The Cranston Bulldogs beat Tiverton, 6-4, at Pocasset Elementary School on Saturday morning.
Catcher Sam Franco led the Bulldogs with one hit and two RBIs and Sam Hanley, a right fielder and recent Cranston East graduate, notched a hit and an RBI.
On the bump, Anthony Melise struck out eight hitters over five innings of relief pitching while giving up one run on five hits with three walks. Bulldogs’ starting pitcher Justin Neary pitched the first two innings before he was moved to shortstop because of arm fatigue.
Except for the seventh inning, when Melise gave up a run, the reliever was dazzling during his time on the hill.
“I just couldn’t find the zone,” Melise said of the seventh-inning struggle. “I just had to hit the outside corner every time,” Melise said. “My curveball was on, so I had to use that; mix it in.”
Cranston got on the board early. Neary led off the top of the first by drawing a walk. The Cranston East standout would move to second after a pickoff attempt went past the first baseman. With Jason Gervacio batting, Neary kept on the move and stole third and he didn’t stop there. Neary stole home when the Tiverton catcher overthrew the pitcher, putting the Bulldogs up, 1-0. With Gervacio on second, Franco blasted an RBI single up the middle, giving Cranston a 2-0 lead. With runners at second and third, Hanley drove in a run and increased the Bulldogs’ advantage to 3-0.
Tiverton led off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles. With one out, Paul Amaeal knocked in Matt Potoin to pull Tiverton within 3-1.
With one out in the top of the second inning, Franco launched a sacrifice fly to deep left center to knock in Caleb Joubert, who tagged up and scored easily from third, increasing Cranston’s lead to 4-1.
Tiverton inched closer in the bottom of the second. With two runners on, Nate Medeiros hit a routine ground ball to Joubert, but the third baseman overthrew the first baseman and Damien Degala scored from second, making it 4-2. Next, Mike Levakis socked a sacrifice fly to left to score Jackson Potts, pulling Tiverton within 4-3. However, that’s as close as Tiverton would get. With the bases loaded and one down, Neary got Josa Schneider to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Cranston’s Anthony Rodriguez worked a leadoff walk in the top of the third and stole second on a ball in the dirt. With one out, Martin Goldberg hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Rodriguez, increasing the Bulldogs’ lead to 5-3.
Cranston got another insurance run in the top of the fourth. Gervacio belted a two-out triple past the left fielder Levakis and scored during a passed ball to the ensuing hitter, increasing the lead to 6-3.
Melise stayed in the game and came on to close it out in the bottom of the seventh. He struck out the first batter, Medeiros. Next, Melise walked Levakis before Potoin followed it with a single to center. After that, Melise struck out Schneider for the second out. With two runners on, Garrett Nolan hit an RBI single, scoring Levakis and bringing Tiverton within 6-4. Melise walked Amaeal after that to load the bases. Nevertheless, Melise came through when he needed to, fanning Daniel Garde to end the game.
“He’s the kid,” Cranston head coach David Ciolfi said of Melise. “Especially because we’re shorthanded because of the holidays. And our starting pitcher got hurt. It was unexpected. And this is why I said he’s the best pitcher in Cranston that nobody knows about and he showed it again today.”
With the win, Cranston improves to 4-2-1 in the regular season. The tie is temporary as the team still has to continue a game against Bristol.
“We’ve only played six regular season games,” Ciolfi said. “We have 10 left, so we’re in good shape.”