Still reeling from a dramatic walk-off loss to Cranston Western the week before, the Johnston 12-year-old all-star team ran into a buzz saw last Thursday in the District 1 loser’s bracket final.
Elmwood, which Johnston had beaten 8-2 earlier in the tournament, got into a groove offensively and didn’t let up. Elmwood hit five home runs and routed the Johnston stars 14-7.
With the loss, Johnston was eliminated in third-place in the district.
“We just couldn’t get them out,” Johnston manager Dave DiDonato said. “They hit the ball a ton this game. They’re a good team.”
Part of the reason for Johnston’s inability to get past the Elmwood offense was the fact that ace Matt Kennedy was behind the plate rather than on the mound.
If Johnston were to have beaten Elmwood, it would have had to play and beat Cranston Western twice in a row to move on.
DiDonato figured that to have any chance, he would need Kennedy for one of those games.
“I could have come back with our No. 1 pitcher,” DiDonato said. “But to go as far as we had to, which was win this game and then two more, I wanted him on full rest. He would have been on five days’ rest on Saturday if we’d won this game.”
But Johnston never got that far.
Elmwood scored three runs in the first inning off Johnston started Jake Pratte, and then followed up in the second with three more runs.
It followed that with four more in the third, three more in the fourth and one more in the fifth.
There was little Johnston could do to stop the bleeding.
“I saw them play a game the other night against North Providence, they had two or three home runs in that game,” DiDonato said. “I knew they could hit.
Johnston actually hit four home runs of its own, accounting for six of its seven runs. Other then the long balls – two of which came off the bat of Kennedy, while the other two were from first baseman Kris Turcotte – Johnston had only five other hits, none of which came with runners on base.
Meanwhile, Elmwood totaled 17 hits, including a 4-for-5 day from Luis DeLeon and a 3-for-4 performance from Jeffrey Feliz.
“We couldn’t really get anything going offensively, other then the four home runs,” DiDonato said. “Other then that, we really didn’t hit the ball consistently.”
Elmwood struck first when Junior DeJesus walked wit the bases loaded, Jordi Ramirez singeld another run home and a third run scored on a wild pitch.
Johnston answered with a two-run home run from Kennedy in the bottom of the first, but Elmwood came right back.
DeLeon smoked a solo home run and Feliz hit a two-run shot to make the score 6-2 and drive Pratte from the game. Nick Raposo came in to pitch.
After Turcotte hit his first home run of the day in the next inning, Elmwood put up four more runs in the third courtesy of an RBI single by Juan Reynoso, a two-run single by Feliz and an RBI groundout by Anthony Perez.
Kennedy’s second home run o the game in the third inning made the score 10-5 and a safety squeeze by Jake Sanzi scored Raposo to make it 10-6, but Johnston would draw no closer.
Dariel Ramos and DeLeon each hit home runs in the fourth to turn the lead into 13-7 and blow the game wide open.
“Pitching is a lot of it,” DiDonato said. “The three guys that pitched today I’ll put up against almost any other pitcher in the league. It’s just that they hit them today.”
Ramos hit his second home run of the day in the fifth before Turcotte added the final run with a long blast to right field.
“I think losing that way last game was a little demoralizing,” DiDonato said about the Cranston Western loss. “I think it carried over to this game, too. Honestly, coaching-wise I didn’t feel like I did my best today.”
Still, Johnston made it to the final three of the tournament, and, had it been able to hang on against Western, it would have been only one game away from advancing to the state tournament.
It wasn’t exactly the way DiDonato or his team wanted it to end, but there weren’t many complaints either way.
“Typically, we do pretty well,” DiDonato said. “All the Johnston teams. Usually, we do pretty well. It’s almost every year you’ve got Cranston Western, Johnston and the last couple of years, Elmwood. It always comes down to those three and it’s just a matter of what the match-ups are.”