Gershkoff drops Game 1 to Navigant in extra innings

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Despite having just two hits through 11 innings, Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 found itself in prime position to knock off top-seeded Navigant Post 85.

Gershkoff, the No. 6 seed in the state tournament, held a 3-1 lead after 10 1/2 innings of play Tuesday night at McCarthy Field in West Warwick. Gershkoff watched as Navigant, based out of Woonsocket, imploded on itself in the top of the 11th with back-to-back errors, enabling Jacob Frost and Emilio Rodriguez to cross home and break a 1-all tie heading into the inning.

But, Navigant upped the ante in the bottom of the frame, pushing across three runs to survive the scare with a 4-3 win just shy of midnight, at 11:43 p.m., in a game which was originally supposed to start at 7:30 p.m.

“I tip my cap to them, they’re a first-place team and I think we played them like a first-place team,” Gershkoff manager Dave Schiappa said after the game. “All in all, it was a tremendous game on both sides.”

Navigant ace Ben Aleixo was nothing short of brilliant for Post 85. He was perfect through five innings and allowed just one infield hit in the seventh inning, en route to a tough-luck no decision. The Babson College-bound righty fanned 10 Gershkoff hitters in his nine innings of work, walking none and allowing just one run.

But, said run was unearned, part of another series of back-to-back errors by Navigant.

Brian Cipolla led off the top of the sixth inning by lacing a ground ball to Navigant third baseman Sam Hunt, whose throw bounced in the dirt in front of the first base bag, allowing Cipolla to reach second base safely. Nicholas Poulos hit another ground ball, which should have been an out to Navigant second baseman Harrison Blais, but the throw was dropped by first baseman Joseph Barter. Cipolla advanced to third on the play.

No. 9 hitter Ty Parrillo grounded into a fielder’s choice, which scored Cipolla to tie the game at 1-1, all while still being no-hit by Aleixo.

“Our defense has been strong all year, to make five errors in a game, it’s tough,” Navigant manager Derek Carignan said.

Aleixo tired slightly as the game went on, racking up nine of his 10 strikeouts in his first five innings of work, but continued to keep Gershkoff’s bats at bay for the most part – save for the infield single, which was courtesy of Mitchell Carvalho.

Gershkoff nearly capitalized on another Hunt error at third in the top of the ninth inning, as Max Pierce reached safely on an errant throw and took a free trot to second base. Gianni Valentini singled to center, but Navigant center fielder Austin Forget came up throwing and gunned down Pierce with plenty of time to spare to preserve the tie.

Gershkoff got great pitching in its own right, most notably 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief from Cam Harris. Starter John Beneduce pitched the first 3 1/3 for Gershkoff, giving up one run on two hits while walking three and striking out four.

Harris did walk six, but he also struck out five and gave up just two hits while lasting into the 10th inning.

On almost any other night, his efforts would have been enough for the win. But, after being replaced by Chris Manfredo and Edwin Colon for the 11th, Harris, too, received a no decision.

Navigant was able to draw four walks – one intentional – in the bottom of the 11th inning, mixed around a pinch-hit RBI single for Evan Masse, which got the team within a run. He came around and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game back up at 3-3, with Forget following suit on another wild pitch to give Navigant the win.

“You’ve got to use what you have on your bench,” Schiappa said. “You’ve got to use all your pitchers in a tournament like this. So, at some point, once you use two or three guys on the front end, you’re going to end up using everybody. To win this, you’ve got to use everybody.”

“I’ve got to give the kids credit; not once did they quit,” Carignan said of his team. “They just kept going and going, and going into that last inning they said that they wanted to score three runs and take the win. So that’s what they did. It was a great game.”

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