Cranston Western Little League won the 9-10 year-old All-Stars State Championship last Wednesday night, defeating Smithfield in Game 1 by a final score of 5-1 at the John H. Chafee Sports & Recreation Complex.
The triumph marks the second time in ten years that CWLL has secured the state title with the last occurrence coming in 2010 when CWLL prevailed in Lincoln, RI.
It also delivers five-year manager James Sweeney his first state title, which comes in his team’s third straight state tournament appearance.
“It’s as humbling an experience as it could be,” Sweeney said. “I’ve been a part of this league since I played tee-ball here, and when I first heard that the tournament was going to be hosted here, all we could think about was how hard we have to work to give us a chance.”I’m just so proud of my team and thankful for the opportunity to play on our home field.”
Ezra Small started on the bump for CWLL and pitched five solid innings and struck out two and gave up one unearned run on five hits with a walk.
Chase D’Ambra led the CWLL offense with a hit, plus two RBI, and he shut the door in the sixth inning when he fanned two batters and got another out on a fly ball.
“Ezra and Chase are two of the mentally toughest kids, I’ve ever coached,” Sweeney explained. “And when you have mental toughness, you have an opportunity to win. And that’s why I felt those two are the best to go to in that situation. They have no fear and have the grit and passion that a lot of 10-year old kids don’t have.”
For Smithfield, Colin Goding started on the hill and tossed four frames and yielded three runs, two earned, on five hits with four strikeouts and a walk. At the dish, Goding added a hit and Smithfield’s lone RBI.
CWLL drew a 1-0 edge in the top of the first inning, when with two outs, Shane Gaudreau launched an RBI double to center field and drove in Matt Gomez from third base.
In the third frame, CWLL increased its buffer to 2-0 when Gaudreau batted a ball at the shortstop, Noah Antunes, who made an error, and that again allowed Gomez to score from third base.
Smithfield cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the third when Goding socked an RBI single to shallow left field and brought home Dom Lombardi.
In the fifth frame, Smithfield’s Goding was pulled at 76 pitches after giving up a lead-off single to Gomez.
Therefore, Antunes came on to pitch in relief and CWLL’s Small greeted him with a standup double to left field.
Next, Smithfield chose to intentionally walk David Cavalloro, and that loaded the bases.
Then, Nico Testa socked an RBI single to shallow right field and knocked in Gomez, who scored for the third time, and extended the CWLL buffer to 3-1.
With the bases reloaded, D’Ambra then, smacked a two-run single over the head of the second baseman, Luke Dwyer, and drove in both Cavalloro and Domenic DeCristofano, which ballooned the CWLL cushion to 5-1.
Following the contest, CWLL took a victory lap with the banner and D’Ambra was all smiles after recording the final three outs.
“I feel really happy about it,” D’Ambra said.
Next, CWLL will also host the 9-10 Little League Eastern Regional Tournament back at the Chafee Complex, which begins this weekend.
CWLL has been hosting the Regionals since 2010, but it’s just the second time that CWLL will be in it representing Rhode Island.
The tourney welcomes the best of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, but that doesn’t frighten D’Ambra, who is convinced that CWLL can win that too.
“Yes,” D’Ambra exclaimed. “Guaranteed.”
D’Ambra attributes some of his confidence to homefield advantage.
“Everyone that wants to come see us, a lot of them can come,” D’Ambra said. “And the other teams won’t have as many fans because they’re far away.”
Rhode Island opens up the tournament on Sunday, August 4th at 7:30 p.m. against Vermont.
Then on Monday, Aug. 5th, Rhode Island will face off against Maine at 2 p.m., before battling Connecticut on Wednesday, Aug. 7th at 7:30 p.m., and then New Hampshire on Thursday, Aug. 8th at 7:30 p.m.