PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Little League 12-year-old All Star team’s state championship run came to a crashing halt in Bristol Sunday afternoon, as Coventry American smacked one ball after another out of the park in cruising to a 12-0 victory.
Since home team Coventry was ahead by at least 10 runs after three and a half innings, the mercy rule ended the game after Portsmouth’s at-bats in the top of the fourth. The game was over in less than an hour.
In the bottom of the third inning, District 3 champion Coventry blasted four consecutive home runs — nearly five when the next batter smoked a ball that hit the top of the right field fence.
Starting for Portsmouth was Liam Griffiths, who left the game after his team fell behind 8-0 in the bottom of the second inning. He was followed on the mound by John Bliss and then Grayson Caron.
Portsmouth coach Michael Morrissey said his players knew what they were up against when they took the field Sunday at the King Phillip Little League complex in Bristol. The day before, Coventry battled District 4 title winners Cumberland American in a game that featured five home runs.
Coventry lost 5-4 on a walk-off single, setting up an elimination game against Portsmouth, which fell 3-0 Saturday to District 1 champs Cranston Western.
“Most of kids knew how good they were; I think they watched yesterday,” said Mr. Morrissey. “We realize how strong the talent was in coming here and we come from a small district with a limited amount of resources for kids.”
Try as it might, the Portsmouth 12s were at a distinct disadvantage in the state tournament, he said.
“These Little League teams are really powerhouses,” he said. “They pick from a lot of kids for their team and we pick from a limited amount. We try to tell them, ‘You have to play baseball and make outs.’ There’s nothing you can do about home runs.”
Being from a small league, Portsmouth is also limited in pitching, Mr. Morrissey said. “We don’t have the luxury of throwing kid after kid after kid out there.”
Many of the other teams from Rhode Island feature players that have been playing together for years, he said. “They play AAU, but they don’t play AAU like we do,” he said. “Our kids go in different directions on the east side. We have ITZ and we have the Seawolves and there’s a few other programs, but most of those kids (on the opposing teams) have been on the same team, since 9. They’ve been working to win this since the age of 9, and Lincoln has done the same thing. I think it’s the new wave of Little League. It’s changed; it’s not like when we played Little League. These kids are training together, playing together, and you can see what happens; they’re just a well-oiled machine.”
Having said that, Mr. Morrissey is proud of what his players accomplished.
“This is not indicative of who we are — 12-0. They’re a great group of kids. I think some are hurt but they’re 12 years old, so in about an hour they’ll be like, ‘Where are the free hot dogs?’”
He’s told his kids that they’ll go on to play more baseball in other leagues and in high school. “But you have to always remember this moment: Making it to the states as one of the four teams left,” he said.
Portsmouth made a far better showing in Saturday’s game against Cranston Western in the opening round of the state tourney. It was a pitchers’ duel, with Portsmouth down 1-0 going into the sixth inning before Cranston closed it out with a 3-0 victory.
Not only did the 12-year-olds make it to the state championship, so did the 10s and 11s.
“We don’t believe it’s ever happened with the 10s, 11s and 12s,” said Mr. Morrissey. “It’s a nice compliment for our Little League. I think we do a good job with our kids and we prepare them to play well. We do get to this point a lot, but it’s the next step that’s such a major hurdle in Rhode Island. These kids in Rhode Island can play baseball.”