WESTFIELD – For one team, a little extra hard work meant all the difference in the opening round of the Babe Ruth Baseball 13-Year-Old Regionals.
North Providence-Smithfield (Rhode Island) rode the arm of pitcher Zach Lavalle (6 1/3rd inn., 3 hits, 3 Ks, 2 walks) and outlasted Westfield in an eastern regionals opener 6-4 in eight innings Friday night at Bullens Field.
Five of the six North Providence runs were unearned.
Westfield got itself into several jams early but managed to get away unscathed.
In the first inning, North Providence’s Braydn Shadoian drilled a ball up the middle for a lead-off single. With two outs, Michael Ficocelli walked. Chris Lopez singled in the next at-bat, but the base runner got caught cheating toward home plate and was run caught in a run down.
In the second inning, North Providence loaded the bases with consecutive one-out singles from Brayden Cockcroft and John Pesce. Westfield pitcher Josh Mayo squeezed a comebacker for the third out.
Mayo proved super effective in the third inning, retiring the heart of the North Providence order with 13 pitches.
North Providence broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth when Cockroft singled, stole second base and scored with the aid of an infield error.
A battle on the mound took shape with Lavalle matching Mayo’s intensity.
Lavalle tossed nearly four innings of no-hit ball before Westfield’s clean-up batter, Anthony Sabowski blasted a doubled to deep left center field. Lavalle forced a fly out to end the threat.
Westfield’s resiliency paid off.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ben Blanchette hit a lead-off single. Scott Hepburn nudged Blanchette to second base with a ground out. Blanchette advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Brady Kerr walked and stole second. Dawson Kelly put the ball in play, and the second baseman missed the ball. Two runs scored and Westfield led 2-1.
After a relatively well-played ball game, some shoddy fielding – chalk it up to 13-year-old jitters – cost Westfield three runs as North Providence went ahead 4-2.
North Providence appeared to catch the bug, committing an error in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a double to Cam Lisowski (off the reliever), a Liam Poole walk, a Jacob Wagner sac RBI, and a dropped third strike on Sabowski’s swinging strikeout that tied it 4-all.
North Providence went ahead in the top of the eighth. Cockcroft singled and stole second. Pesce reached on a run-scoring error. Ryan Pallatta walked. An RBI ground out from Anthony Sanmartio made it 6-4.
Westfield went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth as Shadoian tossed a perfect inning of relief to close out the game.
Westfield will look to bounce back Saturday against Nashua (N.H.), a 15-2 winner against Barre (Vermont). First pitch is at 7 p.m.
In other games Friday, Milford (Conn.) trounced Pittsfield 13-6 and Portland (Maine) edged Milton 4-3.
Saturday’s games begin with Milford-Milton at 11:30 a.m., followed by Barre-North Providence at 2 p.m. Pittsfield takes on Portland at 4:30 p.m. All games will be played at Bullens Field.