Baseball: MVP Sposato helps lift Chargers to first title since 1966

Baseball: MVP Sposato helps lift Chargers to first title since 1966

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PAWTUCKET — The goal was set last year.

After the Chariho High baseball team lost in the 2017 Division II tournament semifinals, the Chargers devoted themselves to getting to McCoy Stadium and winning it all this season.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Series MVP Sean Sposato pitched six solid innings and drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly, Ethan Blanchard struck out the side in the seventh and Chariho overcame an overturned umpire’s call to beat Ponaganset, 4-2, on Tuesday afternoon at McCoy and sweep the best-of-three D-II championship series.

The baseball title is Chariho’s first since capturing the state crown in 1966.

Pitching, the team’s strength all year long, again was the key. Sposato escaped two bases-loaded jams with minimal or no damage, and Blanchard, making his first appearance on the mound this season, punctuated the victory with three strikeouts on just 14 pitches.

“Our pitching and defense has always been incredible, and we have timely hits when we need them,” said Sposato, a junior. “[Ponaganset] beat us last year to get [to McCoy], so it feels kind of good to get some revenge. I’m happy.”

Said Blanchard, a senior first baseman, “It feels absolutely amazing. It feels like a dream almost to be here with some of my best friends, finishing it off the way we did as hot as we did. It’s just awesome.”

The Chargers (22-4) didn’t take the easy route to the finals, either. Sure, they cruised through a 16-3 regular season to earn the top seed for the double-elimination tournament. But following a loss in the second playoff game, they had to win three straight to get to McCoy.

And that earned Chariho the right to meet No. 2 Ponaganset (20-5), the two-time defending Division II champion, in the title series.

After a 4-2 victory in Monday’s Game 1, the Chargers had to face Ponaganset ace Kenny Desrosiers, who, Chieftains coach Anthony Parillo said, was 18-0 over two varsity seasons heading into Tuesday’s game.

Chargers coach Andy Devereaux described the right-handed Desrosiers best, calling the senior “crafty.” Often using a three-quarter side-arm delivery, Desrosiers didn’t throw hard but threw strikes, and he retired the first nine Chariho hitters in order.

Meanwhile, Sposato allowed an unearned run in the first inning, but left the bases loaded.

In the fourth, Chariho’s bats came to life. Ben Harrison (2 for 4, two runs scored) led off with a triple over left fielder Billy Butler’s head, and scored on Will Beaudreau’s sacrifice fly. One out later, Sposato and Blanchard singled, and Dan LaBelle followed with an RBI single to right-center field to give the Chargers a 2-1 lead.

“I know [Desrosiers] likes to pitch outside, so I was just looking for a pitch to drive the other way,” LaBelle said, “and thank God it fell, and I’m happy that it did.”

But LaBelle was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double — “it happens,” he said — and the inning ended.

Sposato had his only 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fourth. In the fifth, Ponaganset tied it up on a controversial balk ruling.

With Chieftain runners on second and third and two outs, Ty Parrillo was initially called out after an attempted steal of home. The batter, Curtis Briggs, claimed he was hit in the helmet by the pitch as the teams headed to their respective dugouts, but coach Parrillo ran out to argue a different issue – that Sposato balked on the play.

After the umpires convened on the infield grass, the out call was overturned and the play was ruled a balk, advancing the runners and tying the game, 2-2.

“The ump said [Sposato] stepped off the rubber, which if he did, it’s a balk,” Devereaux said. “From my angle, I didn’t think he stepped off. Maybe he did. I didn’t have the best angle.

“It actually helped us. It [ticked] the whole team off.”

Sposato, who ended up retiring Briggs, wasn’t worried.

“We didn’t give up. We didn’t cave in,” he said. “We knew we could score more runs. I mean, two’s not enough to win. … Once we calmed down and got our groove back, we were good.”

In the top of the sixth, Chariho loaded the bases with no outs, walking twice on two failed bunt attempts, and scored twice on two hard-hit sacrifice flies by Sposato and Blanchard.

Sposato then got out of his second bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth, getting all three outs on strikeouts.

“I walked a kid [to load the bases] so I was a little annoyed about that,” he said. “I knew I could throw a strike when I needed to. … I threw some fastballs for a strike, and then I froze the kid on the last pitch. It felt good to get out of that inning with no damage.”

The team was feeling even better after Blanchard’s seventh-inning performance.

“We said at the end of the year last year when we lost in the semis that were gonna come back and win it,” Blanchard said. “It feels great.”

“We knew we had some talent coming into the year. But how many teams have talent and then don’t get it done?” Devereaux said. “They worked hard every day. They kept their focus [over a] long season, especially when we dropped in the losers’ bracket early on [in the tournament]. It was a good test, but it made us a better team.

“It was a great job. Backs against the wall, they made the plays, they got it done. It’s awesome.”



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