The two Rhode Island teams in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) – The Ocean State Waves, The Newport Gulls – help form the five team NECBL Coastal Division. The Waves and The Gulls play several times throughout the summer (at Old Mountain Field, at Cardines Field) in what is called the “Pell Bridge Series,” named appropriately after the Newport Pell Bridge which each team must cross to face each other. Unless, they want to drive up through Providence, up or down 24, 138, etc…Nah, the Pell Bridge is much, much faster. So, the first game of the 2022 Pell Bridge Series was last night as the Ocean State Waves hosted the Newport Gulls at Old Mountain Field, Wakefield. And here is how I saw it.
First, I wanted to mention that Anchor Sports was Saturday night’s game sponsor and did a great job all week promoting “Little League Day,” which was a promotional night for Rhode Island Little League teams. As the promo read, “wear little league jersey, get free admission to the game,” and the Waves and Anchor Sports did an amazing job on social media promoting this special event. Anchor Sports Indoor Sports Facility is located just minutes from Old Mountain Field and has become a valuable resource for not only the Ocean State Waves, but all of South County sports teams, athletes, and families. Also, great to catch up with the Rosen family during the game and I was promised some Anchor Sports swag, so you heard it here, you are all witnesses, and Rosens – I’m holding you to it!!!
Rachel and I arrived around first pitch, 6:25 or so, and found a spot next to the bleachers closer to the first base dugout of the Ocean State Waves. There was a larger than average crowd at the game and the fans packed the bleachers behind home plate and stretched all the way out to the left field foul lines. Great to see a big turnout of fans, especially younger fans dressed in their Little League uniforms, some even donning eye black for the game. The Waves interns and staff were buzzing around the fan areas gathering interest for the in between innings activities. The Tube, the snack shack at Old Mountain Field, had a nice line and was cranking out Saturday night treats. The weather was summer like, no bugs, no crazy wind, tons of fans, great seats, two Rhode Island summer collegiate baseball teams ready to go – Wow, I took a moment at first pitch to really soak it all in.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, I spotted a familiar face walking with his family down to get a closer look of the Newport Gulls starter, Dom Perachi, the standout left handed starter for local Salve Regina University. And in the front row of the bleachers, were a number of baseball scouts with radar guns, notebooks, Ipads, and an apparent interest in the Gulls starter as well. Perachi is a fantastic pitcher and should command a lot of attention, because he is that good! Getting back to the family man, I spotted him chatting with Anchor Sport’s Josh Rosen and recognized him as Salve Baseball Head Coach Eric Cirella and made my way down to chat with him for a bit. Cirella was overwhelmingly positive about Perachi – his command and his athleticism. It was really cool hearing the scouting report on Perachi from his longtime college coach. Great to chat with Coach Cirella and meet his family.
Barrington’s Jake Studley, who started for the Ocean State Waves and played outfield, came up to bat in the bottom of the 2nd, so I hopped down to backstop to snap a few photos. Four or five pitches in, Studley fouled a baseball off straight back and came within a foot of where I was kneeling taking photos. Of course, the netting was there to protect me and I was in no real danger, but still. It was a kind of snap back moment that I hoped nobody caught. Well, even if they did, it was still a cool thing to witness.
I mentioned the promotional event earlier with the local Little Leaguers. Kids were everywhere on Saturday night. Running after foul balls, playing catch on the sides of the dugouts, chasing more foul balls, back and forth to the Tube, of course watching the game, and getting players to autograph baseballs. In between innings, some Little Leaguers got the opportunity to play fun games for prizes right there on the field as the players were warming up. And what I loved to see most was the interactions between the young fans and the Waves players, who took the time each and every time to sign baseball after baseball. That is what makes fans – that connection to the players!
By the way, the game on the field was absolutely rocking with talent. The Gulls had staked Perachi to an early 2-0 lead and both teams played even keel baseball for close to 8 innings. You can’t fully appreciate the talent on the field unless you attend a game and see highlight plays that the players make look absolutely routine. For example, slow ground balls bounding to the shortstop area that you might think are a sure base hit – NOPE, the shortstops in the NECBL charge the baseball, scoop and throw in one motion with a laser throw to first, the first baseman stretches out and scoops the ball off the ground for a sensational play. Or in the NECBL, merely a 6-3 putout, these players are that good!!! Catchers with radar busting arm strength, outfielders that can track a baseball down in the night sky otherwise heading for the gaps, baserunners going first to third in a blink of an eye, and the pitching prowess worthy of an entire front row of very interested MLB scouts. What an experience to be at these NECBL games and see this level of talent!!!
After a few innings behind the plate, I did manage to walk down to the left field area to grab a photo of the huge crowd on hand. Family, friends, host families, baseball fans, Little Leaguers, and community members all hanging out on a really comfortable June night for baseball. The field lights had been on since first pitch with the cloudy skies above. There were a few breaks in the clouds throughout the game with some incredible night skies, very picturesque down at Old Mountain Field Saturday night.
In the end, the Newport Gulls held on to win a close one over the Ocean State Waves by a score of 2-1. It was a fast moving game, lot of defensive gems, lot of strikeouts by Perachi (who notched 11 in the game), tons of activity in the stands and on the field. Fans got to meet players and get their autographs, I think that was my favorite part of last night’s games. Great job players in taking the time to meet these young fans and help build the connection in the Waves community. Field looked great, weather was great, game was even greater. Pell Series Game 1 goes to the Gulls. And another amazing Rhode Island Baseball Experience goes to the fans of all ages, the player’s families, and yes to me!!!