The Cranston Babe Ruth 13-year olds made the World Series.
Falcons fly to first D-I title
It was a case of bad timing that Cranston West had one of its best-ever boys’ basketball teams in the same year that two championships were up for grabs. The new all-division state tournament was played after the old division tournaments, meaning the D-I champ wouldn’t necessarily be the state tournament champ.
That’s what happened to the Falcons – they won the D-I crown in amazing fashion but got upset in the state tourney by North Providence.
But that shouldn’t take any luster off West’s season; it was still a very special one.
Point guard Bryan Yarce became just the second player in school history to reach the 1,000-point margin. Along with fellow seniors, Andrew Levy, Jeff Diehl and Steve Rush, he led the Falcons to a 15-3 record, their best mark since moving into the state’s highest division.
And the memorable year had an incredible signature moment. Facing Central in the Division I championship game, West trailed by 13 points with just 2:04 left. Somehow, though, the Falcons came all the way back, scoring the final 13 points of regulation and tying the game on two Diehl free throws with 12.7 seconds left. In overtime, West rolled, pulling away for a four-point win. Yarce scored 30 points, including seven in a row during the late comeback.
It was an amazing finish and it gave West its first D-I basketball title. And even though there was a second title the Falcons didn’t get, the season and the D-I championship will go down in history.
West baseball does it big
As soon as the spring season began, the West baseball team was labeled as one of the favorites to bring home the state title. But the Falcons’ dream season looked like it might be going off the rails when North Kingstown freshman Dom Grillo pitched a gem to lead the Skippers past West 3-1 in game one of the championship series.
After that, West started swinging.
Against Grillo, the Falcons had managed just three hits. The next night, West pounded 13 hits and stayed alive with a 17-13 victory. Then, in the decisive game three, the Falcons roared back from a five-run deficit to win 18-7 and clinch the school’s first state title since 2007.
It was an impressive showing – West had 27 hits in the final two games of the series, including six home runs. As a team, the Falcons hit .415 in the last two games.
Mike Hayden had three home runs in the series, while Matt Pagano batted .500 with six RBI and was an unlikely hero on the mound. A lightly-used pitcher, Pagano allowed one run in the final five innings of game three, turning a slugfest into a one-sided blowout.
If it wasn’t exactly how West’s big senior class drew it up, it was a perfect finish all the same.
It was a heck of a year for baseball in Cranston, and the city’s reputation as Rhode Island’s baseball capital was further secured in June, when Anthony Meo and Jeff Diehl were both selected in the Major League Baseball Draft.
Meo, a 2008 graduate of West, was drafted out of Coastal Carolina by the Diamondbacks with the 63rd overall pick. Diehl, a former teammate of Meo’s who graduated from West this year, was selected right out of high school by the Mets, who picked him in the 23rd round. Both players signed professional contracts.
For Meo, the draft call was the continuation of an impressive career that started in his sophomore season at West, when he burst onto the scene in a playoff game and pitched the Falcons into the state finals. At Coastal Carolina, Meo became one of the top pitchers in the nation – and one of Rhode Island’s top baseball exports.
Diehl capped his high-school career with All-State honors and a state championship.
Together, they made Cranston proud.
A Summer to Remember
Spring was kind to Cranston’s baseball teams, with West winning the state title and East making a nice playoff run.
Summer was even better.
Between Little League, Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth and American Legion, there are 14 state titles up for grabs every summer. In 2011, Cranston teams won 10 of them. CLCF swept the four Cal Ripken divisions and Cranston Babe Ruth did the same for its three levels. Edgewood/South Elmwood won the Senior Little League championship, and in legion ball, Cranston teams won both the senior and junior divisions. On top of all that, Cranston Babe Ruth’s 13-year-olds won regionals and earned a trip to the World Series.
Even for a city with a rich baseball tradition, it was an amazing summer. In 2011, baseball success in Rhode Island went straight through Cranston.
’Bolts make everybody take notice
Freshman football doesn’t get the most attention, but when Cranston East played for the D-II freshman title in November, there was a big crowd on hand at Cranston Stadium.
And the ’Bolts put on quite a show.
All season, the team dominated, creating plenty of buzz along the way. After going undefeated in the regular season, they fell behind in their semifinal match-up but rallied for a win. Then, in the championship, East absolutely rolled. On the strength of 224 yards and five touchdowns from Marquem Monroe, the ’Bolts stormed to a 44-18 win and the schools first-ever freshman state title.
It was a perfect culmination, and – East hopes – the beginning of something special in the years to come.
East soccer makes a splash
In 2007, the East girls’ soccer team went 0-14-2. The ’Bolts rebounded the next year but had their struggles again in 2009, when they went 3-11-2.
Despite those ups and downs, the ’Bolts seemed to be moving in the right direction.
In 2011, they arrived in a pretty good spot.
The ’Bolts went 12-4 in the regular season, their best record in at least 12 years. And in the playoffs, they made headlines with a dramatic 6-4 win over a higher-seeded St. Raphael team. The Saints led 4-3 in overtime of that game, but with just one 10-minute overtime period left to make a comeback, East came up big. The ’Bolts scored three straight goals for a jaw-dropping win.
The ’Bolts didn’t go on to a championship; they lost their next game to Narragansett. But they remain on the right track.
And this stop on the journey was a very good one.
Allen keeps on running
Cranston West’s Bobby Allen made this list in 2010, when he won the state and New England cross country titles.
In 2011, he just kept going.
Allen won championships in the 1,500 and 3,000-meter races at the indoor track state meet then posted an upset win in the 1,500 at outdoor states. In every season, Allen had been Rhode Island’s top distance runner.
After graduating from West, Allen enrolled at CCRI, and of course, he kept running. He quickly re-wrote the school’s record books then capped his first college cross country season by winning the Division III NJCAA National Championship.