STONINGTON — Stonington High baseball coach Bob Cahoone knew his pitchers could not afford to get the ball up in the strike zone against Chariho High on Saturday.
"They are a good fastball-hitting team, and when you get the ball up in the zone ... ," Cahoone said. "The umpire was calling a nice low strike and to stay in the game you needed to keep the ball down.
"A lot of the big extra-base hits were up around the waist. They just hit the crap out of the ball against us."
Indeed they did. Chariho scored 16 runs over the final three innings and whipped the Bears, 17-3, in the season opener for both squads.
Chariho, last year's Division II champion that has moved up to D-I this season, sent 29 batters to the plate, had 12 hits, a home run, a triple and six doubles over the final three innings.
Chariho's Cam Anderson led off the sixth with a home run over the left-field fence, and later in the inning hit a two-run double. That drive hit about two-thirds the way up the fence in left. He nearly had two homers in the inning.
"I was just being patient at the plate and looking for a fastball," said Anderson, who finished 3 for 4. "He threw a fastball right over the plate, I squared it up and put a good swing on it."
And the double off the fence, how close was it to a homer?
"Honestly, I thought it would be close, but I didn't think I hit it quite far enough," Anderson said.
Chariho trailed 3-1 heading to the fourth inning. Stonington sophomore starter Creighton Wesson was effective against the Chargers, allowing just one unearned run.
But a one-out double by John Pellegrino and a pair of walks loaded the bases. Then Cahoone turned to his bullpen.
Mark Wightman responded by delivering a two-run double over the left fielder's head to tie the score at 3.
Ben Harrison followed with a two-run single down the third-base line to give the Chargers a 5-3 lead. Harrison later came home on a single by Sean Sposato (3 for 5, double, three RBIs).
Harrison finished 3 for 5 with a double, a triple and four RBIs. Harrison, a first-team All-State selection and co-player of the year in the league last season, went to the mound in the fifth and struck out the side.
"The first two at-bats I struggled, so I just tried to settle down and find a good pitch to hit," Harrison said. "I got one and drove it over the left fielder's head to get myself started."
Chariho added five more runs in the fifth, taking advantage of a pair of walks and a throwing error by the Bears. Josh Smithey had an RBI double and Harrison drove in a run with his triple.
The Chargers put six more on the board in the sixth. Anderson had his three RBIs. Sposato drove in a pair with a double, and Harrison had an RBI double. The game was called after six innings.
Dylan LaBelle drove in Chariho's first run with a two-out double in the second.
Stonington's Drew Champagne and Christian Ward each had sacrifice flies.
"The first three innings I thought we played pretty good," Cahoone said. "We play different when Creighton comes out of the game. He's a very polished pitcher for his age."
Chariho's Riley Cullotta pitched the first four innings, allowing four hits to earn the win. It was his first varsity start.
"We had great pitching from him," Anderson said. "It's one of the first times he's pitched since middle school and he threw the knuckleball."
Chariho will face the top teams in Rhode Island this season in Division I, but the Chargers are ready.
"A lot of us know kids from travel ball, so we know some parts of those teams," Anderson said. "The schedule is different, but we are excited to throw our best players out there and compete to win."
Chariho next hosts East Providence on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Stonington hosts St. Bernard on Monday at 4 p.m.