At the end of the day – or the beginning, for that matter – we all know what makes the difference on a baseball diamond.
I’ll give you a hint: you can never have too much of it.
Sure, chicks may dig the long ball, but the chicks will also find themselves digging losing teams and losing players if the other ingredient isn’t prominently in the fold.
Baseball is all about pitching.
That’s a good thing around here. This year in Warwick, pitching is the straw that stirs the drink for all four high school teams.
More than in the past few years, you can find pitching depth all around. They’ve all got it on some level, and any legitimate success they have will rest on the arms of those pitchers.
It’s almost impossible to win without it. Just looking at recent history, the championship Hendricken teams of the past two years have had Mike King (now pitching at Boston College), Tom Pannone (now pitching in the Minor Leagues for the Cleveland Indians) and Bobby Indeglia (now playing at Holy Cross).
Before that, the championship Cranston West team of 2007 and 2008 had Anthony Meo (now pitching in the Minor Leagues for the Arizona Diamondbacks). Last season’s runner-up, North Kingstown, had Dom Grillo, a now-senior who is committed to pitching at URI.
Good pitching beats good hitting at every level, but the virtues of having dominant pitching are perhaps even more important in high school. In high school, good pitching can make up for an offense that is almost non-existent.
Two years ago, the Warwick Vets baseball team willed itself into the playoffs with an offense that could barely get on the board. With pitchers Shane Johnson and Kevin Hickey leading the way at the top of the rotation, though, the ’Canes won eight games and nearly won another in the postseason.
Pitching, pitching and more pitching. That’s the way it works. Warwick schools are already proving that to be the case again this season.
Hendricken is 4-0 so far, and has two shutouts in the books.
Warwick Vets is 3-1, and it also has two shutouts under its belt. Pilgrim is 2-2 and has given up two runs in three separate games this season and Toll Gate, which has just one win, has given up one run in two different games.
Those teams have all showed capable offenses as well, but it’s the pitching that has set the tone so far.
Hendricken is never short on pitching talent, and it’s got its fair share of arms once again. At the top of the rotation is junior Mike McCaffrey, who took over the No. 2 spot in the rotation on last year’s state championship team.
Senior Anthony Graziano throws hard and has had early-season success, while sophomore Matt Kennedy could be the team’s next big-time pitcher, and he’s seen a lot of innings already. Others like Christian Travers and Mike Webb have provided some depth.
Vets has a three arms that are crucial to its success – senior Dan Greaves and juniors Austin Lamaire and Shane Kittila – and head coach Nolan Landy likes to refer to all three as his aces. So far, they’ve all pitched like it, and the ’Canes have legitimate hopes of making a deep playoff run because of them.
Not to be out-shined, Pilgrim’s pitching has excelled as well. Senior Stephen Noti is the go-to guy, and junior Elijah Dressel has taken a big step forward from his sophomore campaign. Others, like Mike Broccoli and Chris Duchesneau have stepped into roles, and the Pats also have a big wild card in senior Ryan Morris, who is returning from labrum surgery and was a Division I prospect prior to getting hurt.
The Titans are perhaps the weakest of the bunch on the mound, but they aren’t far behind. They’ve struggled some with four pitchers sidelined due to injury, but when everyone is healthy, they’ll be in business. James Meizoso leads the way after a dominant summer with the New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 American Legion team, and the rotation has also received a boost from freshman Manny Bjorklund, a star in both the Coventry Little League and Babe Ruth ranks the past two years. Steven Foster led the team to its first win on Monday, throwing a complete game and allowing just one run to Coventry.
Four teams, all with capable pitching. That’s not always the case around here, but since good pitching does in fact beat good hitting, 2014 shouldn’t be short on wins across the board.
Warwick can pitch.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.