The Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) State Baseball Tournaments headed into the quarterfinals and some even into the semifinals rounds as the first week of June came to an end. In the Division 3 State Tournament, Classical had completed a 2 game sweep of Times 2 Academy to punch their ticket to the D3 finals series. Their potential opponent would come from either Davies Career and Technical High School or North Smithfield High School. With North Smithfield already up 1-0 in the 3 game series, Saturday’s Game 2 matchup at Davies was a huge game for both clubs.
9am start on a Saturday morning, yep that worked for me. So I decided to take the drive up to Lincoln and Davies to watch the game. From my vantage point in North Kingstown at 8am, the sky was overcast and it was drizzling a bit. I messaged the North Smithfield Instagram page and asked them if the game was still on. Their message, “yes, the bus is almost there.” Good enough for me, so I took the drive up Route 4 to Route 95N and into Providence to Route 146W. Then I took the exit for Breakneck Hill Rd (love that name), left off the exit and then about a mile or so up I took a left into the Davies Career and Technical High School driveway. Then, through the parking lot and around a turnaround to park next to the field. There was a really nice crowd gathered when I arrived around 8:55am and it would build throughout the game.
59° and overcast skies at first pitch, around 9:03am in Lincoln. The field was in good shape, recently mowed and with some rain overnight, a bit slick on the infield. I took a spot behind home plate to catch the first few innings. To my left was a pretty large contingent of North Smithfield fans and family members. After the lineups were exchanged at home plate, the Davies club headed out to take the field in the top of the 1st inning. Davies handed the ball to right hander Jase Deanseris to start the game. Deanseris pitched to contact but unfortunately got bit by the error bug in the field, with 3 straight defensive errors to start the game. After an infield fly pop out, Deanseris struck out one batter, then walked one to load the bases. Already down 1-0, Deanseris had to really dig deep to keep Davies close, and did so with an important strikeout to end the first and the North Smithfield threat.
North Smithfield High School, up 1-0, handed the baseball to right hander Cole Skinner for this important Game 2 matchup. Skinner, like Deanseris pitched to contact as Davies got on the base paths quickly with a single and then a stolen base to put a runner in scoring position right away. Davies was putting together some really good at bats early, fouling off a lot of Skinner’s pitches, working on their timing, and more importantly showing the other players on the bench a ton of pitches. After a lengthy at bat, the #3 hitter Daniel Rose cracked a single to left field, the runner from second sprinted around third, and there was a close play at the plate. Safe was the call and Davies had tied the game. Davies would then load the bases, just like North Smithfield had in their half of the 1st, but would come up empty to score again. After a very entertaining and action packed 1st inning, the score was knotted at 1-1.
North Smithfield got right back on the offensive in the top of the 2nd inning with consecutive walks, both scoring on a long fly ball to left field that dropped in for a 3 base hit, followed by another walk to put runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out. North Smithfield was charging and Davies needed a special play to get their momentum stopped or at the very least, slowed down. Davies did get that special play and here is how I saw it. First the setup…When you see a catcher in a game call timeout and stand in front of the plate and do a bunch of hand signals or call out a play (Alabama, Alabama), it typically means how the catcher would like the team defense set up for a steal of second with a runner at third. The runner steals second, the defense can either attempt to throw the runner out, or fake a throw to second, or simply just let the runner advance, or some other play that would involve a fielder cutting off the throw to second, attempting to catch the runner at third running home or off the base too far. It’s complicated but here is how the Davies defense worked their magic into a very impressive defensive out, a real team effort.
North Smithfield had runners on 1st and 3rd. Ball 1 was thrown by Deanseris and the runner from first took off for second base. The Davies Catcher, Dave Laquale stood up and fired a strike towards second base. With the ball in the air, the North Smithfield runner from third took off for home plate. Davies SS, Noah Campanelli sprinted into the space about 10 feet in front of the 2nd base bag and snatched the baseball in the air, then pivoted to see where the runner from 3rd base was. The North Smithfield runner, caught way off the base, attempted to dive back to 3rd. Campanelli fired a strike to the Davies’ third baseman who tagged the North Smithfield runner out, completing a very special and much needed defensive gem. A real team effort and it was executed about as perfect as you can in a very stressful part of the game. Great job Davies defense.
I wrote down in my notes “will this be a big momentum change?” as the two teams moved to the bottom of the 2nd inning. For an inning and a half of baseball, there was a ton of baseball action – hits, walks, stolen bases, plays at the plate, bases loaded jams. Both teams came ready to play and both played really loose and cool out in the field and at the plate. This inning, North Smithfield’s defense quieted the Davies bats with a quick inning, I think I counted only 6 or 7 pitches, highlighted (for me) with a very strong throw from deep third base to first by North Smithfield’s Kayden Artruc, who exhibited a cannon of an arm all game. In fact, the left side of the North Smithfield defense with Artruc and athletic shortstop David Doherty were very impressive all game long, make routine plays look easy and highlight plays look even easier. Solid on the left side for North Smithfield High School.
With North Smithfield up 6-1 heading into the 4th inning, I decided to wander around the Davies baseball field area and out into left field for a few photos. There was a scoreboard at the field, although it wasn’t turned on for this particular game. Many of the fans had parked themselves behind home plate or up the hill a bit on the third base side of the field. Heading into left field, there was a row of bleachers and some fans had gathered to watch the game there. It was still overcast and drizzly around the 4th inning and many had sweatshirts and hats on, not very summer like conditions throughout the game. As I walked past the bleachers, I got a shot of the outfield area which had no fences, just the wooden backdrop of the surrounding woods. I took this video of the field from that vantage point.
And this photo of the outfield perimeter.
Not at all familiar with the Davies Field rules, but I’m guessing a long fly ball hit into these woods after a few hops would constitute a ground rule double. Or maybe a wicked long fly ball that lands directly in the woods would be called a home run? Still, it would take a pretty good size crack of the bat to reach these woods, even on a few bounces. As I was checking out the left field area, the game was moving at a little bit faster pace. North Smithfield had maintained its lead at 6-1 as the two teams headed into the bottom of the 5th inning. As I left the game and headed home, the two teams had reached the closing innings of Game 2.
Through my GameChanger app, I saw that Davies would plate one more run in the game, with North Smithfield adding 2 more in the top of the 7th to push the lead to 8-2. And that is how it ended. North Smithfield moves on in the RIIL D3 State Baseball Tournament and will now face Classical High School in the finals series, set to begin later this week. The finals will take place at Rhode Island College’s Pontarelli Field.
It was a very exciting morning of baseball featuring North Smithfield vs Davies Career and Technical High School. It was my first trip to Davies and I really liked the field and its wooden backdrop. Fans were treated to a very entertaining game with a lot of game action including a few defensive gems by both teams. In the end, North Smithfield’s offense got it done and they will now move on to the finals of the RIIL D3 State Baseball Tournament. Good luck to Classical and North Smithfield this week up at RIC!!!