Woonsocket head coach John Marsella meets with his players during a game last season.
To say the past two weeks have been hectic for area baseball teams would be like saying thereâ€™s no such thing as rush hour traffic in this state. Ever try to squeeze in tryouts followed by roster decisions followed by several scrimmages into a tightly confined window of time? Thatâ€™s a lot to digest!
Ready or not, like or not, the regular season beckons. Are some skippers wishing they had more time to iron out items of importance like rounding out the pitching staff or settling on a lineup? No doubt, but as those same coaches are already well aware, itâ€™s go time.
Monday represents the start of when everyone begins playing for keeps with the commencement of league play in each division. Below is a synopsis of what to keep an on eye on regarding our local boys of springtime:
Listen to what one coach has to say about Division I-North, which is unique due to its makeup. Included are eight teams with the number of publics and privates split exactly down the middle.
â€śTop to bottom itâ€™s the toughest division in the state,â€ť noted Cumberlandâ€™s Paul Murphy, his Clippers joined on the public side by Lincoln, North Providence and Smithfield. The private side includes St. Raphael, Mount St. Charles, La Salle and Moses Brown.
Speaking of Cumberland, a good place to start is senior Justin Patrick, whose talents on the mound were rewarded with a baseball scholarship to South Florida. Patrick is a senior on a Clipper squad thatâ€™s no doubt eager to erase the foul taste that last season brought, when a seven-game losing streak resulted in Cumberland missing the playoffs entirely.
â€śI expect him to do great things,â€ť Murphy said about his ace hurler. â€śHe should be one of the better pitchers in the state if not THE best.â€ť
Following Patrick in the rotation will be junior lefty Dylan Boisclair and senior Eric Murray. Cumberland seniors Christian Spader and Matt Billington represent a rare breed with both being three-year starters. Spader will patrol right field while Billington is once again behind the plate.
Over at Lincoln, the biggest change comes in the form of head coach Andy Hallam taking over for Ed Hunt. Hallamâ€™s first Lions team will feature plenty of fresh faces along with key holdovers Nick Zammarelli, Joe Yankee and Kyle Jackson. Yankee, a senior, will serve as Lincolnâ€™s ace with Zammarelli taking over for Ryan Oâ€™Dell at shortstop. A junior who recently committed to play at North Carolinaâ€™s Elon University, Zammarelli also figures to see time on the mound, serving as a late-game option for Hallam.
Pitching-wise, two Lincoln youngsters to keep an eye on are Justin Conti and Jeff Sheehan.
St. Raphael will have to make due minus the services of junior Zach Mitsmenn for the first couple of weeks. His return canâ€™t come soon enough as Mitsmenn has been a first team all-division pick in each of the past two seasons. Veteran mentor Tom â€śSaarâ€ť Sorrentine noted that Mitsmenn has made noticeable gains as a pitcher, thus furthering his reputation as being indispensable.
Senior Nick Cesino returns as SRAâ€™s No. 1 pitcher with Andrew Veiga penciled in as the No. 2 starter. Sophomore Robert Bracken gives the Saints a third lefty option. Seniors Julian Diaz and Nick Gagnon along with junior Nick Karalekas are three returnees Sorrentine will rely on offensively.
Last season was an opportunity for Mount St. Charles to get its feet wet as a Division I participant. Head coach Tom Seaver is hopeful that the lessons that were accrued during a 7-11 finish will lead to better results in 2012. A core comprised of four senior captains figures to go a long way in determining the Mountiesâ€™ fate. Included are third baseman Tyler Geffert, shortstop Brian Campbell, ace pitcher Taylor Sutherland and first baseman/pitcher Ryan Simoneau. Geffert and Campbell, who combined to drive in 30 runs in 2011, are also pitchers.
Change is also in the air at East Providence with Robert Rodericks assuming the coaching role formerly held by Mick Lefort. Replacing do-everything pitcher Joe Carnavale figures to be next to impossible, but the Townies were able to retain a solid nucleus led by junior Alex Hurley and seniors Nick DeBarros and Scott Mello.
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Itâ€™s not everyday you hear a baseball coach referencing defense as his teamâ€™s top strength, but you will with Theo Murray over at Tolman. The Tigersâ€™ ability to catch and throw the ball has him buzzing starting with his Hoover-esque infield. Joining junior Carlos Sanabria (third base) is senior Zach Traber (shortstop), senior Brandon Gagne (second base) and Andrew Larson (first base). Junior Chris Baldwin will hold down the fort as the clubâ€™s catcher.
The Tiger outfield features senior Zach Vivieros in left, junior Joey Maynard in center and senior Brad McParlin in right. â€śOur defense is pretty good; weâ€™re not worried about that right now,â€ť Murray emphasized.
Tolman will rely on several arms starting with Larson in the No. 1 spot followed by McParlin, Sanabria and junior Joey Fernandes. Sophomore Richard Marshall had an encouraging preseason to the point that Murray might be willing to throw some innings his way.
Shea, which like Tolman resides in II-Central, will count on junior Bryan Quinlan, a transfer from St. Raphael. Heâ€™ll play shortstop when heâ€™s not on the mound. Senior Zach Ribeiro represents another pitching option for Raiders coach Dino Campopiano.
Division II-North is where youâ€™ll find defending state champion Johnston along with a host of other teams chomping at the bit to dethrone the Panthers. One challenger figures to be Woonsocket as last season saw the Novans finish one game behind the Panthers in the standings. The two squads met in the semifinals with Johnston winning in three games.
Woonsocket senior Kory Lawrence, sophomore John Flynn, senior Jon Parenteau and junior Brandon Rainville will anchor the pitching staff while sophomore Victor Hunt looks to build off his strong freshman campaign as the Novansâ€™ starting center fielder. Up the middle the Novans will feature shortstop William Andino, a sophomore, and second baseman Cody Lâ€™Heureux, a senior.
Burrillville looks to rebound after a 4-14 campaign that saw eight seniors graduate. Those back include seniors Kevin Deschamps (pitcher/shortstop), Chris Charpentier (pitcher/catcher), Scott Duquette (pitcher/first baseman) and Glen St. Pierre (left field).
North Smithfield will lay its foundation upon senior shortstop Carlos Guzman with Central Falls following suit with senior catcher Larry Cruz. Davies Tech only hopes to go up after enduring a 0-18 season a year ago.