CRANSTON — Gershkoff Auto Body seized the chance that South Kingstown couldn’t in Monday’s RI Elite League game at Cranston High School West.
Both teams had the bases loaded with nobody out in the first inning. While South Kingstown failed to score in the top half, Gershkoff took full advantage in the bottom half, unloading the bases and then some in a seven-run inning. A comeback push got South Kingstown within striking distance but the first inning remained a defining moment as Gershkoff won 11-4.
“They hit the ball hard,” South Kingstown manager Pete Podedworny said. “It’s a tough hole to dig out of. We came back a little bit. Another good inning back-to-back could have got us going, but that’s a very good team.”
The early deficit was an unwelcome but familiar spot for South Kingstown. The Gershkoff matchup represented a return to action after a week off. In its last game before the break, South Kingstown fell into a 5-0 hole in the first inning of a game against Smithfield/North Providence. There were positives within the comeback in that game and in Monday’s against Gershkoff, but for a young team facing top-tier clubs, big early deficits aren’t helping matters. Gershkoff came in with the best record in the league.
“I was glad certainly that they came back and tried to answer it,” Podedworny said. “They’re a very good team. Some of those kids are playing in the Newport Collegiate League and the Sunset League. So they’ve got some really good players. I still think we’re on the younger side, so we’ve got things to work on.”
Aiden Burdick led off the game with a single to spark South Kingstown’s early scoring chance. Sam Laurie followed with an infield hit, and Kyle Abbott lined a base hit to center field to load the bases. Gershkoff pitcher Noah Cook buckled down in impressive fashion to stop the rally in its tracks, striking out the next three batters and keeping South Kingstown off the scoreboard.
“That certainly hurt,” Podedworny said.
Burdick took the ball for South Kingstown and ran into trouble quickly. An error, a double by David Marchetti and a walk to Andrew Florio loaded the bases. Tom Barbieri broke the ice with an RBI single, a balk made it 2-0, and Cook helped his own cause with a two-run double for the 4-0 lead. An RBI single by Andrew Clesas and a two-run single by Aaron Coccoli made it 7-0.
“Aiden, sometimes it happens like that – it was similar with Ryan [Gamelin] against Smithfield. Just a tough start,” Podedworny said. “And they were really swinging the bats.”
South Kingstown began working its way back into the game in the second inning. A walk to Lucas Crook and a base hit by James Marsella set up Burdick to exact some revenge with a two-run double. An error on a ground ball by Laurie allowed Burdick to score, making it 7-3.
More chipping away happened in the third as Crook plated Tyler Poirier with an infield single.
Good pitching also made a comeback seem possible for South Kingstown. Reliever Tyler Guevremont took over in the second and pitched a pair of scoreless frames.
Gershkoff eventually found more offense on RBI hits by Marchetti, Florio and Anthony Scivola in the fourth inning, but it didn’t need the insurance. South Kingstown’s comeback push was grounded by Gershkoff reliever Ayden Bliss. He hit the first batter he faced in the third – loading the bases – but struck out Burdick to end the inning and was perfect the rest of the way. He retired 13 batters in a row to seal the win for Gershkoff.
“He was very good,” Podedworny said. “And I just think our guys went a little bit flat as it went on.”
The loss puts South Kingstown at 2-6 as the second half of the 14-game regular season begins. The team visits Scituate tonight with an eye on improvement and on being in a good position when the playoffs roll around. Scituate won 3-2 in the first meeting between the teams.
“We’ll be competitive with Scituate,” Podedworny said. “Like every team, you run into vacations, work schedules. We had to move some guys up to spots they’re not normally in today. Looking ahead to the playoffs, if we can get all our guys together for a two-game series, I’m confident.”