PAWTUCKET — Ben Harrison made things difficult for himself Monday afternoon at McCoy Stadium.
But the Chariho High junior right-hander also made things difficult for Ponaganset.
Harrison allowed two runs in five taxing innings, Sean Sposato hit a clutch two-run single and the Chariho baseball team defeated Ponaganset, 4-2, in Game 1 of the Division II championship series.
The top-seeded Chargers (21-4) and No. 2 Chieftains (20-4) meet in Game 2 of the best-of-three series Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, is Wednesday at 3:30.
Harrison allowed just four hits. It was walks — five of them — that left him frustrated. Ponaganset had runners in scoring position in each of the first, second and third innings, and all of those runners reached base via the free pass.
“I was having some control problems,” said Harrison, who struck out four and was aided by two double plays. “I still managed to battle out of it, limited the damage.
“In some innings I feel like I was better than in other innings, but I really never settled down as much as I really wanted to.”
Fortunately for the Chargers, Harrison kept Ponaganset off the scoreboard to that point. And they were the team to get on the scoreboard first.
In the bottom of the third, No. 9 hitter Luke Elson led off with a single to left field and stole second. Harrison walked, and Will Beaudreau laid down a perfect bunt into no-man’s land to the right of Ponaganset pitcher Matt Viveiros to load the bases.
Zach Snow followed by being hit by a pitch to drive in one run. Sposato then delivered his two-run single to right. Later, pinch-runner Mark Wightman scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0 Chariho.
“We know that [Viveiros] wasn’t their top pitcher so I think our eyes kind of lit up a little bit and we were really aggressive,” Chargers coach Andy Devereaux said. “It worked in that inning. We got some guys on. The other innings, we were just giving out free outs. In that one inning, we set the table to perfection. Sean had a big base hit.”
Three of Chariho’s six hits came in the inning.
Harrison’s luck ran out in the fourth. Curtis Briggs led off with single, and Mark Gardella tripled down the right-field line to make it 4-1. But after Kenny Desrosiers walked, Lucas Pierre hit into a 6-4-3 (Dan LaBelle-Beaudreau-Ethan Blanchard) double play.
Gardella scored, but it could have been a lot worse. Kyle Abbott then made a nice running catch in center field to end the inning.
“We minimized the damage and we scored enough runs today,” Devereaux said. “Some games the bats have been red-hot, and some games they’ve been a little quiet. But with pitching and defense we were fortunate enough to only give up two runs.”
Still, Ponaganset created some drama in the seventh.
With one out, Chris DiPetrillo reached second on a two-base error. After Ty Parrillo grounded out to first base, University of Rhode Island-bound senior Billy Butler was up representing the tying run.
Chariho called timeout, and Devereaux went to the mound to talk to Jared Powers, who had relieved Harrison in the sixth.
“It’s tough to just put the tying run on base,” Devereaux said. “So we kind of went with the approach, ‘Don’t miss, make your pitch, maybe he’ll chase.’ That last pitch was way out of the zone and the kid crushed it.”
But he crushed it right to Elson in left field to end the game.
“That was another break for us,” Devereaux said. “He hits that in the gap and we’ve got a game on our hands. We were fortunate.”
So was Harrison (8-1), who threw 106 pitches.
“I’m happy that we won this game, but we’ve still got to win one more to win the championship,” he said. “So I’m not that happy.”
Devereaux said Sposato, who threw a one-hitter against Mt. Hope last Thursday, will start Game 2, and he expects Ponaganast to counter with Desrosiers, its ace.
“As excited as we are, we’ve got to reset tomorrow,” Devereaux said. “Can’t play with emotion, keep going through the rhythm, stay focused. … It’ll be another pitchers’ duel. It’s gonna come down to timely hitting and who makes more plays so we’ll see.”