Manager Frank DiLanna had a message for the CLCF 12-year-old all stars as they opened play in the Cal Ripken State Tournament.
“I told them to appreciate it,” DiLanna said. “This is their last year on the little field. I told them to take it all in and make the most of it.”
CLCF is doing just that.
The Cranston club started tourney play with a bang, beating Darlington National 12-0 on Saturday at Slater Park in Pawtucket. On Sunday, CLCF outlasted West Warwick 12-10 for a spot in the winners’ bracket final. That game was scheduled to be played on Tuesday, with results unavailable at press time. A win Tuesday would move CLCF into Thursday’s state championship, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
That’s just where CLCF expected to be – and the quest got off on the right foot.
“We’re playing well, especially with the bats,” DiLanna said. “We had 24 runs in two games, and we’re hitting as a team. As long as we have pitching and defense, I think we can win this thing.”
CLCF is coming off a historic summer in which it won state titles in each of the four Cal Ripken age levels. The current 12-year-olds won the 11-year-old championship last year, and they also have a 9-year-old title to their name.
In Saturday’s opener against Darlington, the CLCF stars picked up where they left off.
Derek DiLanna walked to start the first inning, Kennsey Marte and Brett Traficante singled and Matt Beyer smashed a grand slam to stake CLCF to the early 4-0 lead.
In the second, DiLanna walked again ahead of a two-run homer by Marte. Beyer added a two-run double in the fourth to make it 8-0.
Then in the fifth, CLCF finished the game in style. Marte smacked a grand slam to invoke the mercy rule and clinch the 12-0 victory.
“The bats were alive,” Frank DiLanna said. “Derek and Logan Pacheco got on base at the top of the lineup and our power hitters drove them in.”
Traficante got the start on the mound and allowed one hit while striking out 10 of the 12 hitters he faced in four innings of work. Marte pitched the fifth inning.
“We got great pitching and the defense was solid,” DiLanna said. “We hit the cutoffs and we threw two runners out at the plate. Both of them were big outs.”
In Sunday’s game, CLCF took a 10-4 lead thanks to some key hits, including a big two-run single by Kyle Dutra. But CLCF watched West Warwick come all the way back to tie the game at 10-10.
In the sixth, CLCF responded.
Noel Blanco lined a one-out single up the middle and scampered to third on a base hit by John DeRouin. Blanco then raced home on a wild pitch and Pacheco plated DeRouin with a single.
Armed with the 12-10 lead, Traficante took the mound and worked a scoreless bottom of the sixth to seal the victory.
“That was a tough game, but we came through,” DiLanna said.
Mark DeSimone, Juan Gonzalez and Charlie Amarante have also contributed to the offensive surge, while Zack Minicucci has been a key on defense in left field.
“It’s a great bunch of kids,” DiLanna said. “We’re looking for our third championship and we’re hoping to get to regionals and make some noise.”