July 1, 2022

RMS in Thrilling Comeback Win Over Westerly

7-5 win sends RMS to Semi Finals on Tuesday

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Things looked gloomy at the crowded Riverside Recreation Complex on Friday night, May 20th for the Riverside Middle School baseball team. The 9-0 Eastern Division champions were down to the 5-3 Westerly Bulldogs of the state’s tough Southern Division, late in the game. “We had a pretty easy run through our divisional play this season, except for the tough 13 inning win over Kickemuit,” said RMS head coach Matt Laroche. “We haven’t really had to fight through something like that (Friday night) this year and we have been telling the team we won’t have it so easy in the state playoffs. These kids came through and that’s huge for the playoff push to be able to stay calm and focused in those situations. The team knows it’s a challenge to win the state championship,” said Laroche.

Laroche and his assistant coaches Kris Hallene and Chris Martins have their work cut out for them. They must keep 14 middle school student-athletes focused and ready to play and stay sharp themselves. An especially arduous task after just “mercy-ruling” through many opponents in a 9-0 regular season. Friday’s game against Westerly wasn’t picture perfect. The game started later than its 5:15 game time as Westerly made their way to Riverside. Toward the end of the game the umpires were keeping new "white" balls in play as dusk was settling in. There were some fielding errors, bad hops and a couple other miscues from both teams. The Westerly pitcher was tough to hit and in a quick moving game, RMS was down 5-1. “I was a little worried, to myself, at that point,” said Laroche, “but coaches urged the team to not give up and play one pitch at a time.”

Indeed the Vikings chipped away at the Bulldog lead. Viking baserunners were hard to come by early but the team ended up with 8 key hits. Aidan Martins, Gavin Palombo and Jayden Healey each had two hits. Kyle Desrosiers and Lefty Hallene each had a hit. Martins had a stolen base and scored two runs, Palumbo also scored two runs along with an RBI and Healey drove in a run. Desrosiers contributed an RBI and Hallene had a big day at the plate getting three walks, scoring two runs and knocking in two key RBI. Others contributing to the offensive comeback for Riverside were Nolan Lorenz with a nifty sacrifice bunt and JJ Renaud scoring a run.

The Viking pitchers were steady and while not the best game of the season, it was very rewarding in the end. Viking starter Nolan Lorenz pitched 5 innings with 1 strikeout, 3 walks on 7 hits. Westerly scored 5 runs. Gavin Palombo came in relief and gave up no runs while allowing 1 hit, 1 walk and struck out 2 over two innings pitched for the win.

Defensively, the Vikings made some key plays including a couple of double plays and catcher Kyle Desrosiers gunning down a Bulldog key steal attempt of second base. Nolan Lorenz snared a hard-hit line drive back to the mound and doubled up a runner at third base to escape a Westerly scoring threat. “This was an all-around team effort for us where everyone contributed at some point offensively, on the base paths, or defensively,” said Laroche. Riverside hadn’t scored a run through 3 ½ innings but got on the scoreboard in the 4th. Hallene scored the first run on a Bulldog throw to 2nd base trying to pick off a steal attempt from Williamson. In the 5th inning, JJ Renaud scored on an infield single by Healey. Martins and Palombo both scored on a key hit from Lefty Hallene which brought Riverside to within 1 run of Westerly. Later in the 5th Hallene scored from third on a pass ball. The game was tied in the 6th when Martins scored the go ahead run on a Palombo infield single and Desrosiers’ infield hit brought home Palombo making the score 7-5 for RMS. Palombo kept Westerly scoreless in the 7th and the Vikings had their 10th win and opening round playoff victory to the delight of the large, fairly nervous, RMS fan base at the Rec.

RMS will play in a semi-final round game Tuesday against Cole MS of East Greenwich. The Vikings have played Cole MS once this season and defeated them 11-4 in a game at Cole in April. To a player, however, the Vikings now know that anyone can win in this playoff run. The Vikings must win two more games to play for the RI Middle School state championship. As of now those games are scheduled for May 24th and May 26th. The state championship game is slated to be played at East Providence’s Pierce Memorial Stadium on Thursday June 2nd. Should RMS win on May 24th they will probably get another home game on May 26th. The reward for their winning season to date could mean having home field for the entire playoff run. Tentatively, Tuesday’s semi-final is scheduled for Pierce Stadium, barring any field conflicts. The Reporter will update that game’s status.

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