NORTH KINGSTOWN — On a memorable path to the finals, the Slocum Baseball Club took down the No. 2 and No. 3 seed in the Connie Mack state tournament bracket.
In the title series, that journey seemed to have taken a bit of a toll, and the No. 1 seed proved too much to overcome under those circumstances.
Slocum saw early leads slip away in game one and game two of the best-of-three series at Lischio Field as Flood Ford won 10-6 on Monday and 11-6 on Tuesday for the sweep and the state title.
“These kids really put everything into it from the preliminary round, through the quarters and semis, and I think they kind of ran out of gas,” said Slocum manager Arnie Sarazen. “We made a couple of charges in both games, had the lead a couple of times, made it close when we got down, but they’re just a juggernaut. They just keep coming at you.”
The runner-up finish capped a strong summer for Slocum, which found that special something that fuels postseason baseball magic. The good vibes were in place all season, even as the team hit a few stumbling blocks in a 6-4 regular season. Paired with a good brand of baseball in the playoffs, the team mindset carried Slocum to three straight series sweeps.
“This team had more team chemistry and they had more fun together,” Sarazen said. “They were really just a great group, one of the most fun teams I’ve been associated with. They had great leadership. They had each other’s back. They would rib each other when they needed to be ribbed and they would pick each other up when they needed to be picked up. The chemistry was really something special.”
It looked like the momentum would carry right into the championship series. Slocum opened game one with three runs in the top of the first inning. Mason Walsh walked, Justin McCarthy plated him with a triple, Geoff Coyne delivered an RBI double and Brendan Kearns smacked an RBI single for the 3-0 lead.
“Their starter throws well and we were crushing it in the first inning,” Sarazen said. “I thought we were well on our way.”
But Flood Ford served immediate notice of the fight to come. Four hits and two walks in the bottom of the first inning added up to three runs and got the game right back to even. The reset served Flood starter Chris Manzo well, as he settled in for two straight perfect innings after Slocum’s early outburst.
Flood then took the lead in the third, as two walks from pitcher Noah Quarella and two errors made it 5-3.
“It took ‘Q’ a couple of innings to get his rhythm and by then we were already down,” Sarazen said. “And uncharacteristically, we made a bunch of errors today. Give them credit. They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason.”
Slocum made it 5-4 in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Quarella, but Flood kept coming. Two runs in the fifth and five in the sixth against the Slocum bullpen broke the game open. Slocum managed a run in the seventh when Luke Porter singled and later scored on a wild pitch, but two runners were stranded as Flood reliever Danny Rice closed out the win.
Back at Lischio Field on Tuesday, Flood Ford jumped out first with two runs in the second inning off Slocum starter Geoff Coyne. This time, Slocum rallied, and it was a big one. Three hits, three errors, two walks and a hit-by-pitch allowed the home team to plate six runs in the bottom of the second inning. McCarthy, Morton and Braeden Perry drove in runs.
Coyne pitched a scoreless third to keep Slocum in front but ran into trouble in the fourth as two walks and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with nobody out. Morton came on in relief and struck out the first batter he faced, but Xavier Quezada followed with a two-run single. After a bases-loaded walk to Rice, Chris Manzo delivered a two-run single that put Flood Ford in front 7-6.
“We have a good team and they’re a very good team, too,” Flood Ford manager Ed Holloway said. “They jumped out early in both games and we were able to come back on them. That’s a good sign that we battled. When they got the six runs, we were joking, ‘Start the bus.’ But the guys were saying, ‘We can score on them.’”
There was no comeback on the other side as Flood Ford starter Anthony Iamarone rebounded from the rough second inning to allow just one more hit in a complete-game effort.
“He gained confidence,” Holloway said. “I think he actually got mad and that elevated his performance. He did a great job.”
Slocum got the tying run to second in the fifth, but Iamarone escaped on a strikeout. Flood then added to its lead with a four-run sixth inning. Making one final charge, Slocum loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but a pop-up to shortstop ended the game.
“In these situations, especially when you come in as the lower seed, pitching is the issue,” Sarazen said. “We kind of ran out of pitching. Our two best pitchers couldn’t pitch in the championship because we needed them to get through the semifinals. Their pitcher threw a complete game. I think if we had our two studs doing the same thing, it would have been a little different. But I’m proud of our kids. They really battled. ”
Two Slocum players sat out the second game of the series after learning a person they had been in contact with had tested positive for COVID-19. Neither player had symptoms. Sarazen, a urologist, said he consulted with emergency room physicians that he knows and CDC guidelines to determine a course of action. Parents were informed as soon as the news was revealed. The coaching staffs of both teams agreed to play game two.
Players hoped for the best for their teammates, while getting a reminder that their season was never a guarantee in the current landscape.
“From the standpoint of everything that’s going on in the country and the world, these guys got a chance to play some baseball in the summer and have some fun,” Sarazen said. “That’s our championship right there. We would have loved to have won the championship, but I think these guys know the reality. Baseball is one of the only sports that got played. We thought we were done from the very beginning, but we got a full season in, right to the championship. I’m very proud of these kids.”