WESTERLY — Nate Cahoone couldn't fathom the idea of wearing a Stonington High gold and brown baseball uniform after he learned he would coach the Stonington entry in the Rhode Island Connie Mack summer baseball league.
But the former Westerly High All-State catcher, now a young assistant coach at UMass Dartmouth, is wearing the cross-state rival's colors with pride — the same way his father, Bob, does as Stonington High's baseball coach.
Stonington improved to 5-0 in the summer league for 14- to 18-year-olds Wednesday with an 8-1 win over Coventry at Cimalore Field.
Not only has Cahoone set aside his Westerly bias for the good of this team, current Westerly High players, who comprise half the Stonington roster, are living together in harmony and playing undefeated ball to date. The interstate squad has allowed just one run in five games.
"Westerly and Stonington were both slated to field Connie Mack teams this year," Cahoone said. "We had the numbers in terms of players but couldn't get another coach to commit. Yes, it feels weird to wear this uniform."
Connie Mack, the Philadelphia A's manager from 1900 to 1950, wore a suit and tie in the dugout. Cahoone won't go that route. He is, however, impressed at the way the players from two rival schools have meshed.
"These kids are playing to win and playing good baseball," Cahoone said. "I'm trying to run a college-level program in terms of expectations. We're playing old-school baseball with great defense, getting good pitching and hitting with men on base. The kids are here to learn."
Isaac Martin pitched a six-hitter and walked just three while striking out three in a complete-game effort. The Westerly player benefited from strong defense, highlighted by right fielder Jacob Joyce's catch and throw-out double play at home plate to thwart at Coventry rally in the sixth inning. Joyce is from Stonington,
"When we first started, I didn't like the Stonington guys because that's what's expected with the rivalry," Martin said. "That changed in a hurry. It's ridiculous not to like someone just because they go to Stonington. We're all here to play baseball. We're 50 percent Westerly, 50 percent Stonington and 100 percent winning."
Koby Varas doubled in the first and scored on Jake Verbridge's single to help Stonington take a 2-0 lead. Losing pitcher Nick Mello doubled home a run to cut the lead in half in the second. But Stonington added three unearned runs in the third — Fiore's infield hit drove in a run as did Drew Champagne's groundout, and Martin's fly ball to center was dropped to give Stonington a 5-1 lead.
Nick Abley's RBI single and Earl Obeshaw's groundout accounted for two of Stonington's three runs in the sixth.
Stonington next hosts Chariho at 10 a.m. Saturday at Cimalore Field. Connie Mack teams play twice a week, offering a compromise of sorts between the every-day schedule of American Legion ball, the expense of AAU ball and no baseball at all. Connie Mack in Rhode Island has two seven-team divisions.
"AAU is very cost prohibitive and Legion ball is dying, especially in Rhode Island," Cahoone said. "We haven't had Legion teams in a few years here. We play just two games a week, but we're playing hard."