WESTERLY — The Rhode Island coastline is a beautiful place this time of year, but manager Andrew Bailey and the Westerly National Little League All-Star baseball team were not ready to start summer fun on July 1.
The Westerly 12Us emphatically avoided District 3 tournament elimination Monday at Trombino Field, blanking Exeter-West Greenwich, 12-0, in mercy-rule fashion in four innings behind winning pitcher Mike Poole's two-hit, nine-strikeout performance.
Westerly (1-1) stays alive in the District 3 losers' bracket, and will play Saturday against an undetermined opponent. The Nationals lost their opener last weekend to Warwick North, 6-2.
"This team has too much talent to go two and out," Bailey said. "It was do or die today and we showed up to win. I think we have three top pitchers, good hitters with power one through six, and some speed. We've practiced every day the last three weeks and want to keep playing."
Poole didn't need the offensive support he received. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound right-hander, who led Westerly to the regular-season title, breezed through four innings, not walking a batter. The first six outs he recorded were all strikeouts. His pitch count was low enough to allow him to pitch six innings, if needed, but the shorter workload is always welcome in tournament play.
"Mike has good velocity and mixes in a curve," Bailey said. "We have three pitchers capable of being number one. We decided to go with someone else in our opener but we have confidence in all three."
Westerly jumped to a 2-0 lead after one inning. Jayden Parker (3 hits) doubled and scored on Grayson Simmon's single. Parker scored on a hit by Poole.
The locals blew the game open with six runs in the second. Exeter-West Greenwich didn't help itself with four errors, but the Nationals also hit the ball hard. Chase Wycall and Zach Miner singled in runs before Simmons hit a towering two-run, opposite-field homer over the fence in right-center.
Thomas Fiore followed with a double and scored on Matt Wills' single to make it 8-0 after two.
After Miner's RBI double upped the lead to 9-0 in the third, Westerly put the 10-run mercy rule in play with three runs in the fourth to take a 12-0 lead. Poole and Landon Bailey doubled, and Parker singled home a run.
"Winning is contagious, and hopefully a dominant win like this gives us confidence going forward," coach Bailey said. "We had a talk after losing the opener. We focused on buckling down and hitting line drives. We came out hitting and played all facets of the game well."
Westerly has been on the baseball diamond practicing the last three weeks to show what it can do on the field, not at the beach body surfing or boogie boarding.
"We're not ready to stop yet," Bailey said.