WESTERLY — The Stonington Connie Mack baseball team is not firing on all cylinders heading into the postseason, and there are a variety of reasons for it.
Wednesday, the Stonington-Westerly-based 18-and-under team dropped a Cooney Conference first-place showdown to the Narragansett Lions, 3-1, at Cimalore Field, its second straight loss.
The defeat dropped Stonington to 10-3 on the season, this coming after a 7-0 start. Stonington beat Narragansett, 8-0, in their first meeting June 24.
The Lions, who have won seven straight, are 12-2 for 24 points (2 points for a win). West Warwick has finished the regular season at 11-4 (22 points) and Stonington has 20 points with two possible games remaining.
"Things have evened out for us," Stonington coach Nate Cahoone said. "The hits were dropping in early in the season and not finding opponents' gloves. The key plays we made earlier to stop rallies are now not always being made."
But even though Cahoone did not label it as the main excuse, circumstances outside his team's control have slowed Stonington's roll as much as anything. Rhode Island Connie Mack plays just two games a week. A number of struggling teams have rescheduled games with Stonington for a number of reasons, including the fear of not fielding enough players.
"I don't want to use excuses, but the fact is we went 13 days without playing because teams backed out of games," Cahoone said. "We're waiting on word of getting a forfeit win. As it stands now, we have to make up some games before the playoffs start this weekend. It's frustrating that we have 't been able to play our full schedule."
Narragansett coach Matt Crook empathizes. He said some Connie Mack teams are comprised of players who also play American Legion ball, usually considered a higher level of play and a league that commands more attention.
"Some Connie Mack teams have spread themselves too thin," Crook said. "Some towns offer American Legion and Connie Mack. Players are trying to play on both teams, but the schedule sometimes conflicts."
The inactivity has been as frustrating as Stonington's performance was Wednesday. Stonington produced just four hits, two apiece by Dorian White and Mike Fiore, off Narragansett pitcher Matt Rocchio. The right-hander induced 11 outs via popups and walked just two while striking out one in an 81-pitch complete game.
"His teammates sometimes wonder how Matt gets people out because he's not overpowering," Crook said. "But he works very quickly, which keeps his fielders in the game, has good control and keeps runners on close with a good move."
Stonington took a 1-0 lead in the first. Koby Varas walked, stole second and moved to third on White's single. Fiore's sacrifice fly plated what turned out to be Stonington's only run.
Stonington starter Isaac Martin was effective on the mound as well. He allowed one run in the second on James Marsella's RBI double but kept the score 1-1 heading into the sixth inning.
A Narragansett single and hit batter put runners on first and second. An outfield error on the single allowed the first run to score. A short pop to right field caused indecision by the second baseman and right fielder. The ball was not caught, allowing another run to make it 3-1.
Fiore doubled to the fence in the seventh, but Stonington could not muster any more of a rally.
Martin allowed just five hits in seven innings.
"Our pitching has been solid all year," Cahoone said. "Isaac, Drew Champagne, Lucas Hall and Dean Pons, among others, have thrown the ball very well."