EAST GREENWICH — Chariho Little League coach Adam Maher didn't feel his 11-12 All-Star squad brought its A game to the Rhode Island state baseball tournament after it finished with a 1-2 record with two mercy-rule losses.
Chariho's first state tourney berth since 1998 ended Tuesday with an 11-1 loss to Cranston Western in the losers bracket final. Chariho, the District 3 champ for just the second time in its 60-year history, finished third in the state.
"We saw it in the Barrington game — and even in the game we won — we went down easily in the first inning," Maher said. "We're the visitors today and our only advantage is getting out to put a crooked number up to get an early lead. Instead we go 1-2-3."
Cranston Western, which needs to beat undefeated Barrington twice to win the title, put up a crooked number in the first with seven runs. Chariho couldn't dig out of that hole and suffered its second mercy-rule loss of the tournament (it opened with a 10-0 loss to Barrington).
"I heard from a number of people that District 3 was the toughest district," Maher said. "East Greenwich, Warwick North and Wickford/North Kingston were as good as the teams we faced here. But we go 1-2 in the states. We didn't hit that well, and in our losses we had some uncharacteristic defensive miscues and miscommunication."
On the field, Chariho would like to have a couple mulligans. But Maher and his crew have few other regrets. The Chariho All-Stars thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. Winning was gravy.
"After a practice or game, I'd load four or five kids in the car and drive home to our pool," Maher said. "We had great chemistry on this team and were a small, gritty group. Everyone pulled for each other."
Chariho just ran into some tough teams at states.
After Cranston Western left-hander Giacomo Carliri retired Chariho in order on 10 pitches in the first, the home team scored five runs before Chariho registered an out.
Cranston Western combined some line-drive hits and two bunt singles with sloppy Chariho fielding (3 errors) to take a 7-0 lead after one in a 34-pitch inning. Ethan Madden and Jack Fontaine led off with singles before an infield grounder was thrown away at second base to load the bases. Andrew Soscia walked to force in the first run.
Marcus Almada singled to drive in two, but the relay was thrown wide of third to allow a third run to make it 4-0. Devin DeAngelis reached on a bunt single, and Brayden Nebes hit an opposite-field double down the right-field line to make it 5-0. Chariho finally got an out on a strikeout, but Cranston Western was not finished.
Fontaine delivered his second hit of the inning to drive in two and increase the lead to 7-0.
"We like to play small ball and keep things moving," Cranston Western coach Gary Bucci said. "This infield grass is thick and made for bunting. I'm not sure Chariho faced teams that use the bunt the way we do. We don't have a lot of power but I don't know if any team here is lights out. We're playing the house money now."
Chariho got on the board in the third. Gavin Boisclair bunted for a single to lead off. After two strikeouts, Adam Carpenter hit an RBI double to left. Carliri left two runners on to record his third strikeout of the inning on a changeup to leave the score, 7-1.
Fontaine, a left-handed hitter, haunted Chariho again in the third, lining a shot off the center-field fence for a two-run single to give Cranston Western a 9-1 lead.
Cranston Western pulled Carliri after three, saving him for two potential games with undefeated Barrington in the finals. Ethan Elderkin greeted reliever Marcus Almada, a hard-throwing righty, with a double to left in the fourth. Almada walked a batter, but Cranston Western silenced any hope of a Chariho rally, throwing out a base runner trying to steal and catching a fly ball to keep the score 9-1.
Cranston Western tacked on two runs in the bottom of the fourth to achieve the 10-run mercy-rule spread, ending the game with one out in the fourth. Chris Melici's two-run single served as the walk-off hit for the 11-1 lead.