I am generalizing here by this statement. Most baseball fans love offense – towering home runs, big time runs scored, lots of hits, hits, and more hits. Me, I am “like” most baseball fans in that I “like” and appreciate a good offensive game. However, I love a good pitcher’s duel and a great defensive game far better than a 15-12 slugfest. Last night, at historic Cardines Field, I watched an incredible baseball game, a pitcher’s duel with incredible starting pitching, a fantastic display of defense, and the one hit that made all the difference. It was the opening game in the 2021 District 2 Rhode Island Varsity Baseball State Tournament. It was Rogers vs North Providence. Here is how I saw it.
Over the past 25 years or so of attending games at Newport’s Cardines Field, I typically sit either behind home plate or in the bleachers on the third base/left field side of the field. I suppose it is because I have always entered the park through the main gates, just passed the ticket office which leads you to the backstop area and those sections of seats. I have walked around the park many, many times to take photos. I just have never watched a game from any other spot other than behind home plate or in the third base/left field stands. So, last night, I entered Cardines just passed the door for the concession stand area and entered the left field bleachers and upper deck viewing spot. I found a great spot in the last row of bleachers next to a deck with an awesome view of Cardines.
Game time was about 6pm or so and when I arrived, North Providence was at bat, with Rogers in the field. Junior Luc Lavigueur was on the mound for Rogers. Then, it was Senior Nicholas Rioles who took the baseball for North Providence. The sun was directly above the right field bleachers blaring and staring at me as I tried to take photographs of the game action. From this spot in the right field bleachers, I could see just about the entire game, with the exception of the right field corner of the field. The deck to my right blocked my view of that spot but for the most part I could see every pitch, hit, base runner, and out. Also, I got a great view of the hockey style dugouts, which house the two teams side by side. Typically, meaning every single baseball field that I have ever visited, the dugouts are located on the first base side and the third base side of the field. In theory, I suppose you don’t want two rival teams in such close proximity during a game. But for Cardines Field, it is just one more unique feature that makes it one of America’s most historic and iconic baseball fields.
North Providence took the early lead, then Rogers tied the ball game in the bottom of the third inning. 2-2 game, very close game. Rogers High School was very good defensively, turning several double plays in key moments. North Providence was equally as solid defensively, making every routine play in the field look easy. Both Lavigueur and Rioles were excellent on the mound. Lavigueur would finish his windup, take a few steps to home plate to receive the baseball from his catcher, then march back to the mound, sometimes walking behind the mound, calculating his next pitch. I liked his pace on the mound. Rioles was more to the point. Throw it, catch it from his catcher on the mound, get set, and here it comes again. Not too much wasted movement or pacing – Rioles was confident and was pitching lights out baseball. Fast forwarding a bit but both Lavigueur and Rioles pitched complete game gems. Very impressive stuff!!!
I took a break from the sun beating down on me to take up a familiar spot in the left field bleachers. From there I could see the huge gathering of fans, family members, friends, and supporters of both Rogers and North Providence. And a little better view of the hockey style dugouts. I also shot this video of the field and was nearly hit by a foul ball in the process.
It was while I was standing in the left field bleachers that the North Providence team took the lead on a towering home run to right field. The home run was a no doubter, it was just a question of whether the ball went over the green line above the sponsorship banners. It did, and North Providence took the lead 3-2. I left my familiar spot in left to head back over to the right field bleachers to watch the end of the game.
Interesting enough, a fly ball was hit to the center fielder, Max Newsome of Rogers. I walked over to a group of Rogers fans standing in the right field deck area and asked, “The center fielder, his name is Max Newsome? Is he any relation to the Rogers star from the 1990’s Frank Newsome?” A few of the fans nodded yes and that Frank was in attendance somewhere in the stands. Flashback to my 1990’s High School experience at North Kingstown. Frank Newsome’s name was atop every sport he played – football, basketball, baseball – he was an incredible athlete. And now his son was contributing to Rogers in a big game. Awesome story.
The Top of the 6th inning was intense. Rogers, with Lavigueur still fighting the good fight on the mound, allowed two base runners on with no outs. A passed ball pushed the two runners to second and third with no outs. With the score still 3-2, North Providence, Rogers could ill afford to let any more runs scored. Rogers needed a big time play to swing the momentum their way. And so it happened. A line drive blasted to short left field, the left fielder got into position and then caught it, the North Providence runner at third placed his foot on the third base bag and awaited the catch, then took off for home plate. The left fielder, with momentum moving towards the infield, caught the baseball and fired the ball to the relay man standing just about the third base bag, who whirled around and fired the baseball to the catcher, who applied the tag on the runner sprinting from third. A massive play in the game, a double play, a run saved, and the Rogers fans cheered wicked loud. It was an incredible baseball play at a critical time in the game. And Rogers defense was flawless in that play. The next batter from North Providence struck out and Rogers came up to bat.
North Providence’s Rioles was up to the task. Just methodical on the mound, pouring in strike after strike. His NP defense gobbled up every ground ball with ease and Rogers went quietly in the Bottom of the 6th. Same for North Providence in the top of the 7th. And unfortunately, same for Rogers in their last at bats. Rioles and Lavigueur had each gone the distance. They had given their teams exactly what they needed – strong outings on the hill to keep their team in the game. With the exception of a few passed balls/wild pitches, there were very few if any defensive errors that I remember. The one timely hit went to North Providence and that was the deciding run in a very well played, close game. Final score, North Providence 3 – Rogers 2.
As I was packing up to leave the game, I took a moment to observe the final speech and game recap of the Rogers High School 2021 season. Having coached baseball for many years, I know some of these speeches are really, really tough to do. Some of the players were Seniors, this was their last official game as a Rogers High School baseball player. I saw a few players with heads down, hands maybe covering up emotions, one player crouched down in thought. Their coach, their leader, stood with them, I’m sure to congratulate them on a great game, a great season, and reminding them that they had nothing to be ashamed of. If there was ever a game to go out on, this was it. I watched hustle and intensity and effort and enthusiasm and skill for 7 innings – from both teams all game long. Sure, just one home run, but it was a defensive gem and a pitcher’s duel that was just incredible to watch.
Best of luck going forward to North Providence High School as you await the winner of Burrillville vs Westerly. And congratulations to Rogers High School on a well played game and a great 2021 season.