Baseball: Division II championship series notebook — pitching paved way to title for Chargers

Baseball: Division II championship series notebook — pitching paved way to title for Chargers



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Good pitching is an obvious element to any successful baseball team, and Chariho High had it in abundance this season.

Led by their top two starters, Ben Harrison and Dylan LaBelle, both juniors, the Chargers finished with a staff ERA of 2.31.

That kind of pitching is a big reason Chariho went 22-4 and won the Division II title, its first baseball championship since 1966.

After the Chargers defeated Ponaganset, 4-2, on Tuesday to complete a two-game sweep of the best-of-three D-II championship series, coach Andy Devereaux said, “We got enough done thanks to our pitching, which has been the story all season. I can’t preach enough how good the pitching was.

“Especially in the playoffs, everyone’s on short rest. In the regular season, they’re waiting a week to pitch. But in the playoffs, they’re going every fifth day, which is not what they’re used to.”

Harrison, a right-hander, finished 8-1 with a 1.43 ERA, and the lefty LaBelle was 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA. They combined for 19 starts and threw 11 complete games for a staff that had 13.

Junior right-hander Sean Sposato, who finished 4-0, started only two games, but both were big Charger wins in the playoffs — a complete-game one-hit shutout of Mt. Hope last Thursday, and a tough six-inning outing on Tuesday in the championship series-clinching victory at McCoy Stadium.

Oh, what a relief

With such standout starting pitching, there wasn’t much call for relief during Chariho games this season — senior Zach Snow made the most relief appearances with seven; Sposato and senior Jared Powers made five each.

Tuesday, senior first baseman Ethan Blanchard made a surprise trip to the mound to close out the victory. Surprising because he hadn’t thrown a pitch all season.

Devereaux explained that Powers couldn’t pitch because he had exceeded the pitch count to return on one day’s rest — he threw two scoreless innings to earn the save in Game 1 vs. Ponaganset on Monday, also a 4-2 win — and Blanchard’s unorthodox approach might just be the ticket.

“He pitches backwards,” said Devereaux, explaining that with Blanchard it’s offspeed stuff first. “We don’t have anyone else that does that. So he went in there throwing curveball, slider, one after another — and they were chasing it. It was a good change of pace from Sean.”

Blanchard struck out the side on 14 pitches, including fanning URI-bound Billy Butler for out No. 1.

“I was so excited when coach told me after we came back in from the warm-up that I was gonna go in and pitch,” Blanchard said. “… I’m very confident in my pitching. I knew with a two-run lead I could get the job done and get us the win. It just happened to be in better fashion than I was expecting.”

Said Devereaux, “He lives for that moment. The kid is a player.”

Trumping an ace

While Blanchard hadn’t pitched at all this season until Tuesday, Ponaganset starter Kenny Desrosiers hadn’t lost a game in two seasons, going 18-0.

“He just throws strikes,” Chieftains coach Anthony Parrillo said.

Chariho went down in order through three innings, but they took a 2-1 lead in the fourth, including an RBI single by senior shortstop Dan LaBelle.

“We just found a way to get to him bit by bit,” LaBelle said. “We knew he threw a little bit slower than some of the guys we’ve faced. We knew he had a decent curveball, too. So we just tried to stay back and get everything back up the middle and tried to do everything we could to get base hits.”

Devereaux, meanwhile, was stressing discipline — as he has all year long.

“We’ve been preaching to them to stay in the zone and wait for your pitch,” he said. “… As the game went on, they realized he’s not gonna throw it by us. Just wait till you get the one you like, then put a good swing on it, and we did. Fortunately, we had some great at-bats.”

Those at-bats came in the sixth, when Will Beaudreau and Snow drew walks after failing to to bunt successfully. Sposato and Blanchard followed with sacrifice flies to give Chariho a 4-2 lead.

“The pieces fell into place perfectly,” Deveraux said. “They executed.”

Desrosiers allowed four earned runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out four.

Uneasy start

Sposato, the series MVP, didn’t make it easy on himself on the mound Tuesday.

He had only one 1-2-3 inning in his six-inning stint. He left the bases loaded in the first, when Ponaganset took a 1-0 lead. He stranded a runner on second in the third, and a runner on third in the fifth, when Ponaganset tied the game, 2-2. In the fifth, he left the bases loaded again.

“It got a little rough,” he said. “I was a little worried, but I’ve got defense to back me up so I don’t have to strike everybody out. I don’t feel like I have to.”

Sposato gave up one earned run on four hits, three walks and two hit batters. He struck out seven and walked three.

Quotable

— “They’re a good team,” Parrillo said of the Chargers. “They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. They’re a good hitting team. We played them earlier in the season and they scored 11 runs off us. So we held them to four runs [Tuesday] and four runs [Monday].

“We just didn’t score enough runs. We needed to have a better offensive output.”

— “Oh, man, it’s unbelievable,” Dan LaBelle said after Tuesday’s win. “I’ve been working with this whole group of guys, and us seven seniors, we’ve been working so hard the last four years. It just feels good.

“We knew we had the talent. We knew we just had to put it all together, and thank God we did.”

Chariho’s seniors are Beaudreau, Blanchard, LaBelle, Powers, Luke Elson, Alex Radicioni and Grant Vargo-Willeford.

— “It was wicked cool.” — Harrison, when asked what it was like to pitch at McCoy. Harrison won Game 1, going five innings and allowing two runs on four hits. Offensively, the leadoff hitter was a combined 3 for 6 with a triple and three runs scored in the series.

— “Because we’re just the best team in the state, that’s why.” — Sposato, when asked why he wasn’t surprised Chariho pulled off the two-game sweep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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