Boston High School: Keith Grant

East Providence (R.I.) takes first baseball title

June, 25, 2014
In the illustrious history of East Providence High sports, the Townies had won a total of 14 state championships prior to this academic year. State championship banners in sports like football, hockey and volleyball adorned the walls in the school’s gym.

Rhode IslandBut what was lacking was a state championship banner in baseball.

The Townies under third-year head coach Bobby Rodericks (EP Class of ’98) rectified that situation last week when it beat North Smithfield 5-2 and 3-1 in the best-of-three finals for the Division II state championship.

“Coaching is my life and it was my goal to win a state title,” said Rodericks who played baseball for the Townies in the 1990s. “I was a captain. I wanted to win a state title for us. Knowing we never had a banner in the school, when I got hired my assistant coach (Chris Kennedy) and I said in three years we’re going to turn around this program and win a state title.

“It wasn’t easy. It was frustrating knowing we didn’t have (a state baseball championship) but it was a relief when I got hired. Two years ago in Barrington I took over the wrestling team and went from worst to first so I know what it takes.

“I stick to my routines,” continued Rodericks, “and I’m hard in terms of the physical and mental aspects.”

Not only did the Townies win the first state baseball championship in school history but, in the process, they also set a school record for victories in the sport by posting a 22-3 overall record. And their 14-2 regular-season record tied for the best overall mark among the state’s 27 Division 2 teams.

“This season it was McCoy Stadium or bust,” Rodericks said while referring to the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, which also serves as the venue for the baseball finals. “We set goals and last year I told the team ‘Life isn’t fair.’ If you want to win you have to work.

“We worked hard and we we’re hungry. This didn’t happen by accident.”

In retrospect, the Townies had a good chance to annex the 2013 Division 2 state title since they compiled a 15-1 regular-season record only to be eliminated during a qualifying round.

“Last year we had the best player in the state, Nick Karalekas, who got a full ride to Merrimack College and was the first All-Stater we’ve had since I don’t know when,” said Rodericks. “We also had Alex Hurley who went to Worcester Academy and is now at Stonehill. They carried us. Last year it was a combination of battling and getting the short end of the stick.

“This year it was more even keel and our team was more mature by one year. This was more of a team effort even though we didn’t have a Karalekas and a Hurley by far. But we came together and played good baseball.”

That was especially true of EP’s pitching duo of seniors Keith Grant and C.J. Woods. Grant finished 10-0 with a microscopic 0.71 ERA replete with 57 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings while Woods was 8-2 with a 1.05 ERA and an impressive 114 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings.

“We had C.J. and we knew he was going to win,” said Rodericks. “We also had Grant and we knew we were going to win.”

But the Townies weren’t a one-dimensional team that solely relied on pitching. In fact, they produced three of the top hitters in Division 2. Outfielder Jasiah Hatch hit .417 with 30 runs and 30 stolen bases. First baseman Colin Costa led the team with a .435 clip and 20 RBI. Junior catcher Mike Allienello hit .380 with 28 RBI.

Hatch was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“I think Jasiah (was the tournament’s MVP) because he got things going and started the series hot for us,” said Rodericks. “But Costa had five hits (in the tournament) and three with two outs.’

“Our four seniors (Woods, Grant, Hatch and Costa) came through, moreso than the underclassmen. Everybody contributed but the seniors shined more than the others. When there was pressure, they rose to the occasion.”

Because East Providence only graduated the aforementioned seniors, the prospects for 2015 would appear to be bright.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Rodericks. “We have our defense back. And Kyle Marquis threw a one-hitter and a no-hitter against Hope.

“I’m fully confident next year because of Marquis. He also was my DH. He’ll be a hitting pitcher next year which I didn’t have this year.”

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 17, 2013
Different year. Same story.

Rhode IslandOr to put it another way, Hendricken is giving every indication that it’s zeroing in on a state-record 18th Division I baseball championship.

Through games of May 7, the Hawks led Division I-North with an 11-0 record – one game ahead of arch-rival La Salle (10-1) whom Hendricken edged, 3-2, on April 17.

Going into the season, veteran coach Ed Holloway knew he would have his ace on the mound in the person of First Team All-State selection Mike King (who’s already signed a letter of intent to play for Boston College).

But the Hawks’ pitching staff has developed into something more than a one-trick pony.

