Bulldogs, Mariners, Hawks, Skippers, Lake Monsters, Sea Unicorns – A Weekend Full of Rhode Island Baseball Experiences
Happy Monday everyone. I hope everyone had a fantastic Father’s Day Weekend. It was another busy weekend of baseball from Little Leagues to High Schools to Summer Baseball to Amateur Leagues. Rhode Island American Legion and Connie Mack teams as well as travel and showcase teams played here in Rhode Island and in out of state matchups. Summer collegiate teams are playing almost daily and the weekends are no exception. Heading into the first day of summer, baseball here in Rhode Island is really cranking up the intensity. And for me, after some much needed yard work, it all started Saturday afternoon with the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Division 1 and Division 2 Championships, held at Rhode Island College’s Pontarelli Field.
Admittedly, Will Geoghegan, the Sports Editor of the Independent Newspaper, is one of my favorite Rhode Island sportswriters to read and follow. Whenever I cannot attend a game that features a team from South County or even neighboring Washington County, I look up Will on Twitter (@RhodyWill) and read his play by play, inning by inning accounts of the game. Will was at Game 2 of the RIIL Division 1 State Baseball Championships, tweeting about the game, as I was finishing up my yard work and I checked his page every 10 minutes or so for updates. The game featured defending champion North Kingstown High School vs Bishop Hendricken. NKHS was up 1-0 and was looking to close out the 3 game series with a win and a repeat title. BHHS was looking to even the series and force a Game 3 on Father’s Day. The game, updated by Will, seemed to be in NKHS’s hands all game long until late in the game, when BHHS pushed and pushed to get the score tied and sent to extra innings. However, in the top of the 8th, NKHS plated enough runs (4) and BHHS could not match (1) to finish the series and repeat as Rhode Island Division 1 State Baseball Champions. Final score – NKHS 10 – BHHS -7.
Game 2 on the RIIL schedule for Saturday at RIC featured Game 2 of the Division 2 State Baseball Championships. Westerly looking to avenge a rare 2022 loss was taking on Narragansett who had slugged and outhit every single playoff opponent to date in the 2022 playoffs. As I was done with my yard work, Rachel and I took the drive up to RIC’s Pontarelli Field to watch the game. On the roads leading up to RIC, we passed several NKHS parents and the NKHS baseball team bus leaving the area where they were just crowed repeat champions. Rachel and I arrived just before game time and took seats next to the third base dugout. After lineups were exchanged, starting lineups were announced, the national anthem sang, the two teams returned to their dugouts for some last minute instructions. Then, Narragansett and Starting Pitcher Andrew DiBiasio heading out to take the field in the top of the 1st inning. First pitch, scheduled originally for 4pm, was 4:31 – delayed a half hour because of the Game 1 extra innings and photo opportunities post game.
Westerly would hand the ball to Ace Left Hander Dean Pons, who also hit leadoff in the Westerly Bulldog order. More about Dean’s day in just a bit.
The weather was not exactly summer like. 64° with overcast skies, the sun would peek in and out most of the game. Wind blowing pretty steady out to right field. No rain, that was a bonus. The grounds crew did a fantastic job getting the field ready and quickly for Game 2.
Westerly and Narragansett fans packed the bleachers behind home plate, then stretched into the bleachers out past the third base dugouts, and the spectator area passed the first base dugouts. The concession stand was open, kids were roaming around the stands and in the grassy areas behind the bleachers, fans were active on every pitch, every hit, every out. Great crowd, very enthusiastic groups from both Westerly and Narragansett.
As for the game itself, Westerly escaped a bases loaded, no outs jam in the bottom of the 1st inning, as Pons calmly threw strike after strike, striking out the last batters of the first inning to squash a potentially game changing, title changing rally. I put a star next to that in my notes, and it became one of the more important game notes all day long. The Pons Machine got into a groove after that 1st inning jam and, to be honest, Narragansett batters had very few chances to break his rhythm. Pons worked fast, almost lightning like on the mound. Getting the ball from his catcher and hurling it. No wasted motion, no delay. Just pitch, catch, then pitch again.
