October 24, 2014
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It’s been a meteoric rise for Patriots
WILLIAM GEOGHEGAN

Notes written while the spring season careens to the finish line . . .

It’s little solace to say in the wake of another heartbreaking title game loss, but it’s worth saying anyway.

The Pilgrim girls’ lacrosse program is something special.

It was just four years ago that the school created a team from scratch with the help of Tom Flanders and Charlie Benson, who had done the same at Warwick Vets. I remember stopping by a practice that first year, on a cold Saturday morning, and feeling enthusiasm high schoolers don’t usually emit on cold Saturday mornings. Flanders and Benson said then to watch out in a few years, and they knew what they were talking about.

In its third year as a program, Pilgrim made the Division III championship game. This year, despite losing most of the players who made the meteoric rise possible, the Pats were back again.

They fell to Chariho in crushing fashion on Saturday, losing an 8-3 lead and coming up empty as they tried to rally in the final minutes.

But the meteoric rise and the success of the program shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle of another loss. It’s been a heck of a ride. The program has put several players into the college ranks, players who wouldn’t have ever picked up a lacrosse stick if not for the decision to get the team up and running.

Pilgrim will face more challenges next year as it bids farewell to a good senior class that includes prolific scorer Haley McCusker, but going forward, the rise just may continue.

I certainly wouldn’t bet against them.

Draft calls?

Bishop Hendricken’s baseball program has a run of state championships to keep alive this month, but there’s another run that the Hawks would like to see continue this week.

For three straight years, Hendricken has had at least one player selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Jeff Roy and Tom Pannone were selected last year. Pannone was also drafted right out of Hendricken in 2012, while alumni Evan Marzilli and Andrew Ferreira also got the call. In 2011, it was alumni Chris Costantino and Dan Gamache.

This year, Warwick native and former Hawk Tom Verdi has a chance to keep the streak going when the draft gets underway Thursday. The University of Connecticut shortstop is eligible for the draft for the first time in his college career and indications from scouting services are that he could get a late-round call. He would then have the option of signing or returning to school for his senior year. Verdi hit .263 for the Huskies this spring.

We’ll see what happens this year, but if the streak ends, it may not be a long hiatus. Several current Hawks figure to be in the mix to get drafted right out of high school next year. In 2016, Warwick native and former Hawk Mike King will be a draft-eligible junior at Boston College and should get plenty of buzz. In this year’s draft preview by Perfect Game, King was tabbed as the best 2016 draft prospect in Massachusetts.

Pros doing well

Several of those drafted Hawks, along with a Pilgrim alumnus, are continuing their climbs through the professional ranks this season.

Roy and Gamache are both in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. In his first full year as a pro, Roy is hitting .240 with 15 stolen bases for Class A Bradenton. Gamache has been working his way back from an injury suffered in spring training.

Marzilli, who’s in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, batted .244 with 16 extra-base hits at Class A Visalia before a recent promotion to Double A Mobile.

Pannone, a draft pick of the Indians last year, pitched in 14 games in the Rookie Arizona League last season. He has not started a minor league assignment yet this year.

Furney celebrates in style

Pilgrim graduate and former CCRI and URI standout Sean Furney went undrafted last year but signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks and is making headway.

Pitching for the Class A South Bend Silver Hawks, Furney celebrated his birthday on Monday with seven shutout innings in a victory over the Bowling Green Hot Rods. Furney struck out five, allowed two hits and needed just 80 pitches to get through seven.

It was the second straight impressive start for Furney, who allowed one run in seven innings in his previous outing. Furney now has a 4.67 ERA on the season.

William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and williamg@rhodybeat.com. Find him on Twitter @RhodyWill.


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