District I belongs to NPLL 11-12s

District I belongs to NPLL 11-12s

The members of the North Providence Little League’s ages 11-12 all-star team, which captured the District I title on Monday night at Romano Field, are, from left, coach Nick DiScullio, manager Sal Piccirillo, Jaden Dexter, Nick Natale, Matthew Lalanne, Tyler Oliver, Devin Curtis, Josh DeCellio, Vincent DeLisi, Avian DaRosa, Bronk DiScullio, Mike Ryan, Gavin Fortes, J.T. Raftery, coach John Raftery, Collin Briggs, and coach Mike Ryan.
Major Division all-stars knock off nine-time defending champion CWLL for title, face Riverside on Saturday in state tournament opener in Cumberland

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The North Providence Little League’s Major Division ages 11-12 all-star team accomplished something special on Monday night that no ballclub had been able to do for nearly a decade – end Cranston Western’s long run as District I champions.

Thanks to the spectacular two-hit pitching of Mike Ryan, tha all-stars became the first North Providence team since 2006 to capture a district title, as NPLL posted a 3-0 victory before a standing-room-only crowd at Romano Field that halted CWLL’s bid for a 10th straight championship.

When Ryan ended the contest by striking out cleanup batter Jacob Gendreau, he was instantly mobbed by his teammates on the side of the mound as fireworks lit up the partially-dark sky in right-center field. And after the all-stars did a victory lap with their championship banner on their field, they celebrated in the right-field corner with several of their fans who stormed the field.

And the all-stars and their fans had a good reason to openly celebrate the title. After dropping its double-elimination tournament opener to CWLL on July 5, North Providence fell into the losers’ bracket, but went on to rattle off six straight victories, including its final two at Cranston Western’s expense.

Needing to beat the defending champs twice, North Providence grabbed a just-what-the-doctor-ordered 6-3 victory on Sunday night at Cranston’s Varrato Field and rode that momentum into Monday’s winner-take-all showdown for the district banner.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” said NPLL manager Sal Piccirillo. “To lose our first game and then win six straight elimination games is a remarkable accomplishment.”

North Providence’s reward for capturing its district crown is a berth in the state tournament at Cumberland’s Garvin Field, which begins this weekend. NPLL will kick off the tourney on Saturday at 11 a.m. by facing District II champion Riverside, which knocked off defending state champion Barrington to claim its first title since 2017. At 1:30 p.m., Smithfield, which won its first District IV title since 1987, will take on District III champion Warwick Continental.

The winners will face each other next Monday at 7:45 p.m. for a spot in Friday’s championship round. Saturday’s losing teams will take the field at 5:30 p.m. that night and try to keep their state title hopes alive.

“We don’t want to rest on this (title),” said Piccirillo. “We want to go (to Cumberland) and play our best and see what happens. We want to see if we can keep this run moving. If we can keep advancing, let’s do it.”

North Providence had averaged double digits in hits in its first five tournament wins, but could only produce five in Monday’s victory off CWLL starting pitcher Dylan Guglietta, who threw the first four innings, and reliever Ezra Small, who worked the final two.

But three of those hits came in a decisive three-run rally in the top of the third inning. Tyler Oliver, who was the only player in the game to collect multiple hits, broke a scoreless tie with a run-scoring double that he lined over the head of left fielder D.J. Malloy.

With one out, Nick Natale dropped a single into center for the game’s first hit, and after Bronx DiScullio walked, Oliver socked his clutch double. An out later, Gavin Fortes delivered a big two-run double that hugged the left-field line.

Ryan, meanwhile, struck out eight batters, walked three, and quietly carried a no-hit bid into the bottom of the fifth, but with two outs, Angelo Minyetti broke it up with a bloop single to right.

With two outs in the sixth, CWLL tried to stage a magical comeback when Small lined a sharp single that struck Ryan on his leg and caromed into the first base coaching box. But Ryan shook off the hard one-hopper, and after he walked the next batter he faced, he whiffed Gaudreau to end the threat and set off the post-game fireworks.

In Sunday’s win, NPLL received a strong outing from starting and winning pitcher Vincent DeLisi, who scattered seven singles and two walks in five-plus innings of work. DeLisi walked the only batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth, but DiScullio relieved him and earned a save by striking out three of the four batters he faced.

NPLL took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third on a run-scoring double by Oliver that one-hopped the fence in left-center and a sacrifice fly to right by Ryan. CWLL came back to tie the score in the bottom of the inning, but NPLL answered back with a four-run rally in the fourth that was highlighted by J.T. Raftery’s two-run double into the left-field corner.

Of NPLL’s six tournament victories, none offered more drama than North Providence’s 6-5 win over Cranston East in last Friday’s losers’ bracket finals. The game took 11 innings and nearly 3½ hours and saw Fortes score the winning run in the top of the 11th on a fielder’s choice grounder by Josh DeCellio, who collected four hits in the game.

Down 2-1 after four innings of play, NPLL scored four times in the fifth to take a 5-2 lead, as Avian DaRosa, who collected three hits, broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run single. But Cranston East tied the game in the bottom of the sixth by scoring three unearned runs off three errors by NPLL’s defense.

The winning pitcher was Ryan, who worked the final 4 1/3 innings, striking out 10 batters and allowing no hits. He stranded the winning run on third in the bottom of the seventh, and despite walking two batters in the 10th, he picked off a runner at third to keep the score tied.

“That was one of the greatest games I have ever been involved in,” added Piccirillo, who saw Natale get the start on the hill and strike out 11 batters and yield five hits in his 5 2/3 innings of work. “Both teams battled to the end. Our pitching was great all night, from Natale’s strong start to DeLisi’s bridge inning and Ryan taking the game over on the mound. And for Bronx to catch all 11 innings on a hot humid night was huge.”

Prior to that game, North Providence had posted a 10-0 victory over Fox Point that was halted after five innings by the mercy rule, as Ryan and DeLisi teamed up to throw a no-hitter and strike out 11 batters. Oliver also hit his third home run of the tournament, Natale added two hits and two RBIs, and Ryan also had two hits and scored three times.