2022 RIPCOA Rhode Island Middle School Baseball Teams Punch Tickets For Championship Game
The Rhode Island Principal’s Committee on Athletics (RIPCOA) Middle School Baseball playoffs rolled on yesterday with two semifinal games. ASFMS (Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School) – Coventry faced Western Hills Middle School at Rice Field, Coventry at 4:30. About an hour later, Riverside Middle School hosted Curtis Corner Middle School at Pierce Field, East Providence. Four incredible baseball teams, each with rich traditions of Rhode Island baseball excellence from Tee Ball to the High School levels (Coventry, Cranston, East Providence, South Kingstown). And four great baseball communities that have been updating my baseball page all season long on their school’s progress.
I had a rare day off yesterday from work, so I decided to take the drive over to Coventry’s Rice Field to catch the ASFMS vs Western Hills game. From my home, it was a short drive up Route 2, left on Division St., then continue onto Arnold Rd, right at the end where the road splits, under the train trestle bridge, left again on Knotty Oak Road and right into the parking lot for Rice Memorial Field. When I pulled in around 4:20 or so, there was already a nice crowd gathered at the field. Fans had started to set up their lawn chairs around their respective dugouts as the two Middle School teams finished their pre-game preparations. My phone registered a temperature of 65° and it felt warm and comfortable in just shorts and a light hoodie sweatshirt.
As I squatted down to take a few photos from a spot right behind home plate, I struck up a conversation with a Coventry fan who had parked himself in a fantastic spot behind home plate. We exchanged baseball pleasantries about the field, the teams playing, and why I was there taking photos. I had a sense he was either a Coventry Baseball Dad or Granddad so I grooved him a pitch to get to know him better. “I played against Coventry in the late 1980s, against the likes of Jason Cole.” The man, Mr. Lyons, perked up and said “my son Brent played on that team, at 3rd base, you must have played against him.” Yep, my cherished baseball community has added another one to my group, as I sat and chatted with Mr. Lyons for 4 innings about baseball, Coventry baseball, the rich history of the sport in our state, footwork, Jason Cole, the Patriots, and at times the game at hand. It was an awesome 4 innings and I loved meeting Mr. Lyons and talking baseball with him.
Backtracking a bit, ASFMS handed the ball to starter Mason Marchessault for this important semifinals game. Western Hills went with starter Reese Zarrella. Both pitchers were very impressive from their first pitches of the game. Each gave their team an opportunity to win, which is all you can ask of a starting pitcher. Western Hills and ASFMS traded hits and runs in the first few innings. ASFMS scored first, then Western Hills came back with 1 to tie the score heading into the 3rd inning. ASFMS, wearing red vest like shirts with black long sleeve undershirts, struck for 4 runs in the bottom of the 3rd inning to push the score to 5-1. Western Hills, dressed in gray with yellow lettering, fired back to 2 runs in the top of the 4th inning to tighten the score to 5-3. Great game back and forth, lot of action in the field defensively and on the base paths.
Following the 4th inning and my sit down baseball chat with Mr. Lyons, I got up and walked towards the first base line of bleachers and fan area. There was a man with a tripod and professional looking camera standing on top of a picnic table. I’ll get to him in just a second. I looked out over Rice Field and caught a glimpse of the American Flag waving in the wind. As I followed along the first base line out to the outfield, I noticed fans standing just outside the fence area in left field and a set up bleachers in left field as well. The fence continued to about center field and then trees became the backstop of right center and right field. Also, two football goal posts were in my view as well a man walking his dog across the very edge of the woods. It was a bright sunny day, a few clouds, mostly sunshine and as one parent commented, “this is baseball weather!”
Back to the man on the picnic table. His name is John Riley, Sr and this morning he sent me a number of amazing game photos to share on my social media pages. Here are the photos, and wow these are incredible game photos!!! Thanks Mr. Riley.
Back and forth game, some hits, some base runners for each school but no additional runs scored. ASFMS’s Marchessault and Western Hills’ Zarrella were up to the task of pitching in a big game. A ton of poise and control for a youth baseball pitcher, very impressive. Fast forward to the bottom of the 6th inning, score still 5-3. ASFMS was determined to get some insurance runs for Marchessault and quickly turned up the heat on Western Hills with base runner after base runner to load the bases with 0 outs. The Western Hills fan base was pacing and stressing, this was a pivotal juncture in the game. Another run may be a huge problem for the Western Hills chances of coming back in the game. And then, the near impossible happened to turn their frowns upside down.
Bases loaded, 0 outs. Zarrella fired a strike, which was lined to the Western Hills shortstop perfectly positioned and caught the ball in the air. 1 out. The shortstop then touched 2nd base, as the ASFMS runner from 2nd had taken off thinking it was going to be a clean base hit. 2 outs. Then, the Western Hills shortstop noticed the runner from 1st was off the bag as well and fired the ball over to first. Unfortunately, the baseball sailed under the Western Hills’ first baseman’s mitt and rolled over to the fence. The first baseman hustled over to pick it up and heard the screams of his coaches to throw the ball to 3rd base, as the runner had not tagged up properly and would potentially be the 3rd out. The Western Hills first baseman fired a strike in the air over to his third baseman who touched 3rd base, then the crowd and coaches and players and I all watched the infield umpire raise his hand signaling the 3rd out. A triple play executed at the most appropriate time for the Western Hills’ defense to keep the score close at 5-3. It all happened so fast, in a blink of an eye, the line drive, the base runners running away from their respective bases, then desperately trying to get back in time. The coaches yelling, the fans yelling, the players trying to sort it all out. It was an incredible baseball 5 minutes that I was so lucky to have witnessed in person!!!
With skill and yes a little bit of luck, the Western Hills team headed into their last at-bats down just 2 runs, determined to tie the game in the top of the 7th inning. However, ASFMS’s Marchessault was back out on the mound and made quick work of the Western Hill’s bats. A strike out and 2 ground ball outs sealed the win for ASFMS – Coventry over Western Hills by a score of 5-3. It was a fast moving game, took about an hour and a half. Great starting pitching, both starters went the distance. Some timely hitting and base running put runs on the board for each school. Overall, a very well played game and it was great to see the incredible talent on the field for both schools, and that incredible triple play. ASFMS – Coventry punched its ticket to the 2022 RIPCOA Middle School baseball championship game.
When I arrived home later, I received a message from the Riverside vs Curtis Corner Middle School game. CCMS had won by a score of 8-2, punching its own ticket to the Championship game. So, and once again excuse the penmanship, here are the brackets as of Friday, May 27th:
Based on the RIPCOA website (www.ripcoa.com) looks like the game will be at 4:30pm on Thursday, June 2nd at Pierce Field, East Providence. Good luck to all the players, coaches, schools, and families participating in the 2022 RIPCOA Middle School Baseball Championship game.
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