The Best Rhode Island High School Baseball Team Since 1972 Project Has A Winner

For the month of September, I posted a question to the Rhode Island Baseball Community. Who do you think is the Best Rhode Island High School Baseball Team since 1972? I chose 1972 because that was the year I was born and this project and its answers have served as pseudo birthday present (actual birthday is in February) to me, a huge Rhode Island baseball fan. I asked fans to vote on who was the best team they played against or played for or cheered for or or coached or simply revered standing up against the backstop fences of Rhode Island baseball fields. The majority of the votes came from players who remembered a special year, an extraordinary season, a lineup of players who went on to play collegiate baseball, some rosters were made up of players who went on to play professional baseball. I was thrilled to open my emails every single morning in September to read about a team, an amazing Rhode Island High School player, or a championship run for the ages. In many, many ways, I feel that I was the real winner of this project. A fan who got to expand his knowledge base on a subject he is so passionate about – The Rhode Island Baseball Experience.

So to recap this month long project, I asked the Rhode Island Baseball Community to send me their Best Of Team and you did so in gigantic numbers. On Facebook, via email, via text, on the phone, via Twitter – you voted and voted until I had 20 teams for an “online” tournament style face off of Best RIHS Baseball teams since 1972. Here are the 20 nominated teams from the preliminary question and poll and the first round “matchups”:

  • Tolman High School, 1981 vs Bishop Hendricken High School (BHHS), 2012
  • Portsmouth, 2006 vs Cranston East, 1979
  • BHHS, 2004 vs Cumberland, 1985
  • BHHS, 1998 vs St Raphael’s, 1996
  • Warwick Vets, 1983 vs South Kingstown, 2002
  • Chariho, 2002 vs BHHS, 1999
  • Westerly, 2022 vs BHHS, 2015
  • Pilgrim, 1973 vs North Kingstown, 2021
  • Tiverton, 1982 vs BHHS, 2005
  • North Kingstown, 2022 vs BHHS, 2008

Fans were then asked to select the winner of each “matchup” and email it to me to narrow the field. And they did so in Week 2 of the project. Here are the results of the First Round of “matchups”:

  • BHHS 2012 vs Cranston East, 1970
  • BHHS 2004 vs St. Raphael’s, 1996
  • South Kingstown, 2002 vs BHHS, 1999
  • North Kingstown, 2021 vs BHHS, 2015
  • Tiverton 1982 vs BHHS, 2008

As with Week 2, I asked the fans to once again vote for their winners in these “matchups” and here are the 5 finalists for The Best Rhode Island High School Baseball Team since 1972 Final Fan Vote Round:

  • Cranston East, 1979
  • St Raphael’s, 1996
  • BHHS, 1999
  • BHHS, 2015
  • Tiverton, 1982

For the final two weeks of the project, I asked the fans to vote among the final 5 teams who is the Best Rhode Island High School Baseball Team since 1972. And wow, did the fans show up and vote!!! Every day for about 2 weeks now, I have received and read well over 300 emails and messages from former players, coaches, player’s kids, alumni who attended games as far back as 1979 and as recent as 2015. I received team photos and championship game notes and so many incredible accounts of why their school’s baseball team should be considered to be the best since 1972. It was a bit of a see saw battle day by day, with one school surging up the leaderboard with a flurry of votes, only to be overtaken the next morning into afternoon by another school’s outpouring of fan votes and support. As with any Rhode Island High School Baseball tournament played at Pontarelli Field or McCarthy Field or Cranston Stadium or the former McCoy Stadium, there can be only one winner after 21 outs, 7 innings, or in the case of this tournament – 30 days of fan voting. So, it is my great honor to announce the winner of my Best Rhode Island High School Baseball Team since 1972 project is:

Photo sent in from Mark Towers

The 1982 Tiverton High School Tigers Baseball Team received the most fan votes and in fact, surged ahead of 2 teams this week to capture the title late this Friday morning. All 5 teams were very well represented in the fan voting. Fans not only cast their votes, but also added additional comments as to why their team should be considered to be the best. Many, many fans made compelling statements about their team and why they were so special and so dominant in their particular championship year. I learned a ton about the players and the teams, many of whom I had no prior knowledge about. However, the Tiverton High School fan group were very steady voters, chiming in almost daily with a vote here and there. I heard from Tiverton baseball players, player’s kids, and even former Tiverton High School Baseball Head Coach Steve Lake, who was gracious enough to email me his thoughts on the team and their incredible run to the State Title in 1982-1983. Here are some of the comments made from fans who voted for Tiverton High School, 1982:

“They were all local kids, who did something amazing against the big powerhouses. They deserve this honor.”

Photo featured in Sakonnet Times article

“Tiverton High School Baseball team class of 1982 !! Great group of athletes my graduating class ! Never missed a game !!”

“Tiverton 1982- Cinderella possible, luck maybe but how about destiny. 9 seniors 9 captains. Most of the seniors played on the 1979 Tiverton Senior League All-Stars that won the State Championship and came with in one game of the World Series. In 1980 dubbed “The Super Sophs “ by the local papers went to the Division 2 State Finals. Experience most definitely with Mark Towers the only 3 time All Division selection out of the group with 2 time selections Dick Phillips, Wally Ainsworth, Suda Cabral and Chris McLaughlin and 1 time selections Carl Reid and Mark Von Villas. Maybe they were just a bunch of good ball players.”

Photo courtesy of Mark Towers

“Tiverton 1982. Just lost my dad, Mark Von Villas (SS), to esophageal cancer in June at the age of 57. An athlete all his life. This team rallied around him at the end. Truly a “Cinderella story” group of guys!”

Tiverton High School Yearbook photo courtesy of Tiverton Public Library

“That team was an amazing group of fine young men and athletes. They got hot at just the right time. We expected to win.”

“1982 Tiverton Tigers. No one better.”

Tiverton High School Yearbook courtesy of Tiverton Public Library

In some of the photos above, you will notice vintage Tiverton High School yearbook photos and captions. I want to give a huge high five and say thanks to Catherine Damiani of the Tiverton Public Library, who did some research for me and allowed me into the history room of the library yesterday morning. Catherine showed me the yearbooks from Tiverton High School Class of 1982, 1983, and 1984 as I had asked and I was so excited to see the baseball photos and read more about this special baseball team. Thank you Catherine for granting me this incredible access into those years and I loved your library – highly recommend readers of all ages to stop by the Tiverton Library at 34 Roosevelt Ave there in beautiful Tiverton.

So congratulations to the 1982 Tiverton High School Baseball Team, you were State Champions in 1982 and can now lay claim to another title some 40 years later – the Rhode Island Baseball Experience Fan Project Extraordinaire – Who Is the Best Rhode Island High School Baseball Team Since 1972 Winner. Again, I thank each and every one of you who voted, commented, posted, shared, and cheered loudly for your high school team. This was a really fun project and I hope everyone had as much fun with it as I did.

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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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