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PAWTUCKET â€“ Call it crazy, but North Smithfield High head coach Jon Leddy seemed rather upbeat while walking through the McCoy Stadium grass behind the plate on Tuesday afternoon.
His club had just dropped an at-times ugly, 5-2 decision to top-seeded East Providence in the opener of the best-of-three R.I. Division II Tournament championship set before a crowd of at least 500, but the calm seemingly came from the fact he knew why.
He understood his Northmen had committed five errors, with three in one frame virtually extinguishing his team's chance for a comeback. He also realized his contingent, when its collective mind is right, is much better than it showed, excepting one particular category.
Senior righthander Dylan Narodowy scattered eight hits and two walks (with a hit batsman) while whiffing a pair in his complete-game outing, though still suffered the defeat.
Of the five runs he surrendered, only two were earned. It also happened to be North Smithfield's first loss in nearly a month as it fell to 17-7 overall.
When asked what he conveyed to his group after they had congregated in shallow left field following the verdict, Leddy stated, â€śI just told them, 'Hey, we've still got two shots at them. We're not done yet. We have to come back and play better defensively, just like we have the last three weeks (while winning seven straight). We just have to play our game, nice and relaxed.'â€ť
The second tilt of the set is slated for 3:30 today back at McCoy Stadium, with the â€śif-necessaryâ€ť game at a time to be determined on Thursday.
He also gave credit where it was due, stating senior southpaw ace C.J. Woods assembled a splendid outing. All told, he yielded six hits, two runs (one earned) and a walk with seven strikeouts in another complete stint.
â€śWe hadn't seen them at all (this season), so I didn't know Woods had that kind of curve,â€ť Leddy indicated. â€śWe just went with what we had read in the papers or what we heard out and about. He has a great breaker, and it caught us off-guard.
â€śWe started to hit him (in the latter frames), but you can't give a team that good that many outs because they're going to pounce on them,â€ť he added. â€śDylan pitched his heart out, but it wasn't his fault. They had a couple of timely hits, but you give them all those extra outs, they're going to capitalize, and that's just what happened.â€ť
Townies' skipper Bobby Rodericks, who for years played men's amateur baseball with Leddy, mentioned he was thrilled with Woods' performance.
â€śC.J.'s breaking ball is like most pitchers' fastball,â€ť he noted. â€śHe'll throw it on the first pitch, and he'll throw it on a 3-2 count, but that's because he has so much confidence in it. That's one of the reasons he's going to Dean (College); he's expected to be (its) No. 2 or 3 starter next season.
â€śHe's not really overpowering, but more of a finesse pitcher,â€ť he continued. â€ś(The curve) is his No. 1 pitch, and I'd say the fastball is his second. His location on the inside of the plate is like no other pitcher I've ever seen. He really paints the corners. I used to catch, so I know.â€ť
With a chuckle he added, â€śI'll mention his secret now because he's not going to pitch again (in this series). He just loves throwing the breaker on the 3-2 because he has confidence in his fielders. If he doesn't come up with a 'K,' someone's going to swing at it.â€ť
In the top of the first, Woods, who improved to 9-0 on the campaign, fanned both junior Nick Cicerone and classmate Brad Shatraw to start, though Narodowy beat out an infield grounder to third, then robbed second. He nevertheless got senior clean-up batter Conor DiSpirito to foul out to Woods' batterymate, Mike Allienello, to end it.
The Townies mustered a run in the back half â€“ with some help from the N.S. defense. Senior leadoff hitter Jasiah Hatch slammed a hit to left and immediately took second when the drive bounced past sophomore Riley Boucher. He later tagged to third on Allienello's fly to right and scored when senior Collin Costa flared a single down the right-field line.
Junior Tyler Lockard also bashed a hit to left, but Narodowy forced sophomore Adam Duarte to ground to third.
Narodowy needed only six deliveries to get out of the second, though ran into trouble in the third. He walked the first batter, Hatch, and he robbed second, before junior Marc LaValley was struck by a pitch. No one moved when Allienello grounded back to the hill, but Narodowy's four-pitch â€śfreebieâ€ť to Costa juiced the bags.
Lockard then bounded a grounder over the middle, one on which shortstop Nick Cicerone made a fantastic sliding grab; his low throw, however, sailed past first baseman Chris Forbes, allowing Hatch and LaValley to score with ease.
Duarte followed with a grounder to Forbes, who ignored the play at first to catch Costa leaning off third base. His toss was on line, and junior Ian Pascoe applied the tag, but it fell out of his glove.
That filled the bases once more before junior designated hitter Kyle Marquis popped out to third to close the rally.
East Providence garnered another after junior Kam Gianlorenzo blooped an opposite-field hit to shallow right and stole second. The Northmen came up with two quick outs, though Gianlorenzo hustled in when Allienello reached on a fifth infield miscue to give the Townies the 4-0 cushion.
Leddy's troops fought back in the sixth, eventually slicing the deficit to a pair. Shatraw ripped a single to center, and â€“ with one down â€“ DiSpirito drilled a double to the left-center gap to plate him. The former raced in on Pascoe's two-out, line-drive hit to left, but Woods forced senior Mike Cicerone to bound into a 5-4 fielder's choice for the last out.
E.P. (20-5) manufactured an insurance run in the back half after Hatch singled up the middle, robbed second, took third on Allienello's dink hit to short center and scored when Costa reached on an infield hit to third, one Pascoe knocked down but couldn't make the play.
Amazingly, Woods whiffed Eric Ethier to start the seventh, but Allienello couldn't handle the low delivery and Ethier sprinted to first. Two consecutive 5-4 fielder's choices and a strikeout later, the Townies celebrated the triumph.
â€śBasically, I thought we kind of died in the fourth and fifth innings,' Rodericks claimed. â€śWe got a little comfortable with the lead, a little complacent. I told the kids in the dugout, â€śHey, we've got to play with more heart! North Smithfield's a good team; they wouldn't be here if they weren't. You've got to get things going again.
â€śI felt more comfortable when we got that last run,â€ť he added. â€śWe were able to take advantage of some of their errors, which is what baseball's all about, but I wouldn't say we played a great game. We'll see what happens (today).â€ťView more articles in: