Nav­i­gant wins Le­gion ti­tle

Post 85 beats reign­ing champs to earn trip to Worces­ter

Woonsocket Call - - Sports - By JON BAKER jbaker@paw­tuck­et­times.com

Af­ter be­ing forced to play a sec­ond ti­tle game, Post 85 de­feated Up­per Deck, 7-5, to win the state ti­tle

WESTWARWICK – When Austin For­get was a 13-year-old rep­re­sent­ing the Nav­i­gant Post 85 Ju­nior Le­gion club, if there wasn’t a con­flict in sched­ules, he would at­tend the big boys’ games.

There he would stand and watch his he­roes play­ing in the Se­nior cir­cuit, mar­veling at their tal­ent, en­thu­si­asm and ca­ma­raderie, the traits that helped Nav­i­gant cap­ture the R.I. Amer­i­can Le­gion Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship in both 2012 and 2013.

For­get dreamed back then all of that would be his one day.

That’s why he seemed some­what dazed on Fri­day night at McCarthy Field.

He and his mates had just recorded a thrilling 7-5 vic­tory over two-time de­fend­ing state cham­pion Up­per Deck Post 86/14, and he walked along the third-base line star­ing at the mam­moth tro­phy, then rais­ing it so the crowd could catch a glimpse, then cra­dle it back to his chest for more in­tense study.

“I’ve been wait­ing for this a long, long time, ever since I was 13,” grinned For­get, who fol­low­ing his fresh­man year at South­ern New Hamp­shire Univer­sity this spring de­cided to trans­fer to John­son & Wales so he could play base­ball. “I saw all those guys win­ning state ti­tles, so that’s was al­ways the goal. I’m so proud of this, and the way all our guys came to­gether.”

When asked if he could be­lieve what had just tran­spired, he im­me­di­ately stated, “I can’t,” but switched gears.

“You know, I can be­lieve it be­cause we worked so hard for this,” he added. “I’m still a lit­tle star-struck be­cause the dream fi­nally came true. What an amaz­ing sea­son!”

Of­fered Chris DiPetrillo, who will be en­ter­ing his sea­son year at Pon­a­ganset af­ter La­bor Day: “This is only my first year on the team, but I loved ev­ery minute of it. It’s like a fam­ily; we’re all brothers. Ev­ery­one sticks by each other, sticks up for each other. We all had each oth­ers’ backs.”

Nav­i­gant had a pre­vi­ous op­por­tu­nity to nail down the crown late Fri­day af­ter­noon, but suf­fered an al­most-em­bar­rass­ing 12-2 “mercy-rule” de­feat to Up­per Deck; be­cause Post 85 had yet to drop a game in the tour­ney and UD was com­ing out of the losers’ bracket, that forced the “ifnec­es­sary,” win­ner-take-all cham­pi­onship con­test.

“We weren’t as fo­cused or into it as much as we should’ve been,” For­get ex­plained. “We came in think­ing it would be a walk in the park be­cause of the way the sea­son had gone. We thought it would be easy, but they came out hot, swing­ing the bats.

“The dif­fer­ence in the sec­ond game was the at­ti­tude and en­ergy – ev­ery­where,” he con­tin­ued. “In the dugout, on the field, we were so de­ter­mined not to let that loss get us down.”

The guys didn’t, and as a re­sult will not point to­ward the New Eng­land Le­gion tour­ney, slated to be­gin – for them – at 4:30 p.m., Wed­nes­day against the Mas­sachusetts state ti­tlist at the Col­lege of the Holy Cross in Worces­ter. (The event is be­ing hosted by the Shrews­bury, Mass. Post pro­gram.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Billy But­ler – like DiPetrillo a se­nior-to-be with the Chief­tains – earned the David Ken­ney Jr./David Ken­ney III Memo­rial Most Valu­able Player Award. In the twin­bill’s night­cap, he scat­tered five hits and two walks with eight strike­outs in seven full frames to gar­ner the win.

He nev­er­the­less helped him­self with the bat, go­ing 3-for-5 with a dou­ble, three RBI and run scored.

“This is in­cred­i­ble. This is so big,” But­ler said. “I came in here as a ‘fresh­man’ on this team this year, and the whole team was so open and kind; they greeted me like a brother. We did this be­cause of the chem­istry and lead­er­ship from the guys who have been here the long­est, guys like Ben Aleixo, Sam Hunt, Evan Masse, Austin and Joey Barter.

“I can’t be­lieve I won the MVP,” he added. “I thought Ben would win it, with the all the wins he had on the mound. It’s crazy, it’s awe­some!”

