PAWTUCKET â€” Pineview All-Starsâ€™ skipper Joe Clark received the good news on Tuesday night.
That is, his state champion Big League squad would, in fact, make the trip to the Eastern Regional Big League Tournament in Dover, Del.
After Pineview recorded an easy 10-1 victory over East Greenwich in the state title tilt at its own Presidentâ€™s Field on Sunday night, it qualified for its second straight and seventh berth in the regional affair in the past 10 years.
Clark indicated he was uncertain as to being able to attend, naturally for financial reasons. The team of 15 and a coaching staff of four would have to raise approximately $5,000 to trek to the complex that would host the nine-team event beginning Saturday.
â€śIf we make zero (dollars), maybe we wonâ€™t,â€ť he said then, â€śbut we really want to go and see what we can do.â€ť
That all changed when he took a call from District II Administrator Bob Walker at about 9 p.m., Tuesday.
â€śHe told me he had a $900 check for us, so weâ€™d be good for at least the first couple days of the (double-elimination) tournament,â€ť noted Clark, who has managed the squad for the past 10 summers. â€śWeâ€™re leaving at 3 (a.m. today). Weâ€™re driving down, and weâ€™re leaving that early because we want to beat the (morning) rush-hour traffic in New York City.
â€śWe really werenâ€™t all that concerned about making the trip,â€ť he added. â€śWe knew, like in past years, weâ€™d have the generosity of people and support from the community. Theyâ€™ve helped out before, and everyone is always so kind, so we really hoped it would happen again.
â€śWe never really told the kids there was a possibility we wouldnâ€™t go. Weâ€™ve been practicing, and we were just hopeful.â€ť
Clark â€“ who will make the trek with loyal assistants Norm Clark (his dad) and Chris Caldera, not to mention detailed scorekeeper Peter Gray â€“ explained he had been given a â€śfantasticâ€ť donation from Mayor Don Grebien after he had heard Pineview had earned a bid.
â€śHeâ€™s helped us out every year,â€ť Clark offered. â€śWeâ€™ve also had a lot of private and anonymous donations, so weâ€™re very thankful for each and every one of them.
â€śWeâ€™re looking at winning a couple of games right away, and hopefully go on a little run and cause a little damage,â€ť he continued. â€śThen who knows whatâ€™s going to happen. Last year, we went 0-2 in our first two games and were eliminated.
â€śWe definitely donâ€™t want to relive that again. We faced the top pitcher in the tournament, a kid who threw 95 mph fastballs, and lost 1-0 to the Delaware state champions. The same kid hit a RBI double in the sixth to beat us, so we lost to a one-man show.â€ť
The next day, Pineview dropped another decision to the New York titleist which eventually finished third overall.
â€śNew Jersey won the whole thing, beating Pennsylvania,â€ť he stated. â€śThose two powerhouses are always the favorites.â€ť
Still, Clarkâ€™s crew had mustered a trio of No. 3 placements in the event, which draws the champs from three New England states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut), as well as other Middle-Atlantic representatives Maryland and Delaware (the ninth club to be invited, as always, will be the host from Dover).
â€śI wonâ€™t know who weâ€™ll play until we get down there,â€ť Clark said. â€śWeâ€™ve done well in previous years, so Iâ€™m excited about our chances. We took third back in 2005 and â€™06 when we had the Figueroa brothers from Shea (High School). They were juniors and seniors at the time.
â€śWe also finished third in 2010,â€ť he added. â€śI donâ€™t know how weâ€™ll do, but Iâ€™m confident because we have some really good ballplayers in this group. We faced three really good pitchers in the state tournament, and we had some timely hits to win all three.â€ť
Pineview edged East Greenwich, 3-2, in a quarterfinal, then mustered consecutive 5-1 and 10-1 triumphs over Edgewood and E.G. for the right to drive south.
All told, in the Ocean State Final Four, the offense outscored its foes by a whopping 15-4.
He will be counting on three outstanding righty starters, including ace Carlos Sanabria and Joey Fernandes of Tolman and Brandon Canuto of Central Falls highs. In high school action, Sanabria didnâ€™t allow an earned run for the Tigers through the regular season, while Fernandes supplied many necessary victories in the Tigersâ€™ Division II state championship run.
As for Canuto, he provided his rebuilding Warriors with several stellar efforts during a losing campaign this past spring.
Relievers figure to be Griffin Lavoie, a Tolman junior-varsity player; Sheaâ€™s David Mejia; and junior-to-be Steven Otis, one of the most athletic underclassmen at Tolman.
â€śThis team is solid,â€ť Clark promised. â€śYou never know whatâ€™s going to happen, but I have faith in all of these guys. It all depends on the draw. Last year, we got stuck playing two of the best teams, facing two of the best pitchers. Everything really comes down to the draw, and who you end up playing.
â€śWeâ€™ve pitched well and weâ€™ve come up with some crucial hits at the right time,â€ť he added. â€śThatâ€™s what wins you games, so weâ€™ll see what happens.â€ť