Portsmouth bounced from playoffs by La Salle

Nick Cipriani (left) gives starting pitcher Evan Criner a fist-bump as he leaves the game in the seventh inning. Photo by Jim McGaw. Nick Cipriani (left) gives starting pitcher Evan Criner a fist-bump as he leaves the game in the seventh inning. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Nick Cipriani (left) gives starting pitcher Evan Criner a fist-bump as he leaves the game in the seventh inning. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Nick Cipriani (left) gives starting pitcher Evan Criner a fist-bump as he leaves the game in the seventh inning. Photo by Jim McGaw.

PORTSMOUTH — Ron Westmoreland was able to sum up his team’s struggles against La Salle Academy Monday afternoon in just a few words.

“We couldn’t get a big hit,” said Mr. Westmoreland, coach of the Portsmouth High School varsity baseball team, which saw its season come to a quiet end at home as it fell, 3-0 in the Division 1 playoffs. “We had opportunities. Credit their pitcher, credit their team.”

After putting up 11 runs against Pilgrim High School in a do-or-die playoff game Friday — the Patriots had lost May 28 to Johnston in the double-elimination round — Portsmouth’s bats went silent against Rams’ starting pitcher Tyler Shemick.

“He had a pretty good off-speed pitch,” said Mr. Westmoreland, but added that his team had chances early on. “Earlier in the game we were getting into a lot of hitter’s counts; he was behind 2-0 and we were getting good pitches to hit and they weren’t jumping on some of those and swinging at some that weren’t as good. He threw a good game; he battled out there and threw strikes.”

Sam Banks and coach Ron Westmoreland wait for an umpire’s ruling on a play at third base. Banks was caught off the bag and was shaken up on the play. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Sam Banks and coach Ron Westmoreland wait for an umpire’s ruling on a play at third base. Banks was caught off the bag and was shaken up on the play. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Once La Salle broke through against Patriots’ starter Evan Criner and scored on a sacrifice fly ball in the top of the fifth, the game was an uphill battle for the home team. The Rams added two more runs in the seventh after Criner was replaced by Kevin Manning after the starter walked the first batter on four pitches.

“One run was a lot to overcome today, but three put some pressure on us. But the kids battled,” said Mr. Westmoreland.

No one battled harder than Criner, who didn’t have his best stuff Monday but held the Rams to one run over six innings.

“Criner was outstanding,” said the coach. “I’m really proud of him because he pitched his butt off for this team. He got into some trouble and his ball was up all day, which we were a little concerned about because of the way the wind was blowing. He’s got a big heart and I’m really proud of the way he pitched for us.”

Assessing the season, the coach said he felt his squad could have performed better in the second half.

“I think we’re better than how we finished,” he said. “To a degree I think we underachieved. We were a little bit inconsistent down the stretch; we had a good game, bad game … You can’t do that and go deep in the playoffs when you’re playing teams like this.”

As for his departing seniors, “I’m gonna tell them I’ll really miss them. They were freshmen when I took over as head coach and they bought into how we do things here and they’re just a great bunch of kids who will do some great things.”

The team is losing eight seniors next year, but Mr. Westmoreland said he expects to field a strong squad next spring.

“We’ve got a solid bunch of juniors and sophomores who are in the starting lineup and I think we’re going to be strong,” he said. “The younger kids have a lot of experience this year and it’s going to make them better players going through this process. I look forward to watching them.”

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