The preliminary rounds of the 2021 Rhode Island Interscholastic League Division 2 Varsity Baseball Tournament began Sunday June 12th with some incredible games. Teams have played based on seedings through opening round games, then quarterfinals, and now there are four teams left. Middletown is facing St. Raphael in one semifinal series best of 3 and Barrington is facing Burrillville in the other best of 3 semifinals. I had the opportunity to go to Barrington vs Burrillville game yesterday and here is how I saw it.
From my home in North Kingstown, I took the ride I normally take to work in Seekonk – 95N, 195East – but yesterday I got off at the 114 Exit, headed past Riverside Little League, into Barrington, then made an series of turns into the parking lot of Barrington High School and Victory Field. There was a huge tent with balloons and party favors set up in the grassy area next to my spot in the parking lot, which I later discovered (post game) was for a Barrington Prom judging by the attire worn by the participants walking into the tent. I made my way around the track and field oval and over to the field pre-game around 3:15 or so.
The weather was absolutely ideal for baseball. Sunny skies, warm summerlike temperatures, clouds not a factor, wind was present but not really a factor. Victory Field is located just a stone’s throw from the water and has County Rd/Rte 103 running just passed the outfield fences. The field was lined, the grass was recently cut and looked amazing, grounds looked prepped, really nice baseball field. There is a clear view of Barrington Congregational Church as you look out from the home plate area. The outfield fences are set way, way back. There were no dimension numbers on the fences indicating how far left field, center field, or right field were but I can attest – they are pretty far away.
In addition to the size and width and depth of the outfield, Barrington’s Victory Field has a ton of foul ground. Unlike smaller, more intimate parks like Cardines Field in Newport, Victory Field has a ton of room on either side of the base lines, which can help or hurt a team depending on which dugout you are cheering for. I was curious to see if this foul ground would come into play in the game I was about to watch. After both teams took infield and outfield practice, it was time for the first pitch. Barrington’s Andrew Fletcher took the baseball and Game 1 of the 2021 Division 2 State Semifinals was off and running at 3:32pm.
As expected, family and friends gathered at or around their school’s dugout area. Burrillville fans set up behind the first base dugout with lawn chairs, canopies to block to the sun, and some just standing so they could pace. Barrington fans were in the bleachers behind home plate next to the third base dugout and also stretched down the left field foul lines. By the first inning, there was a pretty good crowd of fans from both teams at the game. And boy, did they get treated to a very, very entertaining game.
Fletcher’s counterpart on Burrillville was starter Carlo Acquisto. Both Fletcher and Acquisto threw the ball well, but the offenses for both Barrington and Burrillville showed up early. A few walks, some timely hits, and both teams being ready for a big game led to 4 runs each by the 3rd inning. And early exits for both Fletcher and Acquisto, whom I thought actually pitched pretty good overall.
I started in the Burrillville fan section to begin the game, then moved behind home plate, then on the other side of the Channel 12 WPRI cameraman, which turned out to be an amazing place for game photography. I was able to prop my cell phone camera and position it between the fence sections for some great photos. While I was behind the plate taking photos, Barrington’s Jack Kriz smoked a double over the rightfielder’s head. I wanted to see about how far it went so I headed out to rightfield near the scoreboard area. If you look closer at the photo, there is a mound of grass clippings in the field of play. Jack’s ball landed over that mound, a big time shot to right field!
The game went back and forth just about every inning. Burrillville was up early, then Barrington tied it. Then Barrington surged ahead by a run or two, only for Burrillville to come up big with runners on base with a timely hit. 4-4, 6-4, 7-6, 8-6 and so on and so on. These two teams belonged in a State Semifinals game. Both teams were hyped up in the dugouts. The managers yelled out reminders when their team got down, “Stay in it,” “Let’s get one out at a time,” “Let’s stay focused, forget about that one,” and “Stay up on the bench.” There were at least 3 pitching changes for each team. Outs were hard to come by, each team was really concentrating at the plate and having quality at bats.
In the top of the 5th inning, Burrillville’s Kyle Bousquet stepped up to the plate in a really big spot. Runners on first and second, again with the score flip flopping back and forth. Bousquet fouled off a few pitches. And then unleashed a towering fly ball to deep left center field over everyone’s head. Bousquet raced around the bases and scored on an inside the park home run, standing up. In most baseball parks, it would have been out of the yard on the fly. But, Bousquet had to earn this HR and what a hit it was.
After Burrillville had taken a 9-8 lead going into the bottom of the 6th, the Burrillville bus driver came up and chatted with me for a bit. I asked him how long the ride was back to school and he said about 50 minutes. He was pulling for Burrillville of course and perhaps for a happy crew heading back home after the game. However, Barrington had other ideas as they quickly erased the one run deficit to make it 9-9. In fact, they not only erased the one run deficit, Barrington went on to score 7 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning to pull ahead 15-9. Barrington got hit after hit after hit to score some big time insurance runs heading into the top of the 7th inning. The lead seemed insurmountable, however this game had gone so back and forth I was eager to see what the top of the 7th would produce.
After a 2 pitch out to start the top of the 7th inning, Burrillville was clearly not done yet putting two runners on base. Another pitching change for Barrington as Bennett Durkin came in to try and save Game 1. And that he did. Two quick outs, the last being a catch made just outside the third base line in foul territory, that huge foul territory I was referring to earlier. Final score – Barrington 15 and Burrillville 9. What an incredible game to watch and be a part of. Two fantastic teams playing at a very high level, very enthusiastic, and big time competitors. In my opinion, the game was so close to call and could have gone either way, apart from the big Barrington 7 run inning.
Game 2 of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Division 2 Semifinals is set for Sunday, June 20th at 1pm. Two teams will play at Burrillville High School. Good luck to all the players, coaches, families, and schools participating. If Game 2 is anything like Game 1, you will be in for a very entertaining game on Father’s Day!!!