At face value, the La Salle Academy boys’ lacrosse team should have been devastated last spring by graduation when six All-State players – including All-Americans Ryan Poirier (midfield) and Cody O’Donnell (defender) - departed via the cap-and-gown route.
Through games of May 15, the Rams were sitting atop Division I with an 8-0 record and were leading in both goals scored (107) plus goals allowed (48).
Most importantly, the Rams have established themselves as the team to beat in their pursuit of the first state championship since the school added the sport.
Over the previous four seasons, coach Steve O’Donnell’s team posted a combined record of 44-3. But the Rams have lost three times in the finals – in 2008 to North Kingstown, in 2010 to Moses Brown and in 2011 to Hendricken.
But the returning veterans have keyed La Salle’s run to a possible undefeated season.
For example, All-American attack Brady O’Donnell scored five goals in this week’s 12-9 victory over North Kingstown. And in a 7-5 non-league victory over Bishop Guertin, a Division I school from Nashua, N.H., O’Donnell collected a hat trick.
Second Team All-State midfielder Jack Collins fired home seven goals and assisted on another in a 12-8 win over Hendricken.
Senior midfielder Dan Lucchetti scored three goals and assisted on one when La Salle beat the Hawks, 11-7, in the teams’ rematch.
Senior midfielder Sam Ricci added one goal plus four assists in the second win over the Hawks.
Sophomore Peter DeSimone has played well at attack and recorded four goals plus an assist in that 11-7 win over Hendricken.
TOLMAN CLINCHES PENNANT
With three games left in the regular season, Tolman clinched the Division II-Central title on May 15 by blanking Mount Pleasant, 3-0, as Andrew Larson and Carlos Sanabria combined on a six-hitter.
That was the latest in a string of impressive victories for the Tigers (13-3 in league play and 14-3 overall).
Against arch-rival Shea, Sanabria tossed a two-hitter replete with one walk and 12 strikeouts as the Tigers prevailed, 10-0. Sanabria also went 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI.
Earlier, Tolman received another solid mound performance from Larson who went the distance on a five-hitter as the Tigers edged Classical, 2-1.
* Barrington broke Hendricken’s 13-game winning streak on May 10 when Ben Engvall went the distance on a seven hitter as the Eagles blanked the Hawks, 1-0. Engvall accounted for the game’s lone run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh.
Engvall’s performance trumped another solid effort by his counterpart, Tom Pannone, who received a no-decision after allowing two runs and fanning 12.
Despite the loss, Hendricken still leads Division I with a 14-1 record – one win being an 11-2 romp over intra-city rival Pilgrim as Bill Walker went 3-for-3 and knocked in two runs.
* La Salle’s Caleb Gardner took a no-hitter into the fifth inning against Division I-North rival St. Raphael Academy. But Julian Diaz’s single ruined Gardner’s bid for history as the Rams coasted to a 6-0 victory.
* South Kingstown’s Josh Tombs also flirted with a no-hitter in a Division I-South game against East Greenwich. But in the last of the sixth, the Avengers’ David Hopkins singled to end Tombs’ no-hit bid. Then, after a walk, a single by Ryan Gavin plus an Alex Cleary double accounted for three runs as East Greenwich pulled out a 4-3 victory.
SIMONELLI DRIBBLES TO PROVIDENCE
After building The Prout School into a Division III boys’ basketball power, coach Eric Simonelli is moving up Route 95 to Providence where he’ll assume a similar position at Division I La Salle Academy.
Simonelli replaces Marc Bayha – who guided the Rams last season after Bill Black unexpectedly resigned prior to the start of practice.
Prout last season went 17-1 in Division III but lost to Exeter/West Greenwich in the first round of the state tournament.
Overall, Simonelli compiled a 67-27 regular-season record with the Crusaders.
ANOTHER HONOR FOR BELISLE
Rhode Island boys’ high school hockey coaching icon Bill Belisle is the recipient of another in a long list of accolades when he received the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society’s R.I. Native-born Hockey Achievement Award.
The award is presented annually to a person who was born in the Ocean State and who’s made “significant contributions toward the advancement and public image of hockey and in doing so has brought statewide, national and worldwide attention to the quality and history of the sport in Rhode Island.”
Belisle, who built Mount St. Charles into a national power, has won in excess of 900 games – more than any other coach in the nation’s history of high school hockey.
Jim Foster has built the University of Rhode Island baseball team into an Atlantic 10 Conference power by, to a certain extent, “persuading” the state’s better high school players to stay home.
Such is the case with East Greenwich’s David Hopkins and North Kingstown’s Chris Hess who’ve verbally committed to play for the Rams commencing with the fall of 2013. (They won’t be able to sign national letters of intent until the fall per NCAA regulations).
Each player was a 2011 All-State selection – Hopkins a shortstop/pitcher and Hess a third baseman.
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.