Two years ago, the Warwick Vets baseball team didn’t want to move down to Division II. Coming off its first Division I playoff appearance in three years and with a plethora of young talent in the program, the ’Canes felt like they were still D-I worthy.
It didn’t matter. Protests to the Interscholastic League went unnoticed, letters went unanswered and Vets was moved down a division last season.
The ’Canes actually struggled some in their first D-II year, going 9-7 and losing early in the playoffs. That may have validated the league’s decision to move Vets down, at least a little, but this season the ’Canes are proving to everybody what they already know.
They’re a D-I team, playing in D-II.
Vets is 10-2, with its only losses coming by a combined three runs to East Providence – another former D-I team that moved down last season alongside Vets – and Central, a perennial D-II contender.
Against the majority of the league, the ’Canes are a powerhouse. It’s a group playing below its talent-level.
The biggest reason? Their pitching. While the team may be D-I worthy across the board, the top of their rotation is upper-echelon D-I worthy.
I’d contend that Vets’ first, second and third starters stack up with anybody in the state.
Yes, that includes Bishop Hendricken, Cranston West, La Salle, Cumberland, Lincoln, East Greenwich, Portsmouth, whoever. The ’Canes hurling trio of Dan Greaves, Shane Kittila and Austin Lamaire are that good.
It’s hard to compare numbers in Division I and Division II because the competition disparity is greater than even apples and oranges. At least those things are fruits – sometimes it doesn’t even seem like the divisions are playing the same game.
Yet, Vets’ pitching numbers are so staggering that they shouldn’t be ignored when evaluating them on a statewide scale.
The ’Canes have seven shutouts in their 10 league victories, a number so absurd that no Division I team can relate. Hendricken – the two-time defending state champions and holders of a 13-1 record this season – has five shutouts. No other D-I team is even close.
And before you say “You can’t compare Hendricken’s shutouts in Division I to Vets’ shutouts in Division II,” I would say this – the Hawks talent level right now is so much greater than anyone else’s, that if there were a division higher than D-I, they’d be playing in it, all by themselves. In that sense, they’re playing down a division too.
East Providence is the only other team in the state that stacks up to Vets, as the Townies also have seven shutouts on the year. But they too are playing in the wrong division, as they’ve now gone 25-3 since moving down to Division II.
East Providence has allowed 22 runs in 12 games, Classical – which has only two shutouts – has allowed 21 runs in 11 games, and the ’Canes have allowed 24 runs in 12 games.
Yup, Vets is allowing just two runs per game. Hendricken, for contrast’s sake, is also allowing two runs per game with 28 given up in 14 games.
The ’Canes’ numbers get even better if you eliminate one poor pitching performance at the beginning of the year – a 9-7 loss to East Providence. Without that game factored in, Vets has given up 15 runs in 11 games.
That can’t be a fluke.
The most telling part about the numbers, though, is that all three starters have gotten in on the action. Of the seven shutouts, Greaves has three, Kittila has two, Lamaire has one and Jesse Holland earned a win in the other.
“We have three very, very good pitchers,” Greaves said on Monday.
Yes, they really do. To look at it another way, Greaves took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Monday against Wheeler and ended up surrendering two hits and one run in a 4-1 win over the Warriors.
That near no-hitter? That almost shutout? That was Vets’ eighth-best pitching performance of the season.
I don’t know if the ’Canes will win the D-II title or not this season. I don’t know if they’ll continue their eye-popping pitching performances into the postseason.
But I know they’d be a playoff team this year in Division I, and with any luck, they’ll be back there next year.
The numbers don’t lie.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.