Gershkoff takes silver

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The Cranston, Auburn Post 20 Gershkoff Auto Body baseball team was defeated by Upper Deck Post 86/14 by a score of 11-6 last Thursday night during a winner-take-all state title Game 2 during the American Senior Legion Final Four double-elimination tournament at McCarthy Field in West Warwick.

Gershkoff forced the second game after beating Upper Deck 9-5 in the first contest.

Kense Marte started on the bump for Gershkoff in Game 1 and pitched six innings, throwing 101 pitches while giving up five hits and five runs (four unearned) with one strikeout. Marte came out of the game in the seventh inning when Dante DeFalco came on in relief.

“All year he’s been great and once again he pitched a great game and got us to the final,” Gershkoff coach Dave Schiappa said of Marte.

The Gershkoff bats were led by Anthony Ramos, who had two hits with three runs scored and Jake Frost, who finished with two hits and two runs scored.

Gershkoff got on the scoreboard first when in the bottom of the first inning, Alex Martinez launched a sacrifice fly to right field and scored Ramos to put Geshkoff on top 1-0.

Gershkoff added to its cushion in the second when Brett Traficante grounded out and scored Thomas Barbieri from third and made it to 2-0. Robenson Antoine ripped a laser at the shortstop, who bobbled the ball, which allowed Dante Parisi to score from third and upped the Gershkoff lead to 3-0. Next, Ramos hammered a shot to deep right field that went through the glove of the center fielder and landed for an RBI double that scored Antoine and made it 4-0. Martinez then slammed an RBI single to left field and scored Ramos which made it 5-0. Frost scored from third during a double-steal where Martinez was thrown out at second and that gave Gershkoff a 6-0 lead.

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, Martinez slammed a shot at the third baseman, who dropped it before overthrowing it to home and allowed two runs to score, putting Gershkoff up 8-0. Finally, Andrew Spirito ripped a sacrifice fly to center and scored Frost and extended the Gershkoff edge to 9-0.

Upper Deck began to rally in the sixth, putting five runs on the board while cutting the score to 9-5.

Nonetheless, Gershkoff held them off in the seventh when DeFalco retired the first two batters on ground balls before loading the bases, but getting out of the jam when he induced a fly out to end the game.

Upper Deck got the best of Gershkoff in Game 2 however.

Gershkoff pitching gave up a total of three home runs while their offense left 11 teammates on base with seven of them in scoring position.

Gershkoff started that contest with Cooper Krusz on the hill before bringing in Zach Minicucci, DeFalco, and Justin Neary during a third inning where Upper Deck scored nine runs.

“We tried to change the pace,” Schiappa said. “We tried to give them a different look, but they kept hitting. You’ve got to give them credit. They hit everybody I put out there. I put out four different looks and they kept hitting. You can’t hold a team like that down.”

 “It’s hard to beat a team twice in a day, so when we got to the losers bracket it was very difficult to come back and beat somebody twice,” Schiappa said. “But I thought we had a great season.”

With two outs and runners at the corners in the top of the first inning, Upper Deck’s Sean Doris hit a routine ball at the second baseman, Frost, but he threw wide of first base which forced the first baseman to leave the bag, allowing a run to score from third and giving Upper Deck the early 1-0 edge. 

Then in the bottom of the inning, with runners at first and second, Martinez ripped an RBI single to left field that rolled under the glove of the left fielder for an error and scored both Ramos and Frost and put Gershkoff on top 2-1.   

Gershkoff added another run in the second inning when Ramos launched a sacrifice fly to right field to score Traficante, upping the Gershkoff advantage to 3-1.

Upper Deck would rally in the third inning. After a lead-off single from Stephen Andrews, shortstop Addison Kopack crushed a two-run bomb over the right field wall and knotted the game at 3. Next, Doris hit a double to left and Nick Larson reached base with a bunt. Tyler McNulty then blasted an RBI single to right-center and gave Upper Deck a 4-3 edge. With runners at second and third, Kyle DeLuca ripped an RBI single over the head of Neary, who was at shortstop, and scored Larson, upping their margin to 5-3.

That is when Gershkoff brought on Minicucci to pitch in relief. Minicucci gave up an RBI single to the next batter, Shane Calabro, who rocketed a shot to deep center field and scored McNulty making it 6-3. Next, with runners at second and third, Drew Szafrankski walloped a three-run home run off the left field foul pole and lifted the Upper Deck lead to 9-3. Larson launched a sacrifice fly to center field and scored Connor Sheehan to make it 10-3.

Gershkoff got a run back in the fourth when with one out, Frost drove in Marte with a ground ball, making it 10-4.

Kopack hit a solo home run to center in the fifth and extended the Upper Deck cushion to 11-4.

Gershkoff had two runners in scoring position in the next at bats. Marte would rip a line drive at the third baseman who went to second and got the double play, which allowed Neary to score from third, pulling Gershkoff within six at 11-5.    

Andrew Spirito worked a bases-loaded walk when he was hit by a pitch in the sixth, allowing Ramos to score from third while cutting the Gershkoff deficit to 11-6.

Gershkoff finished the season as the state runner-up with an overall record of 28-9 and an 18-5 record against Rhode Island Legion competition.

Ramos, the lead-off hitter, was the man for Gershkoff in the playoffs with a .632 batting average with 12 hits and 12 runs scored to go along with eight walks, one double, and two triples. Spirito had the team’s lone post season home run.

Spirito led the postseason with five home runs while Martinez had three and Parisi had one. Martinez led the team with 34 hits during the regular season and a .442 batting average. Spirito was second in hits with 29 and Ramos was third with 28 hits and led the team with 32 runs scored. 

It is the third state championship for Upper Deck in four years. Next Wednesday, Upper Deck will begin an eight-team, double-elimination tournament as part of the Northeast Regionals at the College of the Holy Cross’ Hanover Insurance Park in Worcester, Massachusetts. They will take on the Maine state champion, Portland-based Coastal Landscape at 12:30 p.m. in the second of four games scheduled.

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