PAWTUCKET — Elmwood remained South Kingstown’s nemesis at the Senior Little League state tournament, and a new challenger denied the opportunity for a rematch.
After beating Rumford in the opening round of the state tournament on Sunday afternoon at Pineview Little League, South Kingstown lost 6-1 to Elmwood in the winners bracket final Sunday night. Facing Rumford again in an elimination bracket game Tuesday night, South Kingstown fell short in a 5-3 loss as its summer came to an end.
“We knew we were young going into it, so we had a good run with these guys,” manager Frank Gallucci said. “We were kind of hoping to get one more and have another chance against Elmwood, but credit to Rumford. They’re a good team.”
Fresh off its fourth consecutive district championship, South Kingstown was scheduled to open state tournament play Saturday night, but a thunderstorm forced the game to be postponed. That set up a busy Sunday, with the rescheduled game at 2:30 and the second round of the tournament commencing afterwards.
South Kingstown started on the right foot with a 5-4 victory over Rumford. It trailed 3-1 after the first inning but rallied with two runs in the second and two more in the third. Jimmy Robbin, Colin Masseur, Max Cute, Eric Lindley, Noah Brunelli, Trey Young and Ben Paskalides had hits to lead the offense. Robbin shined out of the bullpen, entering after the early Rumford surge and pitching five scoreless innings. Rumford scratched a run across in its final at-bat, but Robbin escaped further trouble to preserve the win.
“Jimmy Robbin came in and really cleaned it up for us,” Gallucci said. “That was huge. He did more than what we expected from him.”
The win moved South Kingstown into a matchup with Elmwood, a longtime rival on this stage. South Kingstown finished as the state runner-up to Elmwood in both 2016 and 2018.
This time, Elmwood broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the third inning, then busted things open with three runs in the fourth. South Kingstown nearly wiggled out of the fourth-inning jam as reliever Will Rotelli induced two foul pop-outs with the bases loaded, but Diego Ramirez drew a walk to force in a run and Jose L. Sierra hit a two-run single. Elmwood later added a run in the seventh.
Declan Wholey had an RBI single for South Kingstown that scored Koko Kassabian and made it 1-1 in the second inning. But offensive opportunities were few and far between after that, as Elmwood starter Avery Acuna allowed only four hits in five-plus innings. Brunelli and Ryan Camp had hits in the fourth inning but were stranded. South Kingstown would manage only one more hit. Reliever Andry Estrella picked up where Acuna left off, retiring six of the seven batters he faced over the final two innings.
“I think we could have done a little better with the bats,” Gallucci said. “Defensively, we were good.”
Not only did Sunday’s results put South Kingstown into a must-win situation, it also taxed the pitching staff, with Lindley and Robbin not eligible to be back on the mound for several days.
Rotelli, Massuer and Drew Menard took the mound in their absence and held their own, but the offense couldn’t quite keep up with Rumford this time.
“It was close the whole way – 1-1, 3-3,” Gallucci said. “Rumford hit the ball well and we hit it at them a lot. They made some nice plays and their pitcher forced a lot of ground balls. We had two close games with them.”
Rumford will face Elmwood in the championship round.
South Kingstown hopes to be back next year. Only two of the players on the roster will age out, leaving almost a full team to return.
“One of the big things I told the guys in the huddle is, ‘You’ve got to remember. Most of you are 15. You can come back and do this again,’” Gallucci said. “Most of them didn’t realize that, so there was a lot of excitement. I think a lot of them are going to do fall ball. They like playing together.”