Up­per Deck geared up for 2nd half

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By JON BAKER jbaker@paw­tuck­et­times.com

CUM­BER­LAND – When Up­per Deck Post 86/14 skip­per Matt Al­lard re­ceived the re­quest to at­tend the pres­ti­gious Army Mil­i­tary Ser­vices Amer­i­can Le­gion Tour­na­ment at West Point, N.Y. ear­lier this year, it took him mere mo­ments to send back his RSVP.

“We went last year, and we fin­ished 0-2-1 over­all; we only played three games be­cause of rain late in the week, but it was a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence,” he stated. “Just be­ing on the cam­pus is phe­nom­e­nal. You see the his­tory of it in its build­ings, and its sits there right on the Hud­son River. You’ve got to wit­ness the beauty of that cam­pus to be­lieve it, and it was our priv­i­lege to go again.

“Se­ri­ously, play­ing the games is a bonus,” he added. “Play­ing on Doubleday Field, which over­looks the river, and it’s Army, so it’s a (NCAA) Di­vi­sion I school, it’s such an honor. It’s one of the nicest fields you’ll ever see.”

Nat­u­rally, the UD squad made the trek for the July 6-8 event, and re­turned home with mixed re­sults. Still, ac­cord­ing to Al­lard, his club is bet­ter off and a tighter unit be­cause of it.

Up­per Deck fin­ished the tour­ney with a 2-2 mark, com­ing ever so close to a berth in the cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

“There were two pools of four teams, and we played each team in our pool once; the two pool win­ners would ad­vance to the cham­pi­onship game,” Al­lard noted. “We ac­tu­ally fin­ished tied for first in our pool with two other teams at 2-1. How­ever, be­cause of the tiebreak­ers, we lost out on play­ing for the ti­tle by one run.

“That was dis­ap­point­ing.”

In essence, Post 86/14 gave up one more run than the Ana­conda In­di­ans of Sch­nec­tady, N.Y.

Al­lard’s run­down of the oc­cur­rences at West Point ex­plains UD’s ups and downs. In the tour­ney opener against Chilli­cothe, Ohio Post 757, La Salle ju­nior Ben Hale scat­tered seven hits (with­out a walk) and fanned four in a 3-0 tri­umph.

“What a pickup he was for us this sea­son,” stated Al­lard of Hale, a Cum­ber­land res­i­dent. “He’s go­ing to be a real good one.”

Of­fen­sive stal­warts in­cluded Cum­ber­land’s Ad­di­son Kopack (3-for-3, RBI) and Drew Szafran­ski (2-for-4, run) and LHS grad­u­ate Steve An­drews (2-for-4, RBI, run).

Game Two pro­vided UD with per­haps its most im­por­tant win of the sea­son so far – a 6-4 ver­dict over de­fend­ing Con­necti­cut state cham­pion Stam­ford, which had cap­tured 19 of its 21 games so far this sea­son.

The two foes were tied at 3-3 en­ter­ing the sev­enth, but Cum­ber­land

ju­nior-to-be Shane Cal­abro ham­mered a one-out, two-run triple, and Lin­coln sopho­more Nick Toro fol­lowed with an­other three-bag­ger to the left-cen­ter gap to plate Cal­abro for the 6-3 lead.

Kopack earned the win in re­lief of starter Cory Mayer. He went the fi­nal 2.1 frames, yield­ing three hits, two runs (both earned) and three passes while whiff­ing five.

“That kid (Toro) is amaz­ing; the ball just sounds dif­fer­ent com­ing off his bat,” Al­lard said. “As for Cory, he didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept bat­tling through it; that’s why he didn’t give up an earned run. He still played a role in the vic­tory.

“This was a sig­na­ture win for us,” he con­tin­ued. “If you win the Le­gion cham­pi­onship in Con­necti­cut, you’ve got a very gifted team; Stam­ford went to the North­east Re­gion­als last year and won a cou­ple of games, and were one win away from the fi­nals, so what does that tell you? I talked to their coach be­fore the game, and he said he had most of his kids back. Plus their closer was clocked at 88-89 (mph).

“When I saw the kids’ re­ac­tion, cel­e­brat­ing as a team, that’s when I looked at (as­sis­tants) Mike (Mur­phy) and Coach Cal (Mike Cal­abro) and said, ‘Now we’re a team. We could be a pretty spe­cial group.”

What fol­lowed was not what Al­lard and Co. had ex­pected. UD dropped a 3-2 de­ci­sion to Ana­conda of Sch­nec­tady, due mostly to the fact it only racked up three hits and com­mit­ted three er­rors.

“We were sloppy; I thought it was be­cause we just came off that re­ally emo­tional win, and we had to wait around af­ter that one for about three hours to play them,” he stated. “(Lin­coln grad) Sean Doris was go­ing, and the kids all have con­fi­dence in him. We knew if we won, we’d qual­ify for the fi­nal, but we just didn’t play well.”

In its fourth con­test – call it a con­so­la­tion – Kingstown, N.Y. Post man­u­fac­tured a 5-2 tri­umph, but Al­lard men­tioned his en­tire squad played, and that re­cent Li­ons’ grad­u­ate Bran­don Kelly pitched a full seven in­nings of six-hit,

six-strike­out ball. In ad­di­tion, he al­lowed only two earned runs.

“We’ve played very well de­fen­sively so far this sea­son, but we kicked it around the last two games, and you’re not go­ing to win do­ing that,” Al­lard of­fered. “Those (mis­cues) cost us both games.”

He hes­i­tated, then perked up. “I’m ex­cited for the rest of the sea­son,” he added. “Right now, we’re 11-5 over­all, but we’re 6-0 in (state Le­gion Se­nior Di­vi­sion) league play, and we’re go­ing to keep that go­ing when we play a dou­ble­header at South Kingstown (Post 39 tonight at Old Moun­tain Field). That starts at 5:30 (p.m.).”

As for how the New York ex­cur­sion helped his club jell, Al­lard men­tioned he ac­tu­ally wit­nessed it hap­pen­ing.

“We do a trip ev­ery sum­mer, and it just helps bring all the kids that much closer to­gether,” he stated. “Le­gion is a grind; you’re only play­ing to­gether for about two months, or a lit­tle more than that. All of these kids from Cum­ber­land and Lin­coln know each other from play­ing with or against each other, so there’s the nat­u­ral ri­valry.

“You know a lot of them don’t think much of each other do­ing the high school sea­son be­cause they’re both in D-I and they want to win; they es­pe­cially don’t want to lose to the other,” he con­tin­ued. “Now, when they’re team­mates play­ing Le­gion, they have to root for each other; they have to sort of ig­nore the ri­valry.

“In that win over Stam­ford es­pe­cially, you could see the ri­valry kind of dis­ap­pear. When we got those two hits in the top of the sev­enth, and the whole team knew how good that team was that we were play­ing, they all jumped up and cel­e­brated as a unit. You could tell then, ‘We’re a team.’

“Last sum­mer, we lost the state cham­pi­onship game to Woonsocket af­ter forc­ing the if-nec­es­sary game (with a 10-2 win). That left a bad taste in our mouths af­ter the suc­cess we’ve had the last four or five years (three state crowns, one New Eng­land ti­tle and berth in the Le­gion World Se­ries).

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