A little of this, a little of that …
• Cumberland native Nick Croteau had some idea of what to expect when the Wheaton College baseball team spent time in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last weekend for the NCAA Division III World Series.
Back in 2014, Croteau was part of the Cumberland American Little League team that advanced all the way to Williamsport, Pa. for what turned out was his first taste at World Series acclaim. Reached earlier this week, Croteau said there were a few similarities between life on the World Series stage as a preteen and the road that this year’s Wheaton ballclub was required to travel.
“You have to go through your conference which is similar to your district, then you have to go through regionals just like Little League. Then you finally make it,” said Croteau, a 2019 Cumberland High graduate.
“To feel that experience again … you’re so proud to be part of something that’s bigger than yourself where you’re playing with your best friends,” Croteau added. “Just like , I got to meet kids from different teams. Everything is high security. There were plenty of fans. Hour by hour, you have to be at certain places at certain times. So much fun.”
A sophomore infielder for Wheaton, Croteau went 4-for-12 with two runs during the Lyons’ three-game run during the D-III World Series. Wheaton won the first game but dropped the next two.
“This year was tough. It seems that COVID has died down, but with all the rules where we had to wear masks during practice and making sure to space ourselves … we actually had to practice in small groups for a long time,” said Crotreau, noting that the Wheaton team was shut down for nearly three weeks after another team had someone test positive.
“There were a lot of bumps along the way. Just to make it this far makes enduring everything along the way really worth it,” said Croteau.
From what Croteau described, longtime Wheaton head coach Eric Podbelski’s speech after the final World Series game featured elements to the famous on-field talk that Dave Belisle gave to the CALL players after the final game of what was a memorable summer on the diamond.
“[Podbelski] said this has been the only year he’s said that this year’s [Wheaton] team was special. That gave me flashbacks to Little League … pulling on the heartstrings,” said Croteau. “This Wheaton team never gave up. We always seemed to find a way back. The big thing was to play for each other … 35 guys pulling in the same direction.
“There’s only one winner, but you can still be proud of what you accomplished along the way,” Croteau continued.
Summer-wise, Croteau plans to stay sharp in the Newport-based George Donnelly Sunset League.
• Tolman High tennis standout Jeremy Clark had a nice cheering section at Slater Park last Sunday. Among the gathering of supporters on hand to see if Clark could keep advancing in the RIIL individual tournament were a few members of Tolman’s soccer team – specifically Aliou Sissoko, Nicolas Torres, and Patrick Pires.
“Those guys are my brothers,” said the Holy Cross-bound Clark, who never hesitated to show support for his school’s soccer team.
When Pires staged his National Letter-of-Intent ceremony at the Pawtucket Youth Soccer Association’s indoor facility in March, Clark was on hand to witness the occasion. Pre-COVID times, Clark made sure to clear his schedule so he could cheer for his soccer mates from the stands.
Clearly, there’s a connection rooted in respect.
“It meant a lot that they were here,” said Clark.
From a historical perspective, Clark earned the distinction as the first Tolman tennis player to reach the semifinals of the individual tournament. It’s a badge of honor that figures to motivate him to reach even greater heights as he transitions to Division I college tennis.
“It’ll definitely push me to work harder,” said Clark.
• Lincoln native Darian McDonough will be joining some big-time softball company come July. Earlier this week, Premier Girls Fastpitch (PGF) unveiled the rosters for the 2021 High School All-American Game. The East roster includes McDonough, a senior at La Salle and Boston College commit.
The game will air on ESPNU on July 31. PGF’s headquarters can be found in Huntington Beach, Calif.
• We’ve asked the athletic directors in our circulation area to provide us with a list of end-of-year athletic awards. We plan to publish them in the future editions of “a little of this, a little of that …”
This week, we’re recognizing those from Davies Tech and Blackstone Valley Prep.
The Patriots renamed their Male and Female Athlete of the Year awards in honor of the late Lervern Gaskin. Davies tabbed Katrina Fernandes (softball) as the top female and Ericson Semedo (soccer, basketball) as the top male.
BVP presents a Scholar-Athlete of the Year award to two seniors. The choices were Xavier Mendez (basketball) and Julian Aceituno (baseball).
• The Mount St. Charles varsity boys’ tennis team continued the tradition of collecting food for the needy through Pass the Plate, a student-created program. The boys collected several hundred food items over the course of their season and donated them to a local food pantry.
The Mounties also managed to complete an undefeated regular season in Division II (8-0). The mark of perfection resulted in a divisional title and the top seed in next week’s team state championship tournament. MSC will host a quarterfinal match next Tuesday.
• Staying with the Mounties, congrats to junior Alexander Gasbarro for winning the election for Class President for the 2021-22 school term. Gasbarro plays on both the school’s varsity boys’ basketball and volleyball teams.
• It was always a treat whenever the Tolman High baseball team went over to McCoy Stadium to play on the same field as future Red Sox players. Sadly, that opportunity wasn’t afforded to this year’s squad.
“It hurts me driving by there every day on my way to practice or games and seeing that place and knowing that no baseball is being played in there,” said Tolman head coach Theo Murray. “All those years, we took it for granted that we could play at McCoy. Now it’s tough. We would have loved to have been in there.”
• Speaking of McCoy, I’m calling the bench near the Ben Mondor statue as my perch to watch the fireworks that are scheduled to be shot into the sky on July 3.
• The biggest takeaway from the Providence basketball Friars adding Matteus Case via the NCAA Transfer Portal is that we’re talking about a player who still holds four years of eligibility. PC is expected to rely heavily on an older core during the upcoming season, hence the need to incorporate a few youthful building blocks that can help shape future rosters beyond 2021-22.
• This column would have been longer, but high school playoff season is in full swing. Let’s finish this unprecedented year on the highest of possible notes.