Lincoln returns to District IV finals

Lincoln returns to District IV finals

Lincoln runner Noah Campanelli, center, slides safely across the plate with the first run of the third inning as Woonsocket catcher Isaiah Figueroa, right, is unable to handle the late throw home. Lincoln advanced to Saturday night’s District IV championship game by posting an 11-0 victory last Friday at Randy Hien Field. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Major Division all-stars seek fourth title since 2013 on Saturday in Smithfield

LINCOLN – The Lincoln Little League’s Major Division all-star baseball team is one victory away from accomplishing something it’s done 14 times since 1996 – capture the District IV championship.

The ages 11-12 all-stars needed just 67 minutes to earn a spot in the championship game for the eighth straight year, thanks to their 11-0 victory over Woonsocket in last Friday night’s winners’ bracket final at Randy Hien Field. Donavon Lopez’s brilliant one-hitter and a 13-hit attack that was led by Ryan Thompson and Will Denio helped Lincoln cruise to the mercy-rule win, which was cut short after 3½ innings.

Lincoln, which will seek its third district title in the last four seasons and fourth since 2013, has had to play the waiting game since that triumph, because on Saturday at Smithfield’s Whipple Field, the ballclub will be back in action for a 7 p.m. showdown against the winner of Wednesday night’s losers’ bracket final between Woonsocket and defending state champ Cumberland American, which stayed alive in the tourney by blanking Burrillville, 7-0.

Lincoln would have to win either that game or a winner-take-all contest the following night in order to claim another banner and advance to next weekend’s state tournament at Slater Park.

“We’re going to reload, give (the players) a couple of days off and some rest, because it’s been hot, and stick to our routine,” Lincoln manager Dale O’Dell said last Friday night. “We have our guys who come in and throw (batting practice). We’ll see all kinds of pitching, so we’ll be ready for anything.”

Earlier last week, Lincoln held on for a thrilling 3-2 victory over Cumberland American in a game that featured two of the state’s top Little League pitchers, Lincoln’s Ryan Thompson and Cumberland’s Jack LaRose, who limited Lincoln to six hits.

O’Dell was expecting another difficult test against Woonsocket, which had averaged 11 runs and 13 hits in its victories over Cumberland National and Burrillville, but when Lincoln erupted for five runs in the bottom of the first inning, the fans in attendance began to get the feeling that this could be an early night.

“I didn’t think it would be that type of game,” O’Dell admitted. “I was ready for a really tough one-run game.”

Those five runs were more than enough support for Lopez, who did a masterful job keeping Woonsocket’s potent lineup off-balanced. Lopez struck out four batters, walked two, and allowed just four batted balls to reach the outfield grass, including the single that broke up his no-hit bid in the fourth, Mariano Lopez’s leadoff base hit to center field.

“D-Lo came out and threw strikes,” said O’Dell. “He mixed it up. (Woonsocket) is a good fastball hitting team. I watched them hit the ball in the first game (of the tournament) against Cumberland National against a good pitcher, (Michael) Bradshaw. He threw the ball hard and they hit the ball pretty well off him. I knew we were going to have to mix up our pitches, and we really threw a lot of offspeed pitches.”

Offensively, Thompson and Allen each went 3-for-3, with Thompson also scoring three times and belting a three-run homer to left in the first that gave Lincoln a 3-0 command. Denio also socked a run-scoring double in the first; Ryan Allen doubled twice to right, drove in two runs, and also scored twice, and leadoff batter Jayden Champagne added two hits and as many runs scored.

“Obviously, D-Lo set the tone,” said O’Dell. “Thompson had some big hits, Allen had some big hits, our leadoff guy had a couple of hits – everybody chipped in.”

In the Major Division ages 10-11 tournament, Lincoln will also have a team in Saturday’s 4 p.m. finals at Whipple Field, thanks to its 6-2 victory over Burrillville in last Friday night’s winners’ bracket final that was held after the 11-12 all-stars finished their game.

Lincoln will face the winner of Wednesday night’s losers’ bracket game between Cumberland American and Burrillville. Cumberland American blanked Cumberland National, 5-0, on Monday night, thanks to the one-hit pitching of starting pitcher Brody Enos and reliever Matt Sanzi.

The ages 8-10 finals, which will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m., will feature Burrillville, which edged Lincoln in Saturday’s winners’ bracket final, 3-2, and the winner of Wednesday night’s losers’ bracket final between Lincoln and Smithfield, which advanced by topping Cumberland National on Monday night, 5-2.

Lincoln’s Ryan Thompson, right, gets ready to cross home plate and receive congratulations from his teammates after belting a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning of last Friday night’s game against Woonsocket. Thompson went 3-for-3 with three runs scored to help Lincoln cruise to an 11-0 mercy-rule victory.
Donavon Lopez pitched a brilliant one-hitter that saw him strike out four batters and walk just one.