time since 1966. Chariho beat Tolman, 9-5, in 10 innings that season for its only baseball title.
The Chargers defeated Ponaganset in the regular season on May 10, 11-7, in their lone meeting this spring.
“They got the job done and they deserved to be there,” Devereaux said. “They get to keep a little part of history now, knowing they made it to the state championship – regardless of what happens. That’s pretty cool for them.”