NP-Smithfield Babe Ruth 14s take fourth straight R.I. crown

NP-Smithfield Babe Ruth 14s take fourth straight R.I. crown

The members of the North Providence-Smithfield Babe Ruth League’s 14-year-old all-star baseball team that won its fourth straight state title last Wednesday are, in front from left, Michael Allard, Vincent Pontarelli, Angelo Fuscellaro, Tony Abed, and Luca Simonelli; in back, coaches Dom Pontarelli and Nick Feola, Jack LaRocque, Sean Francisco, Sean Clifford, Jonas Diaz, Domenic McNeil, Thomas Malloy, James Doyle, Ronnie Paux, and manager Ralph Simonelli.
All-star team heads to New Hampshire this weekend for N.E. tourney; 15s travel to Conn. for regionals

COVENTRY – For the fourth straight year, the North Providence-Smithfield Babe Ruth League’s 14-year-old all-star baseball team felt right at home at Coventry’s Paine Field and came away with a cherished state championship.

And like they did in their 2019 march to the state crown, the all-stars drained all the drama out of repeating as champions in their double-elimination tourney. They outscored their three opponents by a 35-9 margin, and in their title game last Wednesday night, they rolled to an 11-4 win over the Warwick PAL.

NP-Smithfield, which extended its win streak in state tournament play to 10 games with its three victories, will now set its sights on the eight-team New England tournament at Simard Field in Rochester, N.Y., which kicks off on Friday morning with pool play games and concludes next Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. with the title game.

The all-stars will face the New Hampshire state champion in its pool play opener on Friday at noon, the Connecticut state champs on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., and the Maine champs the following morning at the same time.

The teams that place second and third in their respective pools will face each other in the quarterfinals on Monday, and the teams that finish first in their pools will receive a bye into Tuesday’s semifinals and take on Monday’s winners.

NP-Smithfield, which is managed by Ralph Simonelli, who was the head coach of the 2017 team that began the run of state titles, had reached the New England finals in 2019 and the semis in 2018.

In last week’s championship game, NP-Smithfield snapped a 2-2 tie by scoring runs in the bottom of the second and fourth innings, and in the sixth, the all-stars put the game away with a five-run rally.

That was more than enough support for starting pitcher Jonas Diaz and reliever Sean Clifford, who teamed up to toss a two-hitter that included 10 strikeouts. Diaz picked up the win by throwing four hitless innings, and Clifford earned a three-inning save.

Offensively, Sean Francisco keyed NP-Smithfield’s 13-hit attack with a double and a triple, and James Doyle added two base hits and knocked in three runs. The top two batters in the lineup, Ronnie Paux and Angelo Fuscellaro, each collected two hits and as many runs batted in, and Diaz had two hits and scored three times.

NP-Smithfield had opened the tournament on Saturday, July 10, with a resounding 15-1 victory over Coventry that was halted after five innings by the mercy rule. Again, the all-stars received strong two-hit pitching from Diaz and reliever Luca Simonelli, and again, they collected double digits in hits with 14.

Diaz went 3-for-4 with a double, three RBIs, and two runs scored, and Tommy Malloy went 3-for-3 with a double, three runs scored, and two RBIs to lead the attack. Domenic McNeil singled, doubled, and knocked in three runs, and Fuscellaro collected a two-run single, stole three bases, and scored three runs.

The following night, NP-Smithfield earned its berth in the championship round by topping the Warwick PAL, 9-5. The all-stars snapped a 3-3 tie by scoring twice in the home half of the third and fourth innings, and McNeil, Paux, and Vincent Pontarelli teamed up on the hill to limit Warwick to six base hits, as McNeil and Paux each worked three innings and allowed two hits apiece.

NP-Smithfield only collected seven hits in this game, but also took advantage of 10 walks from four Warwick pitchers. Malloy and Diaz each collected two hits and scored twice; Doyle drove in two runs and swiped two bases, Fuscellaro scored three runs and also stole two bases, and Jack LaRocque delivered a key RBI single late in the game.

Also heading out of state to a regional tournament this weekend is the NP-Smithfield’s 15-year-old all-star team, which clinched its fifth straight state title 10 days ago and will head to Trumbull High School in Trumbull, Conn.

The all-stars, who had reached the New England finals in 2016 and 2017, will battle the Connecticut state champions in their pool play opener on Friday at 10 a.m., the Maine champs the following day at 1 p.m., and the New Hampshire champions on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Like the 14-year-old tournament, the teams that place second and third in their respective pools will play each other in Monday’s quarterfinals; the teams that finish first in their pools will receive a bye into Tuesday’s semis and face Monday’s winners, and the championship game is next Wednesday morning.

Unfortunately for the NP-Smithfield 13-year-old all-stars, their bid to capture their fourth straight title came up short when they suffered a 5-2 loss to the Warwick PAL in last Wednesday’s finals. NP-Smithfield had lost its tournament opener to Warwick, 11-6, but came back to earn a rematch with Warwick by posting a hard-fought 15-9 win over Cranston.

NP-Smithfield catcher Tommy Malloy, left, shown receiving the tournament’s Most Valuable Player from his manager, Ralph Simonelli, shined defensively behind the plate, and as the team’s number three batter, he went 6-for-10 in the tournament with seven runs scored and three stolen bases.