High school baseball players in New England understand there are two phases to their season â€“ chilly and warm. April is usually rainy and cool until the final week of the month. Players must deal with the conditions and try to persevere, knowing the warmth of May is eventually going to arrive.
With the temperature climbing to 76 degrees on Sunday, thereâ€™s a hint that warmer weather is right around the corner. Thatâ€™s good because the division races are starting to take shape and some of this weekâ€™s games are pretty interesting.
For instance, Tolman High will host unbeaten Johnston this afternoon at McCoy Stadium. The Tigers are 5-2 in Division II-Central and need to make a statement pretty soon. Central High (7-0) leads the Central Division. Tolman dropped an 8-7 verdict to the Dragons. Its other loss is an inexplicable 4-2 defeat to a 1-4 Classical team. How good is Tolman? We may start learning the answer today.
Johnston could be the class of Division II. It has outscored opponents by a 75-16 margin so far this season. Woonsocket, 6-1, is second in the North behind the Panthers and has outscored its foes, 39-13. The Villa Novans, who host Mount Hope (3-4) this afternoon, have relied on strong pitching and timely hitting this season to stay on Johnstonâ€™s heels.
Woonsocket has a big week on tap. After todayâ€™s home game, the Novans visit Central on Wednesday and Tolman on Thursday.
Among other area teams, Ponaganset is 3-3 in Division II-North and Central Falls checks in at 2-4. Burrillville and North Smithfield are both 2-5 as the regular season heads to its midway point.
Shea High is 3-3 in Division II-Central. The Raiders beat a 5-2 Juanita Sanchez team on Friday by a 4-2 margin and could be warming up with the weather. They visit Exeter/West Greenwich, 3-3, this afternoon.
Up in Division I, Lincoln High is sailing along with a 7-0 record, good for a two-game lead in the North over Moses Brown (5-2). Cumberland and La Salle are 4-3 and tied for third place. St. Raphael Academy is fifth with a 3-4 mark and Mount St. Charles sits in sixth place with a 2-5 mark.
Any of these local teams can make a move in the second half of the regular season as the weather warms. The Saints beat Cumberland last week. Mount whipped SRA before dropping a tough 6-5 verdict to Cumberland. Thereâ€™s not much difference between the teams chasing Lincoln. It really comes down to who has the most pitching and which team executes the fundamental plays over the final month of the regular season.
Lincoln has a tough road game scheduled on Tuesday afternoon against a 5-2 Cranston West team that is one game behind Hendricken in the always-tough Central Division.
The schedule-maker did Cumberland no favors this week. The Clippers host 7-0 North Kingstown, which has outscored its foes 79-15 this season, on Tuesday afternoon, then visit Hendricken on Thursday. Thatâ€™s a tough week.
St. Raphael Academy visits 1-6 Warwick Veterans on Tuesday and 5-1 East Greenwich on Thursday.
Mount St. Charles, which could be 4-3 if not for two one-run losses already this season, hosts East Greenwich on Tuesday and visits 3-4 Toll Gate on Thursday. At some point soon, the Mounties are going to have to start winning games they have been losing. This is too good a team not to be competing with more success in Division I.