Thursday, April 21st proved to be another busy day on the Rhode Island Interscholastic League baseball calendar. With April Vacation winding down, schools here in Rhode Island are still active on the baseball fields playing league games and scrimmages all over the state. Yesterday’s featured matchup for me was Tolman High School vs North Providence High School with a bit of a twist – NP would be hosting Tolman at Tolman’s home field.
From a few sources, the North Providence High School baseball field is not game ready, so Tolman’s Slater Park and McConnon Field would be their home field on Thursday. Tolman High School typically plays their home games there but yesterday, on the scoreboard and in the scorebooks, they were the visitor. I arrived at the field just as the National Anthem was being played and the first pitch was about to be thrown.
I found a familiar seat behind home plate in the bleachers. The home plate bleachers stretch across the backstop and there is also plenty of spots next to each dugout to either sit or stand to watch a game at McConnon Field. It was a mostly sunny day, 56° at First Pitch, and yes the wind was whipping around the field once again. Overall, it was a great weather day for baseball in Pawtucket featuring the North Providence Cougars vs the Tolman Tigers. North Providence High School Starting Pitcher Ronnie Paux stood on the mound and got the “let’s play” sign from the home plate umpire. First pitch – 10:56am.
After a very quick top of the 1st inning, Tolman High School handed the baseball to (name not available) for his turn on the mound to face the North Providence batters. First hitter for North Providence, leadoff hitter Noah Frezza drove a high fly ball to deep right field. The ball was hit so high, into the sun, most of the fielders searched for it, the fans and I looked for it, the umpires searched for it, Noah ran and then stopped at first, then restarted to second after his coach encouraged him to “run until the umpires tell you to stop,” until the right fielder’s hands went up in the air. The umpires converged and the twirling hand sign with the index finger pointed straight up was on display. A leadoff home run to start the game by Frezza, who was just as surprised as many of us in the stands because the ball was so high and so out of sight for a few seconds there.
It was a fun and exciting way to start the game for North Providence. After Frezza crossed the plate, the Tolman HS Starter settled down and got out of the inning allowing just the one run to score. And that was the story from the 1st inning until about the bottom of the 5th inning. Both Paux (NPHS) and Tolman’s starter pitched in and out of trouble for the next 4 innings. Some base hits, a few walks, runners on base, even bases loaded, but each Starting Pitcher would find a way to get an important out and the all important 3rd out of the inning. Steady, consistent strikes, pitching to contact, but end result – getting outs. Entering the 5th inning, and with a really fast pace to the game, the North Providence Cougars held a very small lead at 1-0 over Tolman.
As many of you know who have either coached or played baseball, hitting is all about timing a pitch heading towards you and the subsequent execution of hand-eye coordination meeting the baseball at just the right spot for a hit. When you have seen a pitcher 2 times in a game, you begin to develop a familiarity with their various pitches – how fast their #1 is, how much arc their curveball has, how much movement their pitches have. Case in point yesterday. Tolman’s starter was around the strike zone, mixing off speed pitches with a crisp fastball inside and outside to fool the North Providence hitters, for the first 4 innings or so. Fast forward to the bottom of the 5th inning, where many of the NPHS batters were now seeing Pereira for the 3rd time. And this is where their previous at bats came into play. NPHS erupted in the bottom of the 5th for 4 runs, capped by a towering 3 run home run by Catcher Mike Ficocelli, with his Dad Anthony videoing it next to me. Anthony Ficocelli is the Central Falls Athletic Director and a frequent contributor providing updates on Central Falls Baseball. The score after 5 was NPHS 5 – Tolman 0.
The game was moving into the 6th inning and I had to make way over to work. I said congrats to Mike’s Dad as I was leaving and headed over to my car parked just in between McConnon and one of the many baseball/softball fields at Slater Park. As I was approaching the parking lot, a plaque on the ground in front of a large blossoming tree caught my eye. It was a memorial plaque for Christopher Andreozzi, who played at Darlington American Little League.
The Christopher Andreozzi Baseball Tournament, hosted by Darlington American Little League, is widely regarded as one of the most enjoyable and inspiring tournaments Rhode Island has all summer tournament season long. Here is more from a Facebook comment after someone viewed my photo of the plaque, “This tournament originally began in 1996 as a small tournament for 7 & 8 year old players with player pitching. In the first year, there were maybe 6 teams, (2 from DA) mostly from Pawtucket leagues. When Chris passed away, it was renamed in his memory as he was a player in the league. His family was also active including his dad Joe who was a long time umpire in DA. During the tournament’s 25 years+ duration, the tourney has grown at times to 16 teams or more and hosted just about every league in the state. This 7&8 tournament was the first of its kind in this area, especially because there was no coach-pitch. It was and is a great event for the players and their families.” Amazing what you can find at our wonderful baseball fields all over Rhode Island!!!
It was a fantastic baseball morning in Pawtucket for North Providence High School vs Tolman High School at Slater Park. AD Ficocelli messaged me just as I was locking my car to go into work that North Providence had managed to tack on a few more runs and that the final score was North Providence 11 – Tolman 1. Ronnie Paux (NPHS) went the distance, allowing just 4 hits and 1 run for the morning/afternoon. Team effort at the plate for NPHS with 12 hits including HRs by Frezza and Ficocelli. Another windy day, Another April Vacation baseball game attended, and yes Another amazing Rhode Island Baseball Experience!