The Cranston Bulldogs won the 2019 R.I. Connie Mack State Championship on Monday night, beating the LaSalle Academy Rams 3-0 in a winner-take-all Game 3 at PCD.
The Bulldogs trailed La Salle 1-0 in the championship series before rallying to take both Game 2 and Game 3.
“That’s an experienced team,” Cranston manager Dave Ciolfi said. “When you’ve got older kids, they know they have the ability to bounce back, and that’s exactly what they did. We shut them out for the last 17 innings.”
“Our strength the entire year has been starting pitching,” Ciolfi explained. “Rainer Vargas, Noah Rennick, and Quinn Lanigan, that’s been our strength. And again, they came through for us in this series.”
Rennick took the ball in the pivotal Game 3 and collected the MVP award after throwing a complete-game shutout and striking out six, while earning the win. At the plate, Rennick added a single and a double.
“We’ve had Noah since he was 15 years-old,” Ciolfi said. “When nobody wanted him, we did. And here he is, three years later, and all the good things are coming to him. So, it means everything. He’s the guy we wanted on the mound for this game.”
The right-hander never questioned whether or not his team could come back following the 4-0 Game 1 loss to La Salle.
“No doubt at all, “Rennick said. “I just stayed confident. I’ve been playing a long time. Just never get up too high and down too low and just stuck with it until the end.”
“He’s even keel,” Ciolfi added. “You don’t know whether he’s up seven runs or down seven runs. And that’s the kind of kid you want in this kind of game. Somebody with experience, even keel, and that’s Noah. And when he needs to make a big pitch, he makes it.”
Rennick was pleased following the title win and ready to celebrate with his team.
“It feels good to win one,” ”Rennick explained. “Especially with this group of guys that I’ve known for a long time.”
Heading the Game 3 offense was Bulldogs infielder Jake San Antonio, who clubbed two singles, an RBI, and a walk, while Vargas blasted a triple and scored two runs.
On the hill for La Salle was Jack Gannon, the Ram’s ace, who matched Rennick with a complete-game effort and punched out seven.
Leading the La Salle bats was infielder Marcus Rodriguez, who socked a double.
Cranston drew a 1-0 edge in the first inning when San Antonio launched a single to right field and drove in Vargas, the No. 2 hitter, who had tripled to deep right.
In the fourth frame, the Bulldogs went up 2-0 after Griffin Martin, who walked and stole second base, came around to score when Vargas ripped a shot off the glove of the La Salle second baseman, Rodriguez, who made an error.
Then, with runners at the corners, Rennick hit a routine ground ball at Andrew Florio, the La Salle third baseman, who overthrew the first baseman, Marc Catone, and that allowed Vargas to score from third base, and extended the Bulldogs advantage to 3-0.
To get to Game 3, the Bulldogs crushed La Salle on Saturday afternoon in Game 2 by a final score of 14-0 in five innings.
Lanigan started that contest and hurled a complete game and struck out three.
John Nardolillo started for the Rams and walked four batters and hit another, while giving up two runs, one earned, over just 1.1 innings.
Cranston’s San Antonio contributed a triple and three walks, while catcher Caleb Joubert added a single, a double, and two walks, and Anthony Silvestri, a double, a walk, and a HBP.
The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, when with the bases loaded, Zach Cole hit an RBI single to right field and scored San Antonio, and then Rennick came home immediately after, following an error at home plate.
In the second inning, Rennick worked a bases-loaded walk, which scored Silvestri from third base and extended the Bulldogs advantage to 3-0.
Next, with the bases still jammed, La Salle reliever Sam Richardson was penalized for a balk, which allowed another run to score and pushed the Cranston cushion to 4-0.
In the third frame, Vargas socked an infield RBI single down the third base line and knocked in Martin and increased the Cranston buffer to 5-0.
Next, San Antonio whacked a base-loaded, base-clearing triple to deep right-center field and extended the Bulldogs buffer to 8-0.
Then, Joubert belted a two-out, RBI single down the third baseline and drove in San Antonio, which upped the Cranston cushion to 9-0.
In the fourth frame, Lanigan drove in Martin from third base when he grounded out to short, and that put the Bulldogs on top 10-0.
After that, Silvestri and Vargas each scored during separate passed balls and upped the Cranston lead to 12-0.
Finally, Rennick and Joubert slammed back-to-back RBI doubles to center field and ballooned the Bulldogs buffer to 14-0.
To get the title series, Cranston disposed of Slocum in three games during the opening round before sweeping both Stonington and Narragansett.
“They threw everybody at us,” Ciolfi said. “The whole playoffs. We faced every team’s No. 1 (pitcher) and we beat them. These guys, all they do is play. They don’t care who they’re playing, they don’t care what the score is, and they just go out and play. And those are the teams that I like to coach.”
The title win marks the third time in eight years that the Bulldogs have won the state championship and it was Cranston's fourth Final Four appearance in the past eight years.