HOME­COM­ING KING

Amer­i­can’s Ray hits walk-off dou­ble in fi­nal clash be­fore po­ten­tial merger with Na­tional

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By BRANDEN MELLO [email protected]­et­call.com

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.”

Ernest A. Brown photo

Pho­tos by Ernest A. Brown

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.

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