Running around the state the last few weeks, covering as many games as possible and seeing as many different teams as I can makes this job a heck of a lot of fun.
It also makes me lose track of time.
This week, I received an abrupt punch in the face when my email box was hit up with seeds for this weekend’s RIIL Boys Tennis State Qualifying Tournaments. Playoffs? Can’t be. We just got done with the final two weeks of second winter.
As I wrote stories last week, the truth was hard to ignore. Most sports are at the midway point or will officially hit that mark this week. Games are starting to matter more and teams are beginning to establish themselves as contenders.
There’s a lot going on and it’s really hard to keep up with it all — believe me.
So, here’s where we stand as we hit the second half of the spring season, with playoffs only three weeks away. We’re leaving golf out of this one and track’s picture will start to be painted once the big postseason meets begin next weekend.
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A lot of the familiar faces have been near the top of the Division I standings with Hendricken, North Kingstown, Pilgrim, Portsmouth and South Kingstown doing what most expected. Cumberland has been a pleasant surprise in I-A and Barrington is not looking particularly flustered after its move from Division II. The Skippers are the only undefeated team left, or were when this column was written before their game with one-loss Portsmouth on Friday.
Division II has been dominated by undefeated Westerly, but Chariho, Johnston and Prout are bunched up right behind the Bulldogs in II-B. On the II-A side, there’s no prohibitive favorite anymore. Burrillville, St. Raphael, Woonsocket, North Providence, Ponaganset and Mount St. Charles are all taking turns beating each other and should make for an interesting race.
Classical was cruising along in Division III until suffering a 1-0 loss to Davies. The Purple play undefeated North Smithfield next week in a two-game series that will tell us a lot about where the road to the title goes through. Watch out for Juanita Sanchez, which has quietly put together a terrific season so far. (And if you want a darkhorse, it’s Davies.)
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There won’t be a more competitive postseason this year than what we’re going to see in Division I softball. When this column was written, La Salle, Bay View and Pilgrim all had one loss — with the Bengals downing the Patriots earlier in the week for their first L — and Coventry had two.
The scary part about Division I softball is, even with teams like St. Raphael, Smithfield, Cranston West, Cumberland, East Providence or Burrillville/North Smithfield all hovering around .500, each has as good a chance as any in a single-elimination format. Expect upsets.
Division II-North has been led by Ponaganset, East Greenwich and Toll Gate, but West Warwick and Lincoln both have pitching that could flip a series upside down. Mt. Hope, led by ace Reilly Amaral, remain undefeated in II-South and is the only team to beat Prout. Middletown and Westerly are right in the thick of it and Narragansett has been grinding out wins.
Division III has been all about defending champ Central and last year’s runner-up, Shea/Tolman. Davies’ only two losses this season were to the Knights and Raiders, but it seems like the top two teams are the teams to beat this spring.
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Let’s make this easy: It’s La Salle and Moses Brown and everyone else is playing for third. The Quakers host the Rams Wednesday in their lone regular-season matchup and, if my own kids have games that day, they’re not going to have to walk.
As dominant as the top two have been in Division I, that’s how dominant Mount St. Charles has been in Division II. The Mounties escaped with a 7-6 win over Prout/Exeter-West Greenwich on May 3, but haven’t shown signs of letting anything slow them down.
It’s the same story in Division III, where the Revenge Tour rolls on for Pilgrim. After losing last year’s D-III title game to Burrillville, the Patriots have played with purpose and look to be in control. Narragansett and Toll Gate will do whatever possible to give them a run and don’t count out Cranston West.
Division IV is a little more competitive. Smithfield and Tiverton each has one loss and will meet in a big game on May 16. North Smithfield, last year’s Division III finalist, handed Smithfield its lone loss and the Northmen play Tiverton on Monday. Expect one of the three to end up hoisting the trophy in June.
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Moses Brown has won the previous six state titles and has given little indication it won’t win No. 7 this spring. Barrington put up a fight in their matchup two weeks ago and one-loss Lincoln School will get a shot on May 17.
Portsmouth has been equally dominant in Division II. The Patriots are undefeated and beat one-loss Toll Gate and one-loss Burrillville by 10 goals or more. Portsmouth lost the Division II title game last year and it looks like the Patriots have let it fuel their fire all season.
Had a chance to see East Providence’s resurging program play last week in a win over Mount St. Charles and the Townies have quickly established themselves as the favorite. EP has two big games left with undefeated North Smithfield (May 10) and Providence Country Day/Blackstone Valley Prep (May 18). Cranston East has only one loss to its name and it’s the same story for Ponaganset. Much like the boys side, the lowest division of lacrosse will be the most competitive at playoff time.
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North Kingstown and Hendricken were expected to be contenders this spring and they are. La Salle? That makes sense with the talent the Rams have. Chariho? That’s the surprise story of the season so far. This section would have more, but thanks to early deadlines, I’m writing it ahead of the Chariho-La Salle match that took place Thursday night.
I did have a chance to see Mount St. Charles/North Smithfield play on Wednesday night and it’s clear why the former state champs are undefeated in Division II. You can never count out East Providence and Pilgrim has the talent to compete as well. Westerly is a dark horse, having handed Pilgrim a loss, and don’t sleep on Barrington.
After beating St. Raphael, 3-2, in the season opener, Lincoln hasn’t dropped a set, so its safe to say the Lions are the prohibitive favorite in Division III. Johnston and St. Raphael could close that gap in a hurry, though.
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La Salle is undefeated and, while it’s easy to just say the Rams are runaway favorites, don’t count out Barrington. The Eagles lost both matchups with La Salle, 4-3, and are not who the Rams want to see in the postseason. Moses Brown is strong and South Kingstown is young but talented.
Mount St. Charles and Smithfield are both undefeated in Division II. The teams meet May 10 to give us an idea of how the title match might go, but don’t count out Smithfield, Cumberland, Tiverton or Ponaganset. Tennis is a funny game and upsets tend to happen more often than you think.
Division III is top-heavy, with undefeated Providence Country Day and St. Raphael leading the way and two one-loss teams in East Providence and Chariho. They’ll all be playing each other in the final weeks of the season, which will clear that picture up a lot sooner.
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