For the first time in 18 years, the Kickemuit Middle School Wildcats are state champions.
Behind a complete game effort by pitcher Ryan Ramos, the Wildcats handed Curtis Corner Middle School its first loss of the season Tuesday afternoon, beating the previously undefeated South Kingston team 6-5 at John E. McCarthy Field in West Warwick. It was the Wildcats’ first state championship since 1995 (see video of the last out).
The game came down to the final strike, as Curtis Corner rallied for three runs in the ninth after trailing 6-2 since the third inning. Pitcher Ramos, who struck out 11 in the effort, gave up several hard-hit balls in the final frame before inducing a pop out for the final out. He was mobbed by his teammates after right fielder C.J. Casalino hauled in the final out.
“I was pretty nervous there” in the ninth, Ramos said after the game. “I felt the pressure a little bit.”
The Wildcats (13-5 on the season) came in to the game as underdogs to a Curtis Corner team that had dusted its competition the entire season. And for the first few innings, it seemed like Curtis Corner pitcher Brendan Blessing had the Wildcats’ number. Apart from a first-inning wild pitch that plated Ramos (leadoff double) for the first run, the South Kingston pitcher pitched three solid frames.
In the fourth inning, though, the Wildcats touched him for five runs. Wildcats third baseman C.J. Casalano drove in Tyler Rupkey, then Ramos scored two more runs with a single up the middle. Then with two outs, Sean Gill drove Blessing from the game by smoking a bases-clearing single. His shot brought the score to 6-2, where it would remain until the bottom of the seventh.
Throughout the game, coach Joe Casalino exhorted his team to keep on their game against the tough Curtis Corner team. He and his coaching staff wore red “Cory’s Crew” T-shirts with “Burke 12” on the back, in honor of Kickemuit student Cory Burke, who is battling cancer.
About 60 Kickemuit boosters watched the game from the bleachers, cheering on the home team as storm clouds threatened and lighting crashed in the distance. Though there were a few sprinkles during the game, the skies didn’t open until after the Wildcats got their trophy.
“These kids were a gritty group,” coach Joe Casalino said as he walked to the dugout after accepting the award with his players.
“Although we may have faced teams with more talent than us, nobody had more heart than us.”