Soaring above all  
Wednesday, 11 June 2008

BRANDEN MELLO

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WEST WARWICK — Some teams can turn the great game of baseball into a complicated exercise by making errors, throwing balls and failing to take advantage of offensive opportunities.   

 

   

Yesterday afternoon in the RIPCOA baseball state championship game, the Feinstein baseball team, just days after struggling defensively in the semifinals, played their most impressive defensive game of the year behind ace Matt Laferriere in the most important game of their lives.

 

Thanks to defensive gems from second baseman Alex Zannella, shortstop Richard Bacon and centerfielder Brandon Sullivan, coupled with a complete-game, three-hitter from Laferriere, the Falcons earned their first state championship after a 2-1 victory over the Lions at McCarthy Field.

 

“Everything was perfect and I told the kids, ‘We’re going to have play a flawless defensive game because we can’t give good-hitting teams extra outs,’” Feinstein coach Justin Howman said. “We made them pay for their mistakes and luckily we didn’t make many mistakes.

 

“..This means a lot. Anytime you can win a state championship at any level it means a lot. This is a great group of kids.”

 

The irony, for those in attendance yesterday afternoon, was that the Falcons took advantage of the mistakes made by the 2006 state champions and 2007 runners-up, Lincoln. With the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning, catcher Troy Fredette scored when Bacon’s hard-hit ball to third base with the bases loaded went through the legs Mike Donahue.

 

Feinstein left the bases loaded, but the damage had already been done because the Falcons had finally tagged Lincoln lefty Andrew Vega with a run.

 

“I was on third and I was shocked when I was running because I didn’t think I would make it, but he made an error,” Fredette said. “I was pretty happy because it was a crucial run in the game.”

 

Laferreire scored what, at the time, looked like an insurance run when he scored on an error by Zamerelli on a ball hit by Sullivan with two outs in the sixth inning. Laferreire led the off the inning with a double and Fredette followed with a single to chase Vega from the game.

 

But, Laferriere’s run was paramount because in the top of the seventh inning Lincoln’s Alex Howard scored on a passed ball with two outs in the inning. The mistake allowed Lincoln to move a runner to third. However, Laferriere stranded the Lion when he struck out Kyle Jackson with a 2-2 fastball for his eighth – and most important - strikeout of the title game.

 

“I try not to get nervous on the mound because it’s just not worth it,” Laferriere said. “I was a little bit with two outs in the seventh but for the rest of the game I wasn’t nervous at all.”

 

If Laferriere was nervous about how his defense would play, his concerns were alleviated in the second inning when John Croft made a nice running catch for the first outof the inning and Bacon made a great throw from deep short to throw out Howard to end the inning.

 

Sullivan, in the fifth inning made a great running catch in the left-field gap to end the inning and save a run. But, the biggest plays of the game came in the sixth inning when Zamerelli walked to start the inning.

 

The next batter, Frank Domato, hit a sharp ground ball to Zannella’s left and instead of making the easy play at first, the eighth-grader heard Bacon yelling ‘2’ and threw the ball to second to cut down the lead runner.

 

“At first I didn’t think I had him at second because my momentum was taking me into the hole toward first, but Rich is a great shortstop so when he calls for the ball you have to give it to him,” Zannella said. “He called 2 all the way so if he’s calling for it, you have to give it to him.”

 

Clean-up hitter Josh McCourt followed with a tailor-made double-play ball to Zannella, but the second baseman sailed his throw to second and it appeared the Falcons were going to commit their first error of the game. But, Bacon, the best athlete on the team, stretched every sinew of his body to corral the errant ball. Bacon magically came down with the ball in his glove and landed on second a millisecond before Domato slid into the base.

 

“My job is just to catch it and stay on the bag,” Bacon said simplistically. “I thought I was going to catch it.”

 

Zannella, as if he was a magnet, saw Joe Yankee’s ball hit to him with two outs in the inning. This time, Zannella made the easy throw to Cote Nichols at first to end an eventful inning for Feinstein’s No. 2 hitter.

Laferriere didn’t need much help in the seventh, as he earned an assist and a strikeout to help Feinstein vanquish the team which ended its dreams of a state title last year.

 

“Matt’s just great, he never backs down from anyone, he attacks everyone, Zannella said. “As the game goes on he just appears to get stronger and stronger, he never appears to drop in velocity and he did a great job in this game.”  
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 June 2008 )