American’s Ray hits walk-off double in final clash before potential merger with National
Cumberland National third baseman Micah “Moose” Cousineau (33) is mobbed at the plate by his teammates after hitting a home run in the top of the third inning against Cumberland American Little League at Garvin Field Thursday night, helping his team build a 5-0 lead. Not to be outdone, however, Cumberland American’s Jacob Iannuccilli cranked a grand slam in the bottom of the third, cutting the lead to 5-4. When all was said and done in the potential final match-up between the two teams, it was a walk-off double by Aidan Ray that lifted CALL to the 9-8 victory. CALL now advances to the District 4 finals to play Burrillville on Saturday.
CUMBERLAND — If Thursday’s losers’ bracket final contest was the final time Cumberland teams meet in District 4 tournament play, it will be a game everyone at Garvin Field will remember for a long time – especially Cumberland American catcher Aidan Ray.
With Cumberland American and Cumberland National tied with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Ray stepped into the batter’s box to face National’s Brady Collins with the bases loaded. On the third pitch of the at-bat, Ray launched a ball to center field that fell between the outfielders, allowing Owen Balcarcel to score the winning run in a 9-8 classic.
“When we changed pitchers [in the sixth inning] I went over to one of my teammates [Matt Sanzi] who said this might be our last game on this field and I said ‘No, it’s not. We’re going to win this. We’re going to push through this,’” Ray said after going 2-for-3 with three RBIs. “We did it. I was just looking to hit the ball up the middle and score a run, but that works, too.”
“It was a fun game because these two groups have battled back and forth since they were 10,” said Cumberland American coach, and
“When we changed pitchers [in the sixth inning] I went over to one of my teammates [Matt Sanzi] who said this might BE OUR LAST GAME ON THIS FIELD AND I SAID ‘No, it’s not. We’re going to win this. We’re going to push through this.’” — CALL’s Aidan Ray
Cumberland Youth Baseball and Softball League president, Scott Iannuccilli. “The score of the game is what the series has been for the last three years. I just kept telling the kids to keep battling back. We’ve battled back since we lost a heartbreaker in the first game.”
Cumberland American and National have combined to win four state titles and advanced to Williamsport twice – 2011 and 2014 – in the last decade, but with numbers down in CYBSL, the league is hoping Little League International will allow the league to merge next summer like it’s allowed Coventry, South Kingstown, North Kingstown, Johnston and North Providence to merge over the last few summers.
For National coach Gary Lamora, who is a driving force behind the merger, Thursday’s game was bittersweet. National led 5-0, 7-4 and then 8-7 in the final inning, but the 2017 10-year-old district champions couldn’t put CALL away.
“We knew it was going to be this way with the teams being so familiar with each other,” Lamora said. “Three straight years of battling in districts and playing each other in Little League, plus knowing the pitching and hitting, I expected it to be a high-scoring game. This game lived up to its billing.”
If National had held on, Micah Cousineau would’ve been the team’s star after belting a third-inning home run to ignite a five-run inning. He then hit a lead-off double in the sixth inning that led to the go-ahead run when Owen Koczera scored on a ground out.
But, it was Ray who proved to be the game’s star. In the fifth inning, the 12-yearold righty hit a two-run double to center to plate Sanzi and Josh Lyon (4-for-4 with two runs scored) to close the gap to one. Ray, whose older brother Andy advanced to Bristol two summers ago, watched from the stands dreaming of his opportunity to become a Little League hero.
“I was hoping I would do this one day, but I didn’t think that would happen,” Ray said. “This game was just crazy.”
“All I told him to do was hit it hard because he’s been hitting great in all of these games,” Iannuccilli said. “I just told him to get the ball out there. Everyone in that inning did their job. I asked the bottom of the lineup rto get it to the top and they did that.”
Cumberland American is now in position to dwin the program’s four district title in the last nine summers. To do that, CALL will have to top unbeaten Burrillville twice this weekend at Lincoln’s Randy Hien Field. The first District r4 title game is Saturday at 4 p.m. Burrillville ddefeated CALL at Garvin earlier this month on a Jack Dichiaro walk-off home run.
American starting pitcher Brody Enos only allowed three hits and two earned runs ain 4.2 innings of work, but his defense comt mitted three errors which led to five unearned runs. After Cousineau’s home run opened the scoring in the third inning, Caden Calabro singled in Collins. Calabro, Patrick Leonard and starting pitcher Matt Maher all came around to score on an outfield error to stretch the lead out to five.
CALL grabbed four runs back in its half of the third. After Maher set down the first two batters, Lyon singled and then Enos and Ray were hit by pitches. Jacob Iannuccilli then hit a grand slam that made his father, who is also his coach, quite happy.
“I jumped pretty high, I’ll probably feel it tomorrow,” the elder Iannuccilli said. “It was awesome. I teased his older brother because he never hit a home run in districts. It’s been fun. My daughter just lost a softball game at the state level, but to have three kids playing in Cumberland, that’s why we moved here.”
National added two more runs on an infield error in the fourth inning, but the game was tied going into the sixth inning thanks to Ray’s two-run double and a run by Enos on a ground out later in the inning.
Cousineau helped give his team its third
Photo by Ernest A. Brown lead of the evening in the sixth, but that simply set the stage for Lyon and Ray to send CALL to the district title game in what was likely the final game between two of the state’s top programs over the last decade.
“This wasn’t a bad run for us, but I’m just sad to see it end,” Lamora said. “The kids gave us everything they had and we gave them everything for the last four-plus years. It’s just sad to see it end.”
Cumberland American did plenty of celebrating after Thursday’s 9-8 walk-off victory against Caden Calabro, below, Cumberland National at Garvin Field. American’s Jacob Iannuccilli (50, above) hit a third-inning grand slam to help his side get back into the District 4 losers’ bracket final.
Cumberland National third baseman Micah Cousineau hit a third-inning home run and then he delivered a double that led to the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Thursday’s losers’ bracket final against CALL. Aidan Ray, Josh Lyon and American battled back to earn a 9-8 victory at Garvin Field.