Wednesday, June 1, 2011
New England Roundup: Rhode Island
By Mike Scandura
That’s the appropriate noun to use when referring to Smithfield High freshman Matt Kuhar – all five-feet, two-inches and 93 pounds of him. Kuhar became only the third freshman in Interscholastic League history to capture the state singles championship when he polished off North Kingstown senior and No. 2 seed Dan Hansen in straight sets – 6-3, 6-3.
The only other freshmen to win state titles are Gordie Ernst in 1982 (Ernst, who initially attended Hendricken before transferring to Cranston East in the fall of 1982, holds the state record with four singles championships) and South Kingstown’s Andy Singer in 2000.
In the process, top-seeded Kuhar extended his dual-match winning streak to 22-0 and beat the more experienced Hansen for a second time this season (albeit their first match was in April). And in that match, Hansen became one of only three players who would win one – repeat, one – set from Kuhar this season.
Kuhar’s combination of groundstrokes and backhands enabled him to win the first set in 30 minutes and break open the second set after building only a 2-1 lead.
The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for Hansen – and not only because he lost in last year’s finals to Wheeler’s Jessie Frieder.
Hansen on April 20 underwent surgery after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. But after missing just seven matches, he went 8-1 heading into the qualifying round on May 6.
LUCKY 13 The state doubles final was less suspenseful because South Kingstown’s top-seeded, all-senior team of Tim Blais and Ross Bouchard beat North Kingstown’s Allen Caibi and Cameron Miller 6-3, 7-5.
Not only did Blais and Bouchard successfully defend the championship they first won in 2010 but it also was the 13th state doubles title in school history.
REBELS ON ANOTHER PLANET Perhaps the Interscholastic League should re-name the state team tennis tournament the South Kingstown Open.
Who can argue after coach Andy Carr’s Rebels won their 13th consecutive title by beating Barrington, 4-2, a team that had split two Division 1 matches with South Kingstown during the regular season.
Ironically, the last school to win a state team title was Barrington, in 1998, which capped a run of four consecutive championships. But this marked the fifth time in the last six years that South Kingstown has defeated Barrington in the finals.
As both Carr and Eagles coach Dick Ernst predicted, doubles matches would be the key to the eventual outcome.
South Kingstown swept all three doubles matches as Blais and Bouchard beat John Volpe and Erik Weber, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 1; Sean Gorman and R.J. Kernes beat Riley Schwengel and Mitch Brosnan, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2; and Clifford Chen and freshman Derrick Yang beat Joe Sacks and Ted Triebwasser 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 at No. 3.
Elsewhere, East Greenwich finished undefeated (19-0) by blanking Cranston West, 4-0, for the Division II team title and Scituate also finished with a perfect slate (17-0) by beating Exeter/West Greenwich, 4-1, for the Division III crown.
PLAY BALL One thing is certain about the Division I Baseball Tournament.
There will be a new champion for the first time since 2008.
Unheralded No. 10 seed Middletown ousted three-time champion and No. 2 seed Hendricken in the Division 4 bracket and advanced to the best-of-three Final Four semifinals against top-seeded North Kingstown.
Each team had one loss in their double-elimination bracket heading into the “if necessary” game when Middletown junior Matt Sullivan went the distance as the Islanders prevailed, 6-3. Ironically, it was Sullivan’s first win of the season after he had lost his previous five decisions.
Dylan Gracia’s solo home run and Mark Powell’s three-run double sparked Middletown’s offense.
North Kingstown romped past No. 16 East Providence 16-4 and 18-0 with Jared Riley-Garnett tossing a no-hitter in the second game which was called after five innings because of the league’s mercy rule.
The other half of the semifinal bracket will pair No. 4 Cranston West against No. 6 East Greenwich.
The Falcons had to fend off upset-minded No. 5 seed Moses Brown, who advanced out of the losers’ bracket.
The Quakers’ run ended when the Falcons prevailed, 5-4, as Mike Hayden tossed a complete game and singled home the winning run in the sixth.
East Greenwich cruised through its bracket and reached the semifinals by nipping No. 14 Cranston East, 6-5, on Dave Hopkins’, sixth-inning single.
PARITY PREVAILS The Division II Tournament could prove to be extremely interesting since each of the top four seeds advanced out of the double-elimination, qualifying round.
The Final Four semifinals will match No. 1 Johnston against No. 4 Woonsocket and No. 2 Central against No. 3 Prout.
Johnston was undefeated in the qualifying round and punched its ticket to the semis by edging No. 8 Juanita Sanchez, 9-8, on Steve Almagno’s single.
Now, check this: II-North champion Johnson (16-2) finished one game ahead of II-Central champ Central (15-3) and the Knights beat the Panthers, 9-6, on the last day of the regular season.
Woonsocket beat No. 13 Ponaganset, 12-8, in the “if necessary” game as Will Andino knocked out four hits and scored for runs.
Central came out of the losers’ bracket and beat no. 7 Westerly twice in 48 hours – including 6-5 in a memorable deciding game.
Westerly led 4-1 in the last of the sixth when Central rallied for five runs – the last two on a game-winning homer by Sam Pimental.
Prout reached the semis for the fifth consecutive year thanks to a 4-3 win over No. 6 Tolman.
CAN HAWKS BE BEAT? Hendricken has won three of the last six Division Boys’ Lacrosse Tournament championships. But this season the Hawks, who’re seeded second, finished 5-5, and will face No. 3 Moses Brown in the semifinals on June 2.
La Salle enters the tournament as the top seed and has lost only four games in four years.
But No. 4 Portsmouth begins play having won four in a row, including a 13-10 triumph over two-time defending champion and No. 3 seed Moses Brown and a 13-10 win over La Salle.
The Patriots are peaking at the right time and might be the team to beat. But if they are, they’ll have to find a way to contain La Salle’s Cody O’Donnell, a long-stick who’s scored 18 goals and assisted on 11.
MEMORABLE GAME Wheeler School’s Priscilla Tyler scored eight goals – including the 100th of her career – as the Warriors beat Lincoln School, 15-3, to capture the Southeastern New England Girls’ Lacrosse Championship for the third consecutive year.
Tyler, a senior, scored an impressive 292 goals during her career.
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.