Final destination DII Finals

Final destination DII Finals

Ponaganset starting pitcher Billy Butler delivers a pitch during the second inning of last Thursday afternoon’s game against Chariho. The Chieftains posted a 5-3 win that earned the defending Division II champs a return trip to this week’s championship series at McCoy Stadium against neighboring rival Scituate. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Defending champ Ponaganset wins another close game to return to D-II finals

EAST PROVIDENCE – Thanks to a solid relief pitching performance by John Biafore and two unanswered runs in the fifth inning, the Ponaganset High baseball team earned a return trip to the Division II championship series at McCoy Stadium by defeating top-seeded Chariho, 5-3, in the regional final of the Division II double-elimination playoffs last Thursday night at Pierce Field.

The defending champion Chieftains, who were the fourth seed in the playoffs, are facing neighboring rival Scituate, the second seed, in the best-of-three finals at McCoy Stadium that started on Monday night. They took the opening game of the series, 8-4, and needed just one more win to repeat as champs.

The Chieftains went through the regional round of the playoffs without losing a game, while the Spartans lost against Prout last Thursday, but came back to beat them two days later to reach the finals for the first time in their program’s history.

“It’s exciting,” Ponaganset head coach Anthony Parrillo said after last Thursday’s win. “We’re happy, but we’re not done yet though. I think (the players) are on a mission, so hopefully, we’ll stay positive and keep it going.”

Last Thursday night’s game saw the Chieftains break on the board first with three runs in the bottom of the first inning, but couldn’t hold on to their lead, as they gave those three runs back in the top of the second and were tied with the Chargers until the fifth inning.

“We got something going right away, but that happens a lot,” Parrillo said. “We get something going and I think we just sort of relax a little bit.”

Dylan LaBelle was on the mound for the Chargers to start the game, but he didn’t make it out of the first inning. Chris DiPetrillo led off with a walk and took second on a wild pitch, and after he went to third base on a groundout to second by Ty Parrillo, Billy Butler singled to left to score DiPetrillo.

After his brother, Robert Butler, drew a two-out walk on four straight balls, Ken Desrosiers then walked on five pitches, and after LaBelle threw another ball to Cal Parrillo, he was taken out for Jared Powers. Parrillo then welcomed him with a single up the middle to drive in the Butler brothers and give the Chieftains a 3-0 lead.

Billy Butler got the start on the hill for Ponaganset, and after throwing a scoreless first inning, the Chargers scored three times off him in the second. Butler got the first two outs of the third, but an infield hit, a wild pitch, and a walk ended his night on the mound, and he went to left field, as Biafore was called on to relieve him. Biafore ended up giving up a walk and two hits the rest of the way.

“Awesome,” Parrillo said about Biafore. “He’s a strike thrower and that’s what we needed. We needed someone to go out there and throw strikes and make them earn it. That’s what I tell them – beat us with hits, but don’t walk guys and give them any runners. But (Biafore) was great. He’s a senior and he’s been here before. He pitched at McCoy last year, so he’s been under the pressure and he did well.”

The Chieftains finally got something going in the fifth and came out of the inning with two runs. A fielder’s choice grounder by Billy Butler and a base hit to right by Cam St. Amand started the rally, and with two outs, Desrosiers hit a fly ball to right that was dropped, and that allowed Butler to score the go-ahead run. Cal Parrillo then lined a single to center to drive in St. Amand with an insurance run.

In the top of the sixth, Billy Butler highlighted the inning with an outstretched, diving catch on a sinking liner to start the inning, and Biafore pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to close out the victory and send the Chieftains back to the finals.

“It’s pretty cool,” Parrillo said about making it back to the finals. “It’s not easy; every game has been so close. We had a one-run win in our first playoff game against Tolman (on June 1) and a one-run win against these guys (on June 5). And today, it was close again. Every game was just a matter of whoever got the breaks.

“(Chariho) is a good team,” Parrillo continued. “They play good defense and they have a number of decent pitchers they can roll out. I think we’ve seen six kids this week that they’ve thrown and they all seem like they throw just as good as each other, so we knew they would be sending pitchers out there that could throw. But we stayed patient and focused. We felt like we were pressing a bit when they tied the game up, but we stayed in it, and eventually we came around and got a couple of key hits.”

In Monday’s victory over Scituate, the Chieftains jumped out to a 7-0 lead after an inning and a half of play, thanks to a five-run rally in the top of the second that was highlighted by a two-run double by Billy Butler and a two-run triple by St. Amand. Ponaganset also received a run-scoring triple from Billy Butler, an RBI double from Ty Parrillo, and a solid outing from its starting pitcher, Desrosiers.