In most years, Rhode Island Sundays in late September are typically reserved for watching/playing/coaching sports other than baseball. Baseball season, other than the Major Leagues and Fall Baseball, has been over for several months and most eyes are focused on indoor training, playing other sports, schoolwork, scouting – you get the idea. But now comes the Summer of 2020/Fall of 2020, where just about every baseball game, tournament, event was postponed, delayed, re-scheduled for a later date, or unfortunately cancelled. And no decision was more heartbreaking than the cancellation of the Little League World Series for the RI Little League community.
Cancelled -so many Rhode Island Little Leaguers in the 12U Rhode Island Little League community never got the chance to play for and win their District, play for and win the RI State Title, play for and win the New England Regional, and represent New England in the Little League World Series. The ultimate prize in the mission statements of just about every Little League organization worldwide – Represent your region in the Little League World Series. Rhode Island has performed tremendously in recent years with Barrington, Coventry, Cranston, Warwick North, Cumberland all representing Rhode Island and New England on the regional and national stage in Williamsport, PA. Given the talent I have observed over the past few years around ball parks here in Rhode Island, I am 100% convinced we would be sending yet another Rhode Island team this summer to Williamsport, had the Series not have been cancelled. 100% sure of it!!!
I messaged a District Administrator in the middle of the summer, when leagues were starting to play games and get back to play baseball on a regular basis about future plans. With the news that the Little League World Series was cancelled, I asked if there would be an opportunity for a state wide tournament to crown a RI state champion, despite the fact that there would no regionals. The answer was no, no district championships and no state tournaments would be played in 2020, “unfortunately.” Rhode Island baseball leagues would simply play inside of their own league, which to most was definitely better than nothing.
The afternoon of Sunday, July 26th I received an email from Chris Charette of Chariho Little League, with an attached flyer. The first line of the email read “Wondering if you could post the attached flyer and info below for us at Chariho Little League. This a go.” The title of the flyer – “All Star Weekend Tournament.” Teams could form in the 12U and 10U divisions, play in a tournament against teams outside of their district, and compete to become the RI State Champion. I shared the post and immediately the response was tremendous. I checked in from time to time in August with Chris and each week more and more teams had committed to the tournament. In the end 20 12U teams had entered, 16 10U teams had signed up. It was a great idea then and it became an amazing week of baseball games that begin Monday September 21st and culminated Sunday 27th.
Monday September 21st started play in 5 Pools labelled A through E. Teams played in various ball parks around Rhode Island like Wilson Park, Wood St., Sprague Park, Garvin Field – just to name a few. 20 teams became 16 teams, which were seeded based on performance in the pool play. Friday night began the elimination round of the tournament. 8 games played and 8 teams moved on to the quarterfinals on Saturday, where the tournament shifted to Dow Field which is the home field of Chariho Little League. Saturday featured 4 incredibly close and exciting games to produce 4 teams for the Sunday Spectacular of games. Semifinals were at 10am and 12:30pm, with the Championship game slated for 3pm. The weather, thankfully, cooperated all week and the entire schedule of games was played without a single rain delay!
A quick tangent here – Dow Field was in fantastic shape for the entire weekend tournament of games. Chariho Little League did a phenomenal job with the field, the concession stand, parking, there were tons of volunteers around the field helping out during and between games, Chris and several Chariho coaches were keeping score and announcing players. The tournament ran about as smooth as you can get without much of any delay or incident. Chris and I communicated each day on the brackets, field locations, times, seedings, and eventual final day of play. Thank you to all the volunteers and parents and coaches and kids from Chariho Little League for making this tournament a reality for so many Rhode Island families. And thank you to Chris Charette for running such an awesome tournament with very little time to plan.
As for the games themselves, baseball is alive and well here in Rhode Island. For most of the players participating, this would be their final game(s) on the “small field,” with most graduating to the “big field” come spring time. 12U division players are mostly in Middle School, unless they are 10 or 11, so they will play middle school, AAU, Juniors on the bigger field (60/90) going forward. It is a youth baseball rite of passage that every player and parent takes at or around the 12U/Majors time of their baseball lives. I did it with my kids, and these parents and players were in that emotional swimming pool this weekend for sure. Many of the players from this weekend will go onto to play in middle school, probably high school, and some even after their HS graduation. But for this one weekend, it was all about the small field and the memories they made with their teammates, some going back as far as T-ball days.
