Post 29 joins R.I. 19-20 Elite Baseball League this summer

Post 29 joins R.I. 19-20 Elite Baseball League this summer

North Providence native P.J. Rioles, shown pitching last year for the North Providence High baseball team, is one of the top veteran players back on this summer’s Smithfield/North Providence Post 29 Senior Division team, which will kick off its season next week. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
Smithfield-NP program begins six-week season next Monday

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A season after making its debut in the R.I. American Legion baseball circuit, the Smithfield/North Providence Post 29 program will debut in another league this summer.

So will seven other American Legion programs in this state.

After the American Legion’s national headquarters pulled the plug on the 2020 campaign because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smithfield/North Providence joined forces with the likes of defending two-time state champion Upper Deck Post 14 and neighboring Scituate Post 19 and Howard Rogers Post 25 of Pawtucket in forming the R.I. 19-20 Elite Baseball League.

“The ‘19’ is for the virus and the ‘20’ is for this year,” said Post 29 head coach Lou Zammarelli, who added with a laugh, “I came up with that.”

The league, which formed on June 11 and will begin play on Monday night, will consist of a five-week regular season (with each ballclub playing 14 games) and a postseason that will include all eight teams and consist of single-elimination quarterfinal and semifinal rounds and a best-of-three championship series.

“We’re playing baseball,” said Zammarelli, whose Senior Division team will take on Howard Rogers next Monday at 6 p.m. at Max Read Field and host Scituate two nights later at 5:30 p.m. at North Providence High. “We’re not playing to go to a regional tournament. We’re just getting everyone out there to play the game.”

Like most leagues across the state who will play baseball these next two or three months, the R.I. Elite 19-20 League will be doing its best to adhere to the social distancing rules and the guidelines that Gov. Gina Raimondo recently established in her Phase 3 announcement, and the one of the most notables ones will come in the umpiring department.

“We’re only going to have one umpire behind the mound instead of crouching behind the catcher, and he’s going to be calling the whole game himself,” Zammarelli said. “We’re going to rely on the first and third base coaches to make the foul or fair calls up the lines.”

Managers and coaches wearing masks when they visit the mound and players abstaining from using their dugouts and each other’s equipment are three more things to keep in mind in the new league, which also contains Cranston’s Gershkoff-Auburn Post 20, Newport’s R&R Construction Post 7, South Kingstown Post 39, and West Warwick Post 2.

When Smithfield/NP’s Senior Division team takes the field next week, it will do so with an experienced roster that contains several recent high school graduates who were unable to suit up for their respective schools this past spring. Zammarelli is back as the head coach, and his assistants are Smithfield High head coach Jim Connell Jr., Jim Connell Sr., Paul Rioles, and Pete Marino.

Eleven players were members of last year’s club, and almost everyone on the roster can play multiple positions. Two players, North Providence’s P.J. Rioles and Smithfield’s Jake McDonough, were freshmen on their collegiate teams (Rioles for Clark University and McDonough for Johnson & Wales University) who each played two games before their seasons were cut short.

Smithfield’s players are Nathan Potter and Jordan Golato (pitcher-catcher), Tommy Sheppard and John Golato (infield-outfield), Joe Pitrone (third base-pitcher), Justin Gorgone and Zach Collins (infield-pitcher), outfielder Chris Olean, and pitchers Matt Antunes, Kyle Haberle, and McDonough.

North Providence’s Dom Pontarelli and Rioles, who pitch and play first base, and infielder-outfielder Ron Baccala are back from last year’s team, and they are joined by infielder-pitcher Nick Rioles, catcher C.J. Almagno, and outfielder Christian Carmosino.

As for the Junior Division team, which will be featured in a nine-team format (with Scituate again fielding two teams this year), it will be led by head coach Tyler Duffy and assistant coach Anthony SanMartino Sr.

Zach Lavallee and Chris Harvey are the two pitchers on a roster that also includes catchers Ryan Flynn and Nick Tsonos, catcher-first baseman Ryan Pallotta, infielders Bradyn Shadoian, Anthony SanMartino, Nick Collins, Chris Lopez, and Ryan Kennedy, and outfielders Tom Ferri, Rob Squillante, Jared Salema, Cam Corriveau, and Connor Guilfoyle.

“They have a good balance of players on that club,” added Zammarelli, who noted that Salema, Squillante, and Collins are also among the pitchers on the staff. “They’re covered in a lot of areas.”

The Junior Division team will open its season next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. by hosting Upper Deck at Smithfield High.