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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
New England Roundup: Rhode Island

By Mike Scandura

Cranston West’s baseball team picked the right time to unleash an offensive explosion -- in the third and deciding game of the Division I tournament.

Rhode IslandThe fourth-seeded Falcons were held to three hits by top-seeded North Kingstown in Game 1 of the teams’ best-of-three series which the Skippers won, 5-3.

But in the next two games, the Falcons hung a total of 35 runs on the McCoy Stadium scoreboard to capture their third state championship in the last six years. In the process, Cranston West snapped Hendricken’s run of three consecutive titles.

West’s Matt Pagano, who was voted MVP honors, lit the spark in Game 2 as he homered and drove in a total of six runs as the Falcons prevailed, 17-13.

Then, in the deciding game, Pagano tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run, seven-hit relief as the Falcons belted the Skippers, 18-7.

West’s triumph prevented the Skippers from winning their first Division I title in 44 years.

Mike Hayden also unloaded on North Kingstown pitching in Game 3 when he hit two homers which drove in four runs.

Among other things, the Falcons prevailed in a trio of deciding games during the tournament and became the only other public school to win a state Division I baseball championship since South Kingstown did so in 2002. PANTHERS END DROUGHT
Entering this season, Johnston last won a state baseball title in 1995, when players on the current team were just learning to walk.

The 2011 Panthers ended that drought by sweeping Prout, 11-7 and 4-1, to capture the Division II championship.

Prout, meanwhile, lost for the fourth consecutive year in the championship game.

Right-hander Gian Bianchi made sure the series wouldn’t go to a third game as he went the distance on a three-hitter – retiring 14 of the last 15 Crusaders he faced in the process.

Bianchi’s batterymate, Ryan Geraghty, scored two runs and belted an RBI triple as the Panthers added a state championship trophy to a case that contains 15 division baseball titles.

HISTORIC TITLE FOR CLIPPERS
Ever since the Interscholastic League added softball in 1986, Cumberland had failed to win a state title at any level.

The 2011 Clippers made history by claiming the Division I championship – after falling into the losers’ bracket no less.

Coach Marty Crowley’s team forced an “if necessary” game by routing Mount St. Charles, 15-3. Then, in the deciding game, the fourth-seeded Clippers eked out a 3-2 victory in nine innings.

At the risk of using a hockey metaphor, the championship enabled six seniors to complete a “hat trick.”

The sextet of Beth Paul, Krissy Peffer, Chrissy Speroni, Kaitlyn Pluta, Kelsey Cahill and Kayleigh Martins also played on teams that previously captured state middle school and junior varsity championships.

Elsewhere in softball tournaments: HAWKS SLAM DOOR ON RAMS
La Salle Academy averaged 13 goals per game during the Division I boys’ lacrosse season and popped home a total of 24 in 11-1 and 13-3 wins over Hendricken. The Rams’ vaunted offense was held in check in the Division I Tournament championship game which the Hawks won, 6-4, behind the play of goalie / MVP Aaron Levy. Levy was credited with nine saves and blanked the Rams over the last 10:41 of regulation as the Hawks flew away with their fifth state title since the Interscholastic League added lacrosse in 2001.

The outcome also marked the third time since 2008 that La Salle had lost in the finals.

Chris Marrinan led the Hawks’ offense with two goals.

In other lacrosse tournaments: SKIPPERS GROUND EAGLES
Barrington has been THE dominant team in the state history of girls’ lacrosse, having won nine of 10 state championships since the sport was added in 2001. North Kingstown emphatically ended the Eagles’ reign by coasting to a 10-4 victory in the Division I championship game. Skippers senior Katy Vincent made 13 saves and walked off with MVP honors.

The championship also was the first for coach Keith Higgins whose teams had lost six times in the finals.

Ironically, Barrington beat NK, 15-12, during the regular season.

Elsewhere, Tiverton beat previously undefeated Lincoln, 12-8, in the Division II championship game. Tiverton goalie Alex Azevedo made 17 saves while Jill Raposa scored four goals and earned Player of the Game accolades. Raposa finished the season with 107 goals.

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.