PROVIDENCE — Before its championship win on Sunday, the North Kingstown High School baseball team split the first two games of the best-of-three series, setting up the winner-take-all game for the title.
A strong performance from Evan Maloney and some timely hitting sent the Skippers to a 1-0 lead in the series with a 4-1 win on Thursday at Rhode Island College. Coventry came back with a vengeance on Saturday, winning 10-2 to even the series.
Maloney out-dueled Coventry starter Jayden Voelker on Thursday in a matchup of two of the state’s top pitchers. The junior Wake Forest commit scattered four hits and struck out nine in six innings of work. Coventry’s only run came in the third, and Maloney limited the damage after it scored, stranding runners on second and third with a strikeout. He also left runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth innings, then worked a perfect sixth as he reached the RIIL pitch count limit.
“I thought he had a live fastball but I thought the changeup was his best pitch,” head coach Kevin Gormley said. “He got a lot of outs on the changeup, a lot of swings and misses. He kept them off balance. Threw a curveball for strikes when he needed to.”
The championship stage wasn’t too big for Maloney and his teammates, who won their sixth straight game,
“All season, we’ve gone through a ton of close games,” Maloney said. “We’re such a tight group. We’re always battling. We all trust each other.”
Maloney pitched with the lead throughout thanks to a good first inning from the Skipper offense. Grinding out at-bats has been a key to the team’s late season surge and T.J. Gormley set the tone for more of the same when he worked a nine-pitch walk to lead off the game. Maloney also walked and senior Wyatt Daft smacked a two-run double to stake North Kingstown to the 2-0 lead.
Voelker, who is bound for Old Dominion in the fall, didn’t allow another hit until the seventh inning, when the Skippers touched him up for some insurance. Justin McCarthy led off with a base hit and Robbie Lamond followed with a bunt single. Will Brew walked to load the bases, which chased Voelker as he reached the pitch limit. Gormley greeted reliever Jason Serapiglia with a high fly ball to deep left field that found the grass in the corner. Two runs scored.
Gormley took over for Maloney in the seventh and worked around a single and two hit batters to seal the win for the Skippers. He struck out two in the inning and finished the game by inducing a slow roller back to the mound that led to an out at first.
“We grinded it today,” Kevin Gormley said. “We had a big hit in the first inning, big hit in the last inning. I thought Evan Maloney pitched fantastic. T.J. came in and shut the door. We’re grinders. We came here and grinded it out. That’s a really good team.”
Coventry certainly showed that on Saturday.
North Kingstown junior Braeden Perry drew the start, entering off two fantastic showings. He dominated in the quarterfinals against Cranston West and did the same in game three of the semifinal series with Pilgrim. He pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday, but Coventry broke through in a big way soon after. The Oakers scored five runs in the third inning and five more in the fourth. Will Turner had a two-run double and Voelker hit a two-run homer to cap the surge.
The Skippers had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a T.J. Gormley double and a Josh Lincourt RBI single, but it was tough sledding from there against sophomore standout Tommy Turner of Coventry. He allowed just one more run as Brew doubled in the fifth and scored on a Lincourt sacrifice fly. Turner went the distance, striking out out seven and surrendering five hits.