Skippers playing for title at McCoy
Playing for the Division I state title at McCoy Stadium, North Kingstown High’s varsity baseball team faces a tough assignment going up against the defending champs, the Bishop Hendricken Hawks.
Coach Kevin Gormley admits the Hawks might have an edge because the Hendricken players know what it takes to win the championship, but the Skippers are not intimidated, he said.
“I think we’ve just got to play our game,” he said. “We have a good shot to win.”
The f.irst game of the best-ofthree series was postponed Tuesday due to pending rain. That game was played Wednesday night. Results were not available at press time. Game two will be played on Thursday, June 20, at 6:30 p.m. A third game, if necessary, will be played Friday night at McCoy.
Many of the Skippers have been on the field at McCoy before in 2010 and 2011. Gormely said the teens like playing there.
Prior to the first pitch of Wednesday’s opening game, Gormley said he did not see any pitching duels or other individual matchups that would be a deciding factor. Hendricken has a lot of good baseball players, he admitted, but so do the Skippers.
“The two best teams are playing,” he said. “At the end of the day, the team that plays the best will win.”
According the Gormley, North Kingstown can hit all the way up and down the lineup, but its real strength has come from pitching and defense.
“We don’t give away a lot of runs,” he said.
The coach said it would be hard to pick out one favorite game this season.
“There have been so many,” he said.
When pressed to pick one, he mentioned the 1-0 win over Lincoln in the regional finals.
“It was an exciting game,” he said.
Dominic Grillo earned the win by going the distance, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. The lone run of the game came off a Jake Mansfield walkoff single in the bottom of the seventh that scored Brian Cox. Cox was on base after leading off the inning with a double.
This series marks the last chance for the seniors, including Chris Hess, of North Kingstown, to capture a state title. Chris, the shortstop, is a familiar name due to his role on the Skippers’ varsity basketball team. He has been recruited to play Division I college baseball at the University of Rhode Island.
Chris is the only one going to a Division I program, but several other team members will be playing college ball.
Billy Young will play at Dean College in Franklin, Mass., while Austin Barry will suit up for the Community College of Rhode Island. Tyler Rains is going to Rhode Island College, and Jason Montanaro is bound for Western New England.
The Skippers (16-2 in the regular season) went 5-0 in playoff competition, sweeping East Greenwich in the opening round of the final four.
North Kingstown has won eight league titles under Gormley’s leadership, but the state championship has eluded the Skippers. The school has won the states before, but not in recent memory. The last title dates back to 1967.
Some of the players on the team have played for a state title before. The Skippers were swept two years ago when Cranston West won the title.
“The whole season has been a real good experience,” Gormley said. His team worked hard and he is proud of them, he added.
Jamestown’s Stephen Cirella, a freshman, is the only islander playing baseball at North Kingstown. Stephen is on the junior varsity squad. He plays the corner infield positions.
Gormley said Stephen went into a varsity game this season as a pinch runner. However, Gormely doesn’t expect that he’ll make it into one of the championship games.
Still, Stephen is excited. Wednesday was the first time he’s been to the Pawtucket stadium.
“I’m really excited to go there and support the baseball team,” he said.
According to Stephen, the whole season has been exciting, not to mention the winning streak in the playoffs.
Stephen credits the North Kingstown coaches for teaching him a lot. This year, he said, baseball has seemed like a whole new game.
Stephen played Little League baseball in Jamestown. He tried out for the Skippers and remembers he was nervous about being the only islander.
“There was a lot of good com- petition from North Kingstown,” he said. “The tryouts were difficult.”
Eighteen players made the team, but the coaches did make some cuts. He was one of only three freshmen on the roster.
Stephen said the JV team fared well in its competition and had a separate schedule of games.
“We had a couple of close games,” he said.
There is no postseason anymore for junior varsity teams, but the lower squad practiced every day with the varsity and gained experience.
The whole purpose of JV is to get the players ready to compete at the varsity level, Stephen said.
“Now I know what to expect in the future,” he said.
Stephen plans to keep practicing to improve his skills. Asked if he might move up next year and be given more playing time in the varsity lineup, he said it might be possible.
“If I work hard and do my best, I could possibly earn a spot,” he said.
Stephen is the son of Steve and Lori Cirella.
His father and older brother Eric coach baseball at Salve Regina University.