As in previous blogs, I will let tournament director Chris Charette recap Sunday’s spectacular games. Congratulations to all the players, coaches, and families who participated. Take it away, Chris:
“Semi Finals game 1 – Warwick North (4) Vs North Kingstown (1)
North Kingstown shut out Warwick North 6-0 in Sundays Semi final matchup. Chris Ciarniello pitched an amazing complete game with 71 pitches. 8 strikeouts, 1 walk and 3 hits. Every time Warwick North seemed as if they were about to break something open NK’s solid defense came up big. Michael Bryson went 2 for 3 with2 singles along with a single from Jack Cirelli in the Warwick North effort. NK’s Jack Diano hit a 2 RBI double Nick Martucci a single with a score. While Rock Arnold and Ciarniello both scored of walks respectively.
Semi Finals game 2 – Lincoln (10) Vs. Warwick Continental (3)
Warwick Continental edged Lincoln 1-0 in Semi Final play. Mason Broomfield pitched 5 1/3 innings with 89 pitches , 6K’s ,2 Walks and 3 hits. In the bottom of the 3rd Ethan Luisi lead off the inning with a double. A single by Joey Rivera moved Luisi over and a sacrifice fly by Michael Blair drove in the only run of the game. In Lincolns effort Carson Mellen went 1/3 with a single, Tyler Almeida 1/2 with a single and Joe Lezon with a bunt for a single.
Finals – North Kingstown (1). Vs. Warwick Continental (3)
In an exciting hitting spectacle North Kingstown turned up the heat in the 4th inning to overcome Warwick Continental 12-5 to win the 2020 All Star Championship title. Warwick Continental immediately came out to a 3-0 lead in the 1st. Birthday Boy Charlie Brown led the charge with a single and advanced on 2 wild pitches. With 2 outs Joey Rivera hit an RBI single, Nick Stevens doubled, and Michael Blair hit a 2 run single to put Continental ahead 3-0. But that was short lived, as NK had an answer… their top 3 of the order. Brandon Venditto and Chris Ciarniello both singled to start the inning. Rock Arnold stepped up and blasted a 3 run dinger to straight away center to bring the game back to even 3-3. NK then duplicated the run effort again in the 2nd putting up 3 more runs. With Ciarniello and Arnold on again Jack DIano hit an RBI Double followed by a 2 run Single by Nick Martucci. Continental battled back in the 4th when Tiernan Leahy hit a 1 run single followed by a Gabe Politelli 1 run Double. But once again NK had an answer. Chris Ciarniello led the charge with another single Arnold singled, and Colton Kim hit an RBI single. Dan Napoli contributed an RBI single as well as Venditto with another 2 run single. The 6 run 4th was the final press NK needed to keep the impressive Warwick squad at bay. The 2020 champs were extremely impressive at the plate… Venditto 2/4 2 RBI’s and a score, Ciarniello 4/4 1 RBI and 3 scores, Arnold 2/2 3 RBI’s and 3 scores. Congratulations to the 2020 All Star Champions North Kingstown/Wickford Little League.
Thank you to all the volunteers that helped to make this week possible and the sponsors that helped make it a success. This tournament spoke volumes to the wonderful baseball community we have here in our state. Now on to the 10’s tournament.”
In the end, North Kingstown Wickford Little League was crowned the 2020 RI All Star State 12U champion, defeating a very talented Warwick North team in the semifinals and an equally talented Warwick Continental American team in the finals. NKW had solid pitching throughout the tournament and timely hitting as well. Riding a 2019 11U State Championship, North Kingstown Wickford was one of several favorites to play in 2020 for the chance to go to the RI State Tournament, then potentially the New England regionals, then potentially all the way to Williamsport, PA and the Little League World Series. It wasn’t to be in 2020, however this tournament title will always remain in the hearts and souls of North Kingstown baseball families. A 6 game sweep of some of the best 12U teams in all of Rhode Island is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations to North Kingstown Wickford Little League, the 12U RI State Champions of 2020.