Maybe defending Division I baseball champion Cranston West was devastated by graduation. But if the Falcons’ season opener was any indication, they’re not exactly going to fly meekly into the night.
Toll Gate led Cranston West 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth when Joe Nicolace tied the score with a single and winning pitcher Bryan Stetson (who relieved starter Rich Reo in the top of the seventh) drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the winning run.
Still, coach Rob Malo faces a major challenge in that his complete starting lineup departed via the cap-and-gown route last spring.
What’s noteworthy about Cranston West’s success is that the Falcons have won three of the last six Division I state titles and broken the stranglehold Hendricken had on the championship trophy.
Perhaps the one team that might be favored to win the state title is North Kingstown – a feat the Skippers last accomplished 44 years ago.
North Kingstown will be led by First Team All-State third baseman Chris Hess who drove in 42 runs in 29 overall games plus first baseman Jared Habershaw who plated 41 runs and sophomore pitcher Dom Grillo who was 7-0 in his first season on the varsity.
The Skippers last season advanced to the third game of the best-of-three finals only to be torched 18-7 by the Falcons.
CLIPPERS IN SAME POSITION AS FALCONS
Cumberland’s softball team can sympathize with the Cranston West baseball team in that the Clippers annexed their first Division I state championship and then were wiped out by graduation.
Cumberland coach Marty Crowley lost a trio of All-State selections – pitcher Beth Paul, catcher Krissey Peffer and second baseman Christina Speroni.
In addition, junior All-State outfielder Bridget Connors will be sidelined for the season after suffering a knee injury.
The only senior on the team is third baseman Rebecca Geddes.
Middletown’s McKenna Barlow was a one-girl wrecking crew as the Islanders blanked Rogers, 12-0, in the Division II-South opener for both teams.
Barlow not only pitched a no-hitter, replete with nine strikeouts. But she also went 3-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored.
ENTERING THE HALL
The Rhode Island Interscholastic League will induct 11 into its Athletic Hall of Fame on May 2.
The list is as follows:
James Adams (posthumous): Adams coached the Central High boys’ basketball team from 1960-72 and turned it into a state power. The Knights won four consecutive state titles, recorded consecutive undefeated seasons and qualified for the playoffs eight times in 12 seasons.
Bobb Angel: For 44 years, Angel has broadcast high school football, basketball, softball and baseball games for Newport radio station WADK-AM.
Bob Bellmore: A 1959 graduate of La Salle Academy, Bellmore earned First Team All-State honors as a goalie and All-State honors as a catcher. He’s been a coach, teacher and Hall of Fame baseball umpire.
Edward DiSimone: As an educator, coach and administrator, DiSimone has been the face of Johnson High for half a century. He served as the athletic director for 29 years and coached the baseball team for 10 seasons – winning four divisional titles in the process His 1963 team won the state title.
Paul Donovan: From 1957-2001, a generation of high school baseball players have benefited from the knowledge of Moses Brown’s Donovan. A La Salle alumnus, he ran track and played baseball and earned All-State honors in each sport.
Bobby Doyle (posthumous): Doyle without question was a running legend. A graduate of Hope High, he was All-State in cross country and track and later coached cross country at Woonsocket where the Villa Novans won the 1996 state title. Doyle also excelled in the Boston Marathon.
Kathleen Hazard: Ironically, Hazard never had the opportunity to compete in high school sports because she graduated before the inception of girls’ programs. She started three teams at Ponaganset that previously hadn’t existed (girls’ volleyball, girls’ and boys’ tennis). She coach Coventry girls’ track for three years in the 1970s and girls’ track plus cross country and gymnastics at Ponaganset from 1975-80.
Kevin Jackson: Jackson was an All-State and All-New England cross country runner at Pilgrim and was a member of the 1976 team that won the New England title.
Bernie Pina: A three-year varsity starter on La Salle’s football team, Pina was an All-State halfback in 1949 when he was considered one of the state’s most dazzling runners.
Dom “Zip” Raola: Generations of young basketball players came under the guidance of Raiola, the legendary Bristol and Mount Hope coach who amassed 500 career wins.
Roland Rodrigues: An All-State halfback at the old Colt High in the late 1950s, Rodrigues returned to Bristol High as a teacher and legendary wrestling and football coach. He’s also a member of the Rhode Island Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Central’s Jarrell Lawson and Woonsocket’s Kelley Fugere now share something in common.
Lawson was named the 2011-12 Gatorade Rhode Island Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year. He’s the first boys’ Gatorade winner from Central.
He led the Knights to the state title, averaging 19.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in the process – and was a unanimous First Team All-State selection.
Fugere was named the Gatorade Rhode Island Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year – the first girls’ winner in any sport at Woonsocket.
A Second Team All-State selection, she finished her career with 1,360 points and 849 rebounds.
The state lost one of its iconic baseball coaches with the passing of Tom Lyons in late March.
Lyons coached baseball at La Salle, Our Lady of Providence and Coventry. But he enjoyed his greatest success at La Salle where he won three state championships and became the first Rhode Island high school baseball coach to compile an undefeated record (19-0).
He was inducted into the Rhode Island Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1993.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.