SOUTH KINGSTOWN—Monsignor Clarke School held off Wickford Middle for a 9-6 win Friday at Curtis Corner Middle School.
Holding on to a three-run lead in the top of the seventh, relief pitcher Ryan Gwaltney responded from a shaky sixth inning to strike out the side and secure the victory for the Crusaders.
“He settled down, he stayed on his post, he had his balance, he looked good and most of all he had the personal confidence to supersede,” Monsignor Clarke head coach Bob King said. “It speaks volumes for itself [to strike out the side], I’m sure he’s happy.”
Monsignor Clarke was the beneficiary of some timely hitting, breaking open a 5-4 game in the fifth inning on a two-run, two-out triple from Evan Jacavone.
“It’s nice when you have the middle of the batting order stepping up to the plate and doing a job. It makes things a lot easier for everyone else,” King said.
The Crusaders also got a big hit in the fourth from Christian Kirby, who was able to dump an outside pitch with two strikes and two outs down the right field line to score Jacavone and Liam McGill. Kirby’s hit broke a 3-3 tie to give the Crusaders a two-run advantage, a lead that they would not relinquish.
To the Wildcats credit, however, they did not fold and were able to cut an 8-4 deficit in half in the top of the sixth.
“We’re a team that’s capable of putting up big run innings like that when we’re patient,” Wickford head coach Chris Batzinger said.
The Crusaders’ starting pitcher Colton King, who had pitched well to that point despite having a high pitch count, was relieved by Gwaltney.
“We knew that King was a good pitcher so we wanted to get deep into counts to kind of wear him down and get to the bullpen,” Batzinger said.
Wickford’s Joe Craven led off the inning by crushing a triple down the left field line, and scored on the next at-bat on a single from Liam Darcy.
Alec Bedard then followed with a single for the Wildcats, giving them runners on first and second with no outs.
Miscues on the base paths would ultimately undo Wickford’s fast start, as a miscommunication of the signs led Bedard to steal from first while Darcy stood on second.
Bedard was ultimately tagged out by Monsignor Clarke catcher McGill, and after a walk to Enos, Darcy was thrown out at the plate on a single to left from Mansolilo.
“We had them right where we wanted them, but in the fifth and sixth inning we just made some mental lapses on the base path that we don’t normally make,” Batzinger said. “A lot of uncharacteristic things from our team kind of gave them the game.”
While the Wildcats were still able to grab another run in the inning, they were unable to take advantage of Gwaltney when they could, as he set down the Wickford attack in order in the seventh.
Monsignor Clarke (3-7 Southern Division) will be back in action Monday at 3:45 p.m. when they take on Narragansett Pier Middle at Sprague Park.
“Overall the win-loss record does not represent the season that they’ve had, it’s our third win, but in all the games that we’ve lost it’s been by one run here, two runs there, an extra innings game here,” King said. “We’re certainly proud of them, because undoubtedly they’re having a great year.”
Wickford (4-6 southern) will take on Westerly Middle Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Westerly Middle School.
“We started off well, we were in five one-run games in our first six, so we were playing good baseball,” Batzinger said. “We’re in a rough patch right now, we’ve lost three in a row, but it’s a tough division and we’re playing good teams every time out.”