Senior Dillon Manfredi and sophomore Mike McCaffrey have developed into reliable starting pitchers who’ve given Hendricken valuable depth.

Most importantly, the Hawks have shown an uncanny ability to win close games (games decided by one run).

Following is a list of Hendricken victories that underscore the above point:

* McCaffrey went the distance on a two-hitter as Hendricken edged Cranston East, 1-0. The game was tied 1-1 entering the last of the sixth when John Toppa singled with two outs to plate the go-ahead run.

* Manfredi tossed a complete-game four-hitter as Hendricken nipped Johnston, 2-1.

* King hurled a two-hit, 13-strikeout shutout as Hendricken blanked Woonsocket, 2-0. King also helped himself at the plate as he lofted a first-inning sacrifice fly and doubled home a fifth-inning run. King pulled off a major escape act in the top of the seventh when the Villa Novans loaded the bases with none out only to have the Hendricken ace fan three consecutive batters.

* Eddie Markowski’s single in the bottom of the ninth broke a 1-1 tie and gave Hendricken a 2-1 victory over Lincoln.

* King struck out nine and allowed only five hits as the Hawks clipped Cranston West, 2-1. Hendricken utilized the long ball to win this game when Nick Boland belted a solo homer in the top of the seventh inning.

While Hendricken long has been the dominant baseball team in the state, the same can’t be said of East Providence.

But this year may be different for a school that’s never won a state baseball title.

The Townies moved into sole possession of first place in Division II-Central with a 10-0 record thanks to 3-2, come-from-behind victory over second-place Central (8-2). Jerry Espinal and Keith Grant combined on a six-hitter as the Townies swept the season series from the Knights.

Prior to that game, the Townies outlasted Warwick Vets, 8-4, with Nick Karalekas collecting two hits, two RBI and four stolen bases.

Led by Karalekas plus Alex Hurley, Jasiah Hatch, Mike Allienello and Marc LaValley, the Townies have been pounding the opposition into submission.

Want proof? East Providence out-scored its first 10 opponents by a combined margin of 99-20.

In two other games of note, North Kingstown beat South County rival South Kingstown, 3-1, and moved into a tie for first place in I-South with each team having a 9-2 record.

The Skippers’ Dom Grillo went the route on a two-hitter – allowing an RBI double in the first and not surrendering another hit until the sixth. In addition, he fanned eight Rebels.

Brian Cox accounted for North Kingstown’s runs, with an RBI single in the fourth and an RBI double in the sixth.

Exeter-West Greenwich (2-8), which has been struggling in Division II-South, rallied from a 6-1 deficit and upset West Warwick, 10-6.

The Scarlet Knights trailed 6-1 entering the fourth when Matt Grenier came on in relief. Grenier blanked the Wizards (4-5) on zero hits over the last 3 1/3 innings which enabled him to notch the victory.

Defense was left on each team’s respective bus when the girls’ lacrosse teams from Moses Brown and East Greenwich met in a Division I crossover game.

The Quakers’ Meghan Buonanno scored eight goals and assisted on one while teammate Alexandra Pinsky recorded an unbelievable total of seven goals plus six assists during a 25-19 victory.

Ironically, the Avengers’ Marielle Kraft out-did Buonnano and Pinsky by scoring nine games.

Moses Brown improved to 7-1 in I-North.

Division I champion La Salle landed two players on the All-State Girls’ Basketball First Team – sophomore Davida Dale and senior Priscilla Dunphy.

Dale led the Rams in scoring with a 17.7 average and was voted MVP honors in the Division I Tournament.

Dunphy, who’ll play her college basketball at UMass-Lowell, averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and two assists for a La Salle team that finished 21-4 overall and won its third consecutive state title.

Rounding out the top five are Exeter-West Greenwich sophomore Taylor Buckley, the Gatorade Rhode Island Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year; Westerly senior Hannah Dobson who finished her career as the second-leading scorer in school history with 1,589 points; and Barrington senior Caitlyn Nolan who averaged 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Elizabeth Scala, who played hockey at Bay View Academy before transferring to the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, has signed a letter of intent to play for Syracuse University.

Central senior Carlos Mangum, who earned All-American and All-State honors in the weight throw, has accepted a full ride from the University of Miami. Most recently, Mangum was ranked fourth in the nation in the hammer throw with a heave of 212-feet, 9-inches.

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.