The Cranston East baseball team isn’t where it wanted to be when the season began.
But the ’Bolts are certainly getting closer.
After a 2-6 start that included a five-game losing streak, the ’Bolts have started to hit their stride in the last week. They beat Pilgrim 5-1 last Friday for their third victory in four games.
While they still have some work to do to live up to their preseason expectations – and even to make the playoffs – the ’Bolts can at least say that things are turning around.
“We look at 8-10 as a target we have to get to for the playoffs,” said head coach Mike Walsh. “Obviously that was not our target at first, but we’re 3-1 in our last four, with a tough loss to Moses Brown, so I think we’re back to what we do. I think our offense can do better, but it’s better than it was last year and our pitching staff is at least as good, if not better, than it was last year. We like where we are right now.”
That’s especially true when compared with where the ’Bolts were two weeks ago. An 11-6 loss to Middletown on April 24 was their fifth in a row and it dropped them to 2-6.
But things started to turn around two days later when the ’Bolts beat Chariho 3-2. After a 5-3 loss to Moses Brown, East got a shutout from Brendan Budlong to beat Smithfield 6-0 last Wednesday.
It was more of the same Friday, as Bob D’Arezzo tossed six strong innings to lead the ’Bolts past Pilgrim. The win moved East to 5-7 and into a tie with Pilgrim and Toll Gate for third place in Division I-Central.
“I think all the games are important at this point,” Walsh said. “We’re just trying to put our best foot forward every day. The bats have been coming alive a little bit, and the pitching is staying consistent. It’s put us in a good position.”
The East bats gave D’Arezzo an early cushion on Friday. With one out in the top of the first, Chris Gomez singled up the middle and D’Arezzo walked. Rob Borrelli then singled, and Pilgrim right fielder Mark Lenz threw to second in an effort to get D’Arezzo when it looked like he had a shot to get Gomez at home. Instead, everybody was safe, and Gomez scored for the 1-0 lead. After a base hit by Josmar Ventura loaded the bases, Cody Lindell made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly.
Pilgrim starter Stephen Noti got out of the jam with a fly-out, but he found himself in trouble again in the second. Matt Tracy led off with a ground ball to third, and Kevin Conway’s throw pulled Colin Douglas just off the bag at first.
With Ivan Reyes at the plate, Noti caught Tracy leaning on his lead and threw to first. As Tracy took off, Pilgrim got him into a rundown, but the throw back to first base was off target and Tracy made it back safely.
And the ’Bolts made Pilgrim pay. Reyes drew a walk to put two on, and Gomez turned on the first pitch he saw and crushed a three-run home run to right field.
“The kid’s out twice,” said Pilgrim head coach Ed Colvin. “We can’t execute a rundown. Two batters later, the kid hits a three-run home run. You can’t do those thing. Physical errors are going to happen. Not executing a rundown, that’s not a physical error. We seem to do that at the worst times.”
Home runs have been hard to come by for teams across the state this year, but Walsh wasn’t surprised to see one from Gomez, a senior who’s in his first year with the team.
“He’s got something in his bat, that’s for sure,” Walsh said. “We kind of knew it. He’s a kid who kind of came from nowhere, and he hit a home run in tryouts. He had to get his balance a little bit, but once we got that, we felt he was ready. Ever since then, he’s had the highest-batting average on the team.”
Gomez’s blast made it a 5-0 game, and though the ’Bolts didn’t score again, the cushion was more than enough for D’Arezzo. The senior didn’t have his best fastball, but he threw strikes and found his way out of the few jams he got into.
“He definitely didn’t have an overpowering fastball, but he hit his spots, he threw to the bat, and he let our guys make plays,” Walsh said.
After getting just two hits through the first three innings, the Pats threatened in the fourth. Douglas lined a one-out single to right and Conway drew a walk to put two on. After D’Arezzo got the second out with a strikeout, Lenz also walked, loading the bases for the Pats.
Pilgrim then got the big hit it needed as Cole Furney roped a double down the right-field line, but even that led to trouble for the Pats. Douglas scored on the play, but Conway stopped as he rounded third. With Furney already pulling into second, Lenz was caught between second and third. East threw to third and Ventura put the tag on a sliding Lenz to end the inning.
The Pats threatened once more in the sixth, with Conway and Brett Ferguson delivering two-out singles. But D’Arezzo got out of trouble with a force-out at second.
The Pats didn’t have another hit.
“I wasn’t throwing as hard as I usually am, so I just tried to work the slider most of the game, and it seemed to be working,” D’Arezzo said.
D’Arezzo scattered six hits and struck out four in six innings of work. Taylor Pacific came on for the seventh and worked a perfect inning to seal the victory.
“We’re starting to pick it up as a team,” D’Arezzo said. “I think the more we keep on winning, the more we’re going to progress. This is going to help us push forward and hopefully make a run for the playoffs.”
Heading into Tuesday’s games, East was one of six teams with a 5-7 record, and those clubs are all tied for 13th in the overall Division I standings. The top 16 teams make the playoffs.
The ’Bolts hope to be one of them, and they know what they need to do to get there. They were scheduled to play on Tuesday against Toll Gate, with results unavailable at press time. They’ll visit Warwick Vets on Thursday at 3:45 p.m., and after that, they’ll have just four games left.
“We’re going to be playing some teams we usually play well in the next week or two,” Walsh said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to beat them, but we’re going to play them well. We’ll see how it goes from here.”