EAST PROVIDENCE - Another deep playoff run by the Prout baseball team ended one step shy of McCoy Stadium.
For the fourth time in the last five years, the Crusaders were one of the last four teams standing in Division II but they couldn’t make it to the final two, falling to Barrington in a best-of-three semifinal series. Prout won the first game of the series 2-0, but lost the next one by the same score and dropped the decisive third game 9-0 on Wednesday.
The same pitching-heavy brand of baseball that sent the Crusaders to the semis was utilized by the Eagles as Josh Leadem and Hank Johnson delivered shutout performances.
“Even if you go back to how our playoffs started - we win 2-1 and we win 2-0,” Prout coach Mike LaBarbera said. “We dominated on the mound, we played clean and we didn’t walk anybody. That formula fell apart in game two and three here. And it really is a formula that transcends baseball at any level. You can’t walk people, you execute and you make plays. It’s tough to go out after being up 1-0 but you’ve got to give their pitchers credit. They just silenced our bats.”
Prout was primed for a pitchers’ duel in the third game of the series. Tate Copeland, who pitched a one-hitter in the quarterfinals, was on the mound for the Crusaders and kept them on track in the early going, allowing one run in the first four innings. Johnson was even better, retiring the first eight batters he faced in order before an infield hit by Adam Kurtz in the third inning.
The score remained 1-0 into the fifth, when the Eagles exploded. Five hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and an error added up to eight runs and a 9-0 lead for Barrington.
Johnson didn’t even need the help, allowing just two more hits to finish off the shutout.
“We really haven’t mashed all year,” LaBarbera said. “We got on a run in the middle of the year where we were swinging it a little better. We couldn’t string together hits, we didn’t have guys with multi-hit games for a while now. I really look at where we got to and we won some close games just by executing.”
Prout finished the year with a 14-9 record, pulling out of a midseason slide for what turned into a strong finish.
“It’s a short season, but you have your ups and downs,” LaBarbera said. “Nobody gets out of the gate, especially in our division. I think 12-6 was the best record. Nobody just started and finished out front. There were times where we struggled and I was telling the kids, ‘The process isn’t fun.’ And then the process became really fun when we started winning games at the end of the year - walk-off versus Middletown, we won on prom day when we played early. And this is all part of the process. The process is never going to be 100 percent rewarding, no matter what we do in life or what we do in sports. But you have to look at the big picture and the big picture is one heck of an accomplishment as a group of kids.”
LaBarbera, the school’s longtime baseball coach, may consider stepping away, with a young son at home who was born last year.
“I’m going to go home and hang out with my kid. Even thinking about it is tough. Life has changed,” LaBarbera said. “There’s no definitive answer. I’m confident the program is in a good place no matter what. I’m confident I’m coming back to a good team. I’m also confident the team will be very good regardless of who’s giving signs.”