The Kickemuit Middle School Wildcats are state champs for the second time in as many years, after Bristol Warren’s baseball team beat the Ponaganset Chieftains 4-1 Wednesday afternoon at McCarthy Field in West Warwick.
Behind a complete game by pitcher C.J. Casalino, good defense and RBIs by Charlie Amarante and Justin Gervais, the Wildcats capped off their 13-1 regular season and stellar post-season run to become the first team to repeat as state champs in more than a decade.
The Wildcats set the tone early, scoring in each of the first three innings. Cory Burke started with a leadoff single that he stretched into a double with the help of a fielding error. Cory, who has been recovering from childhood cancer that he fought in late 2012 and much of 2013, didn’t spend much time in the lineup this season. But Coach Paul Castigliego said before the game that he was going to pinch hit Cory for teammate Joe Penkala, who was scheduled to lead off Wednesday.“He’s psyched,” Coach Castigliego said after telling Cory he was in the game shortly before the 3:45 p.m. game’s start.
Cory’s was the first run on the board, and the Chieftains couldn’t muster much offense to counter. The Chieftains scored their only run in the fourth inning, after a Ponaganset batter hit a leadoff single and stole second, being driven home by a single two batters later.
Casalino has been a workhorse this postseason, pitching complete games in all three of the Wildcats’ playoff appearances. Over that 21-inning stretch, he allowed just two runs and was backed up by what his father, assistant coach Dr. Joe Casalino said, was “amazing offense and great defense all around.”
C.J. appeared in complete control throughout much of the game, striking out seven batters while allowing six hits. He got into some trouble in the final inning, giving up a leadoff hit and a walk, before he righted the ship and struck out two. After hitting a Chieftains batter to load the bases with two out, third baseman Caden Cabral caught the final out, a weak pop fly.
The Wildcats rushed the field, and teammates gave Cory the winner’s plaque.
“For this group, the thing that was most impressive is that we beat the best teams in the state throughout the playoffs,” Coach Casalino said. “This group of kids have been together since they were 7, 8 years old. They’re a a seasoned group of players, they all play well together and they’re all friends.”