Narragansett’s DiBiasio was equal to the challenge and pitched well into the late innings and the Narragansett defense really stepped up as well. Narragansett would get down a few runs, then rally back to close the gap, until late in the game when Westerly put the game out of reach. Each team put runners on base consistently throughout the game. In the end, Westerly caught a few more breaks and had a few more timely hits and pushed the score out of reach by the 7th inning and Narragansett’s last at bats. With Dean Pons going the whole game, Westerly was able to win Game 2. And on Sunday, Westerly was able to win again with another great pitching performance by Freshman Michael Poole (again I followed Will’s Tweets) and win the 2022 Rhode Island State Division 2 Title.
Also on Sunday, after some Father’s Day activity and texts and hellos to family and friends, I was able to experience a new stadium in the Rhode Island Baseball Experience journey – Dodd Stadium, Norwich, CT. Rachel and I took the drive out 102 to 165/138 to 395, then a few rights and lefts and hills up to Christopher Dodd Stadium, home of the NECBL Mystic Schooners and Sunday’s home team, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League’s Norwich Sea Unicorns. Norwich features three players from Rhode Island (Jordan Marot, Johnston; Tim McGuire, Portsmouth; Zac Zyons, South Kingstown) and they were playing the Vermont Lake Monsters, which features one player from Rhode Island (Zach Fogell, Cumberland.) It was a fun and picturesque ride out to Norwich and I was really excited for my first game at Dodd Stadium.
The parking lot was packed with cars and families for the game. When I got up to the ticket window, the attendant asked me if I was a Dad, to which I said yes. He said, “ok your admission is free today.” Pretty cool present for me and the other Dads attending Sunday’s game!!!
Rachel and I had amazing seats right under the press box, right behind home plate. The sun, non-existent on Sunday in RI, was shining brightly in CT with a temperature of 71° when we sat down around the 2nd inning. Blue skies, light breeze, awesome weather to watch a game.
At one point in time, Dodd Stadium was the host field for minor leaguers from the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees organizations. In recent years, the Sea Unicorns and now the Mystic Schooners call Dodd home.
I mentioned Johnston, Bishop Hendricken High School star Pitcher Jordan Marot earlier as on the roster for the Norwich Sea Unicorns. Marot, who pitches for Palm Beach State College collegiately, entered the game in the top of 5th inning. One of his early batters he faced was VT Lake Monsters First Baseman Ryan Marra, who plays collegiately at Brown University. Pretty cool, pseudo RI vs RI matchup. Marot would pitch into the 9th inning before being removed for a reliever with 0 outs and the bases loaded.
Here are a few other videos of the field from the left and right field areas:
Dodd Stadium had tons of signage throughout the concourse showcasing concerts and events at local places like Mohegan Sun. The billboard signage in the outfield had one banner that caught my attention. I’m guessing it was for Electric Boat or General Dynamics in Groton and it read “There is no (picture of a submarine, so “sub”) stitute for a career.” Clever play on words with the submarine cartoon. Right up my alley, words and captions wise. Overall, I just loved being in a minor league ball park again. Dodd, in its hay days, was probably a pretty awesome place to see a minor league game. On Sunday, there was a pretty decent crowd gathered and the fans were loud and happy to be there on Father’s Day.
I realize I jumped around a lot here, there was a ton of stories to tell and photos to share. I posted a ton of them already on my social media pages and just wanted to give a quick recap of my weekend filled with amazing Rhode Island Baseball Experiences. It was great to read Will’s tweets on the games on Saturday and Sunday. Congrats to all the RIIL teams who competed this weekend and special congrats to North Kingstown High School (D1) and Westerly High School (D2) for winning their respective State Championships. Sunday was a great Father’s Day here in Rhode Island for many, many deserving Dads and I was psyched to take a trip out to Norwich’s Dodd Stadium to experience that stadium. And to watch Johnston’s Jordan Marot pitch. Win, Win, Win, Win, Win for my and another great weekend of Rhode Island Baseball Experiences.
To follow Will Geoghegan and his sports reporting, head over to his Twitter Page – @RhodyWill
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The RIBBE is The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It is promoting the game of baseball here in the great state of Rhode Island for the entire baseball world to see. The RIBBE is positive stories, photos, videos, and responsible social media posts. The RIBBE is an information resource for families looking for an AAU team or a summer camp or a great place to buy a first baseman’s mitt. The RIBBE is a network of coaches, tournament directors, parents, leagues, and baseball junkies whose passion of the game of baseball is unquestioned. I believe that providing expert analysis, information and directions to ballfields, and coaching advice from some of the top RI baseball minds will help promote the game of baseball here in RI to a whole new level.
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