Ac­cord­ing to tour­na­ment di­rec­tor John Par­ente, But­ler hit .375 dur­ing the event, but also went 2-0 and pro­duced a ridicu­lous 0.78 ERA.

“What makes this so in­cred­i­ble is that Chris and I won the Divi­sion II (in­ter­scholas­tic) cham­pi­onship just a month or two ago, and I won the MVP for that tour­na­ment, too,” But­ler said. “Two ti­tles in that span? It’s un­real.”

Of­fered DiPetrillo: “My boy Billy is just an an­i­mal!”

Of­fen­sive stand­outs abounded for top-seeded Nav­i­gant (15-5 over­all) in that sec­ond game, as Hunt went 2-for-5 with a pair of two-bag­gers, two stolen bags, two RBI and a run; and Sc­i­t­u­ate prod­uct Sam Owens 1-for-3 with two walks and three runs.

Af­ter sus­tain­ing the blowout, Post 85 needed lit­tle time get­ting to UD righty starter Alex Levin, notch­ing three in the bot­tom of the first. Hunt dou­bled and moved to third when Owens reached on an in­field er­ror, and But­ler smoked a two-run two-bag­ger to left-cen­ter. Aleixo then rapped an RBI hit to plate But­ler.

It was more of the same in the sec­ond, as Nav­i­gant scored twice. DiPetrillo ripped a hit to right-cen­ter, For­get drilled a dou­ble and both hus­tled home on Hunt’s sec­ond two-bag­ger of the night to snag the 5-0 cush­ion.

UD third base­man Trevor Mar­ques got a run back when he crushed a home run over the right­cen­ter field fence, but the “hosts” tacked on an­other in the sixth to push the ad­van­tage to 6-1. They did so with two outs.

Owens drew a walk off of re­liever Ad­di­son Kopack, then robbed sec­ond be­fore scor­ing on But­ler’s RBI hit to left.

Lefty Sean Flynn re­lieved But­ler in the top of the eighth and quickly got into trou­ble. Mar­ques opened the frame with an op­po­site-field sin­gle to left, though Kopack lined out to cen­ter. Luis DeLeon and Steve An­drews both walked to load the bags, and Sean Doris grounded out to sec­ond to plate Mar­ques.

Nick Lar­son beat out a field­ing mis­cue by Barter at first, and DeLeon scored with ease to slice the deficit to 6-3.

Nav­i­gant, how­ever, slipped in an in­sur­ance run in the back half when Owens reached on an er­ror, moved to sec­ond on a wild of­fer­ing and scored on But­ler’s bloop hit to shal­low left.

It ap­peared UD might record a come­back for the ages in the top of the ninth, es­pe­cially af­ter Drew Szafran­ski reached on an in­field mis­cue and Nate Dono­van whacked an op­po­site-field sin­gle to right.

With one down, Kopack lined a hit to left to plate Szafran­ski, but an er­ror in the field al­lowed Dono­van to scam­per to third and Kopack to sec­ond.

DeLeon flew out to cen­ter, yet Dono­van sprinted in on the sac­ri­fice fly to knife it to 7-5.

An­drews then re­ceived an in­ten­tional pass, and Nick Crowe pinch-ran for him.

Doris proved to be the go-ahead run at the plate, though Flynn whiffed him on a swing­ing third strike to close it. Flynn earned the save. “Be­ing one of the younger play­ers on this team, I look up to a lot of these guys,” stated Har­ri­son Blais, who just grad­u­ated from Woonsocket. “See­ing the way these guys play the game, stay en­thu­si­as­tic even when we’re down and be­hind, they still keep try­ing to fire you up.

“That’s a great thing. We’re re­ally tight-knit; that’s the way it’s been the en­tire sea­son.” Up­per Deck Post 86/14 000 100 022 –5 – 8 – 4 Nav­i­gant Post 85 320 001 01x –7 – 5 – 3 Alex Levin, Ad­di­son Kopack (4) and Shane Cal­abro. Billy But­ler, Sean Flynn (8) and Sam Owens. 2B – Trevor Mar­ques, Kopack, Sam Hunt 2, But­ler, Austin For­get, Ben Aleixo, Justin Mo­jica. HR – Mar­ques.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Af­ter drop­ping its first post­sea­son game ear­lier in the night, No. 1 Nav­i­gant Post 85 of Woonsocket bounced back Fri­day to de­feat de­fend­ing state and North­east cham­pion Up­per Deck, 7-5, to claim the 2017 state Le­gion ti­tle at McCarthy Field.

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