This past weekend, the Cumberland baseball team pulled off another big upset when it topped La Salle in the RIIL State Championship. What a story and statement playoff run.
The Clippers entered the playoffs as an afterthought. Bishop Hendricken was the top seed, La Salle had a tremendous season, and the two-time defending champion North Kingstown Skippers were still in the mix. Cumberland was a good team that picked up some nice wins in the regular season, but I don’t think a single person outside of Cumberland would have guessed they’d be walking off the diamond with the plaque.
I only covered Cumberland in the first round of the playoffs when it topped Hendricken. The Hawks were the best team in the state in the regular season and were the favorite to get the job done. I was actually surprised while watching at how close the game was and the Clippers went on to win.
I remember my biggest takeaway was that the Clippers were special; there was something intangible that you could feel just watching them play. Hendricken had the better pitchers, bigger bats throughout the lineup, the big game experience. However, it was clear that Cumberland was a game opponent that had an x-factor that could not really be explained.
The Clippers were consistent and fundamentally sound. They were clutch and the players fed off of each other’s energy. Again, Hendricken’s players played like college athletes, but Cumberland came up with play after play to eventually get to the championship round.
From there, it was all Cumberland. What an unlikely run.
Now, the reason why I said this is a statement win is because of the whole public school versus private school debate that has waged on for decades. For those who follow me, I am an avid believer that the advantages that private schools have are minimal and this proves it.
Do private schools have the upper hand? Yes, there’s no denying it. There is a wider net for talent, better facilities and amenities. At the end of the day, though, some of these runs that private schools go on can’t just be attributed to the fact that they’re private.
Hendricken football is the best example. The run that it has been on over the past decade-plus has been remarkable, winning 10 of the past 12 state titles. Sure, the Hawks have some advantages, but those are not enough to explain that level of dominance. The strength of Keith Croft’s program is what the focus should be on.
This is the third straight year that a public school has won the baseball championship. Hendricken and La Salle are always in the mix, but this three-year run here shows that it can happen. Public schools can come together to get over that hump.
So, for those who believe that Hendricken and La Salle should be removed from the RIIL, or take on teams out of state, or be lumped into their own division, this should show you that that is not the answer, it just isn’t.
Let this Cumberland squad inspire you. It proved that intangibles matter and that doing the little things on the field add up to big time results. In reality, Hendricken and La Salle probably would win those series more often than not, but what the Clippers proved is that truly, any team can win on any day.
Speaking of the baseball championships, I also have to agree with an opinion that I saw a few people on Twitter voice over the weekend.
The baseball championships take place at Rhode Island College. RIC has a beautiful facility that is more than a capable spot for these championships.
That being said, it sure is sad to see these kids not get the chance to play in a larger facility the way that they used to when the championships were played at McCoy Stadium.
Ultimately, politics got in the way of the PawSox remaining in Rhode Island, but what those involved failed to realize is that the ripple effect would go far beyond just the minor league club. McCoy is gone. What was one of the region’s most iconic venues is now abandoned and forgotten. What a shame.
These kids deserve to get that professional feeling when they play in the state’s biggest games. McCoy was a stellar option. Now, it will likely be at RIC to stay. Bryant has a nice complex, as does URI, but they do not hold a candle to the atmosphere that a true professional park provides.
Yes, the colleges will provide the essentials. Parking, lights, top-notch field conditions, adequate seating. At the end of the day, you know the difference between a pro stadium and a college one, you just do.
Unless McCoy miraculously re-opens which is pretty much impossible at this point, or the state ends up building a new facility, which is also unrealistic, these kids will have to settle for the colleges. I don’t want to blast the colleges because their facilities are impressive, but they’re just not the same.
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