Postseason roundup: Chargers rack up the rewards after first baseball title in 52 years

Postseason roundup: Chargers rack up the rewards after first baseball title in 52 years

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WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High’s baseball team had its best season in 52 years, so it’s no surprise the Chargers earned numerous Division II-South postseason awards:

— They had the most outstanding player in second baseman Will Beaudreau, also a first-team pick.

— They had the co-MVP in pitcher/infielder/outfielder Ben Harrison, also a first-teamer.

— They had two other first-team selections in catcher Cam Anderson and pitcher Dylan LaBelle, the league’s Cy Young award winner.

— And they had a second-teamer in third baseman/pitcher Sean Sposato, who most assuredly would have been on the first team if voting were held after the playoffs.

Quite a haul. But understandable when the Chargers finished 22-4 (15-3 in D-II regular-season play), went 6-1 in the playoffs and captured the Division II crown with a sweep of Ponaganset in the best-of-three championship series at McCoy Stadium.

“It was funny. I was reading the preseason preview the other day and it had the part about our goals,” coach Andy Devereaux said recently. “Our eyes were set on a state championship, and back then it seemed far away, but it still seemed possible.

“The guys just did a great job all year, especially the pitching. It’s really nice to set your mind to something and to get the reward. It’s like the cherry on top.”

Beaudreau, a senior who batted in the two hole for the bulk of the season, pulled off the rare feat of being named MOP for two consecutive years.

He hit .337 (28 for 83), drove in 18 runs and scored a team-high 25 times. He also led the team in doubles (10), triples (6), slugging percentage (.602) and total bases (50). This coming after a junior season in which he hit .434 (33 for 76) with nine doubles and 20 RBIs.

“It’s tough to come into this year and try to do what he did last year. His average was down, but he still topped his extra-base hits,” Devereaux said. “Six triples is just crazy. That’s a product of us not having a fence, because he would have had a few homers.”

Devereaux added that Beaudreau will be missed next season.

“He was definitely an anchor at the top of the lineup, and will definitely be difficult to replace next year. … He just has a great approach. You just don’t see him chase pitches out of the zone. And when he gets the pitch he likes, he drives it. He doesn’t really swing and miss too often. A tough out in the lineup for sure.”

Harrison came up from the junior varsity and made a sudden impact all over the diamond, but mostly on the mound.

In 10 starts, the 6-3 junior right-hander was dominant: 8-1 (3-0 in the playoffs) with a miniscule 1.43 ERA. He went the distance six times and struck out 63 in 58 2/3 innings.

Devereaux said he wasn’t surprised by Harrison’s pitching success, but his ability with the bat and in the field was a revelation. At first, the coach didn’t have him hit much or used him in the designated hitter’s role, preferring he focus on his game on the mound. “But it became evident that Ben was capable of swinging the bat,” the coach said.

Could he ever.

Harrison finished with a .324 average (22 for 68) with 16 runs scored, five doubles, one triple and 14 RBIs. By the end of the season he took over the leadoff spot, and in Chariho’s seven playoff games he hit .318 (7 for 22) with seven runs scored.

And when injuries affected the lineup, Harrison began starting in right field, left field or third base when he wasn’t pitching.

“He was kind of our utility guy, and he was flawless,” Devereaux said. “That’s probably why he’s MVP — he did it all. His pitching was not a surprise. I knew he was gonna have success, but he was definitely a surprise from an offensive standpoint.

“By the end of the year he was such a weapon at the top of the lineup.”

Anderson, also a junior, was another pleasant surprise.

The catcher showed potential as a sophomore, Devereaux said, but blossomed this season.

“He quietly started off the season hot and never really cooled off,” Devereaux said. “He made a killing driving the ball the other way.”

Anderson batted .392 (29 for 74) and slugged .568, both second on the team. He hit seven doubles, three triples and drove in a team-leading 25 runs.

He also saved plenty of runs with his defense, Devereaux said.

“He pretty much caught every inning and he was a wall back there. Defensively, he helps the pitcher because they know they can drop a curveball in the dirt and get away with it. He calls a great game, too.”

LaBelle finished an impressive 7-1 (five complete games) with a 2.18 ERA in nine starts, and captured the Cy Young as the league’s top pitcher.

“What a season he had,” Devereaux said. “He quietly went 7-1. He wasn’t like Ben or Sean — he wasn’t blowing the ball by people. He’s crafty. He uses his defense, mixes his pitches and locates.

“It’s fun to watch Dylan when he’s locked in. It’s like a chess match against the opposing hitter. He definitely deserves that Cy Young.”

The left-hander didn’t strike out many (38), but he walked just 16 in 54 2/3 innings.

And he and Harrison made for a considerable 1-2 starting punch for the Chargers. Combined, they allowed just 29 earned runs (17 for LaBelle, 12 for Harrison).

Sposato was Chariho’s top hitter for the season, batting .397. But he did much of his damage in the playoffs, hitting .455 (10 for 22) with nine RBIs (as well as earning two pitching victories) in the team’s seven-game postseason.

Sposato, of course, will be remembered as Chariho’s hero in the championship series-clinching win, when he pitched six gutsy innings and drove in the go-ahead run that ultimately gave the school its first baseball title since 1966. He was named MVP of the series.


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