Rams outlast 'Bolts, advance to title series

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Spotted a four-run lead before even taking the field, things were looking up for the Cranston East Thunderbolts in Saturday’s Division I semifinal game.

Anthony Ramos broke open the scoring with a two-run single, Giovanni Canales had an RBI ground out and Zach Cole brought home another run on an error for a commanding 4-0 lead through half an inning of play.

Things quickly went awry for the second-seeded Thunderbolts, however, as the third-seeded La Salle Rams threw a quick counterpunch with three runs of its own in the bottom of the first. While East posted single runs in the second, third and fourth innings, La Salle caught up several times before taking the lead for good and hanging on for a 10-7 victory at Rhode Island College.

The Thunderbolts were undone by 10 walks from their pitching staff, with the inability to throw strikes proving to be a fatal flaw.

Starter Edwin Colon lasted just two innings, giving up five runs on six hits while walking three and striking out none. Luis Paulino fared no better in relief, giving up two runs on one hit while walking four and striking out two in a single inning of work. Canales, who was saddled with the loss, pitched the final three innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on two hits, walking three and striking out none.

“We struggled a bit on the mound,” East head coach Michael Walsh said after the game. “We get a little bit later on in the week, we played a couple of games and got a little deeper in our staff, and we struggled a little bit to throw strikes. That’s what it comes down to.”

All 17 runs in the game were scored in the first four innings, not one frame going by in which either team failed to score at least a single run.

La Salle tied the game at five in the bottom of the second, took a 7-6 edge after three full and went on top to stay courtesy of Sean Helfrich’s RBI on an error in the bottom of the fourth.

The Rams did all of their damage in said frame with two outs. Sean Gill wedged a double in between a pair of fly outs induced by Canales, but Canales proceeded to walk Brenden Cavaco and Colby Paiva – La Salle’s eighth and ninth hitters, respectively.

Helfrich belted a ground ball to third base, which Cole was unable to field cleanly, allowing Gill to score the go-ahead run. Cavaco came home after Justin Gervais was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and Paiva scored the 10th and final run for the Rams on a Brandon Taylor single.

“It’s tough on the fielders when they’re sitting around a lot and not getting any action,” Walsh said, alluding to the number of free passes issued by his team. “Some plays come out there and it’s tough when you haven’t been ready.”

Still, the Rams did their very best to give away the game, committing a ghastly six errors in the field. La Salle didn’t exactly pitch lights out either – its staff combined to walk seven Thunderbolt hitters – but it was able to limit mistakes in the latter innings.

East left the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, after Cameron Borges replaced Zach Brady on the hill for the Rams with one out. Borges plunked Alex Martinez to load the bases, but got Jacob Palazzo to pop out to second and Ramos to ground out to third.

Martinez, the Thunderbolts’ No. 3 hitter, had East’s lone extra-base hit of the game – a triple in the top of the fourth.

Brady was the pitcher of record for La Salle, with Borges picking up the save. He set the Thunderbolts down in order in the seventh – the only inning in which East went 1-2-3 all game – ending the game and sending the Rams on to McCoy Stadium by catching Sam Hanley looking at strike three.

Walsh downplayed the number of errors made by La Salle, noting that not all of them were of dire consequence.

“If you look at the errors, they really only made about two real field errors,” Walsh said. “As far as game-changing errors, the one in the first inning was a little bit tough for them, but besides that they weren’t really errors that opened up the doors.”

East ends the season at 16-8 overall after a 14-6 regular season, its two postseason losses each coming against the Rams.

“The guys worked hard all year, they battled,” Walsh said in reflection. “I think they did a good job, they kept their heads up the whole game. The game was up and down and they battled to the end.”

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