The Cranston Western 11/12-year-olds fell to Cumberland American, 14-4, in the winner-take-all championship game on Saturday evening at Kennedy Field in Johnston.
The loss came after Cranston came back from four runs down in Game 1 on Friday night to beat previously undefeated Cumberland American, 9-6, in seven innings. With the win, Cranston stayed alive for another day before eventually falling in the final.
The Game 1 rally came after Cranston came back to beat South Kingstown in the semifinal. Cranston manager Gary Bucci thinks that experience along with a couple other comebacks helped his team rally against Cumberland.
“I believe 100 percent it did,” Bucci said. “There was calmness in the dugout that I’ve never experienced. It was calm, the panic button was never pressed.”
“These kids have confidence,” Bucci added. “The plus here is everybody contributed. It’s not two or three kids. It’s a pinch runner here, it’s a pinch runner there, it’s a base hit here, and so that’s what I like about it. That’s what makes this team unique.”
In that first matchup, Cranston’s Colby Kuzman was on fire, blasting three round trippers.
“I feel great,” Kuzman said after that matchup. “I just played my game. I tried my best and my team tried their best and we have one more game.”
“I have him in house league and I can’t be any prouder because he’s been struggling,” Bucci said. “That’s the capability he has. This kid is going to play at a high level I think. But he hasn’t really had all cylinders on and maybe he’s finding his groove, hopefully at the right time.”
Kuzman led off the game with a home run to give Cranston the early 1-0 advantage.
Perry Gaudreau started on the hill for Cranston in the bottom of the first. With one out, Cumberland’s Joey Cote blasted a two-run shot over the wall in center field to put Cumberland up 2-1. In the bottom of the second, Cumberland extended its lead to 3-1 when Dante Figueira launched a moon shot over the wall in left.
Kuzman led off the top of the third with his second home run – a solo blast, pulling Cranston within 3-2.
Cumberland got some buffer in the bottom of the fourth when Cote launched a 3-run bomb to extend Cumberland’s lead to 6-2.
However, Cranston would rally.
Jake Snowling hammered a solo home run in the top of the fifth, pulling Cranston within 6-3. After that, Nick Williams hit a single and Colby Kuzman followed it with a two-run blast to cut the deficit to 6-5.
Cumberland’s James Sukatos came in to close it out in the top of the sixth, but Cranston delayed the inevitable. First, Nick Perrotta led off with a walk before moving to third after two passed balls. Then Cumberland brought in Charlie Tarara to finish the job, but he threw a passed ball and Perrotta trotted home from third, tying the game at 6.
After Cranston’s Chris Piscione silenced the Cumberland bats in the bottom of the inning, his squad sealed the win.
With runners at first and second, Vin Healey hit an RBI single to score Kuzman while giving Cranston a 7-6 lead. Then, Perrotta hit a line drive at the shortstop, who failed to get a glove on it and Marcus Chung scored from third, increasing Cranston’s lead to 8-6. With runners at the corners, Sam Lucas hit an RBI single to drive home Healey and extend Cranston’s lead to 9-6.
Piscione slammed the door shut in the bottom of the seventh, striking out Andy Ray and getting Figueira and Sukatos to ground out to end the ball game.
However, in the winner-take-all second game, Cranston Western received a thrashing despite scoring two runs to begin the game.
With Cumberland’s JJ Sanzi starting on the hill, Kuzman led off that game with a walk. Shortly after, Piscione hit a single, putting runners at the corners. Then, Healey knocked in Kuzman with an RBI double, giving Cranston a 1-0 edge. With runners at second and third, Chung hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Piscione, putting Cranston up 2-0.
Cumberland’s Andrew Mastin blasted a 2-RBI single off of Snowling in the bottom of the inning to knot the game at 2. Then, Figueira hit an RBI single to bring home Jack Larose and put Cumberland up 3-2. After that, Ray hit a laser at the second baseman Healey, who made an error, causing the runner to be safe at first base and allowing another run to score, giving Cumberland a 4-2 advantage.
In the top of the second, Cranston’s Nick Masse earned a walk before Kuzman hit a two-out double, putting runners at second and third. Then, Perry Gaudreau drove them both in with a single, tying the game at 4.
In the bottom of the inning, Cumberland’s Larose launched a two-run bomb to center to put Cumberland back on top at 6-4.
In the bottom of the third, Cumberland put the game out of reach. First, Elijah Cinieri led off with a single up the middle. Cranston countered by bringing in Anthony Veltri to pitch. Cinieri eventually moved to third after two passed balls at the plate. After that, Scott Penney walked, putting runners at the corners. Moments later, Tarara tattooed a 2-RBI double to center, extending Cumberland’s edge to 8-4. Then, Cranston brought in Lucas to pitch. With two outs, Sanzi slammed an RBI single to make it 9-4. Next, Lucas walked Mastin to fill the bases before walking the next hitter while walking in a run. With the bases reloaded, Ray hit a ground ball to the shortstop Gaudreau, who overthrew the second baseman, allowing two more runs to come in, making it 12-4.
In the bottom of the fourth, Cumberland finished the job. Masse, the left-hander, came in to pitch in relief for Cranston. With the bases loaded, Masse hit Cinieri with a pitch, allowing a run to score while reloading the bases. After that, Figueira was also hit by a pitch, giving Cumberland the 14-4 walk-off win by way of the 10-run rule.
“The fat lady sang,” Bucci said after his team’s loss. “The glass slipper was found. We came in with very limited pitching and then obviously they beat us. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you go into the losers’ bracket; you have to use more pitching than everybody else does. We went I think as far as we could go to be honest. It was a great summer. Memories of a lifetime and I’m very proud.”