Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 04-03-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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North Providence Edition Sports & Recreation APRIL 3-9, 2019 valleybreeze.com @ NORTH PROVIDENCE – For someone who has proudly coached his baseball team in the state's top divi- sion for the past 12 seasons, North Providence High veteran head coach Dean Garganese had mixed feelings during the offseason about his team's move to Division II this spring. "You always want to play the best competition," he said last Friday night after his team's workouts on the high school's diamond. "I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm overlook- ing the teams that we're going to be competing against in D-II, but I've always enjoyed the opportunity to play the Hendrickens and the La Salles, the South Kingstowns and North Kingstowns, and the Cumberlands and the Lincolns. That gets you up, and if that can't get you up, as a program and as a coach or a player, then I don't know what will." "But I think the writing was on the wall, based on our lack of success in the last two years," Garganese contin- ued. "We were competitive, but we only won six games in the past two years. And I know the numbers have been down, and in the youth leagues, participation has been down as well. I had to decide whether I wanted to stay up in D-I and continue to struggle, or give the kids a better chance at competing (in D-II), and I think (playing in D-II) is the right move." Garganese, who will begin his 21st season as the Cougars' head coach today when NP hosts the Wheeler School at 4 p.m., not only talked about his team last Friday, but also the Cougars' new division, which, like it was when he last coached in Division II in 2006, will contain two subdivisions, but new "home-and-away" series against each team that will take place within a three- or a four-day span. When that "home-and- away" proposal was intro- duced to the D-II's head coaches, "it had a mixed reac- tion," recalled Garganese. "At first, everyone's natural reac- tion was, 'Why are they doing this? Why do they need to make this change?' But once everybody started to reason it out and realize that, yes, you'd never face somebody's ace twice, I think that kind of put everybody at ease. Unfortunately, if you have to play a team that has two top- notch pitchers, it still doesn't make things that much better. There's still no easy way out there." As for being a D-I team coming down to D-II, Garganese isn't taking any of his opponents for granted, and while he's expecting to encounter some tough competition, he's going to be doing almost all of it blindly, with no scouting reports or history of any of the nine opponents in his "B" subdivi- sion. "That's one thing that I will not have going into the season, familiarity with our opposition," he confirmed. "I've scrimmaged Mount Saint Charles the past two years, but even then, I don't know anything about them; I just remember that they were talented. I don't know what anyone has because I didn't follow D-II. I was in Division I and too concerned with what was happening with the teams that were in our divi- sion, and I never really paid attention to what was happen- ing in D-II. I couldn't even tell you who the big players are. I think that puts us at a disadvantage, but then again, they don't know anything about us either." "But I'm not really wor- ried about it," he continued. "I've always been the type of coach that only worries about his own team and how they perform, but I'll get to know these other teams quick enough, that's for sure. By that second game, I'll be familiar with what they got." Seven of the Cougars' nine opponents are within a short drive of their campus: Scituate, North Smithfield, Mount Saint Charles, Cougars adjust to life in Div. II Baseball team begins season today at home vs. Wheeler By ERIC BENEVIDES Valley Breeze Sports Editor sports@valleybreeze.com BREEZE PHOTO BY ERIC BENEVIDES Senior first baseman P.J. RIOLES and his North Providence High baseball teammates will play in the team's first Division II game since 2006 this afternoon when they host the Wheeler School in their 4 p.m. opener. RIIAAA honors Ficocelli, Benevides WARWICK – North Providence native Anthony Ficocelli and Valley Breeze & Observer sports edi- tor Eric Benevides were among the honorees at the RIIAAA (Rhode Island Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) awards banquet that was held on Monday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Ficocelli, who is the ath- letic director at Central Falls High, received the night's top honor when he was named the RIIAAA's Athletic Director of the Year. A 1989 graduate of North Providence High, Ficocelli has been a physical educa- tion and health teacher in the Central Falls school dis- trict for 22 years and served as the Warriors' athletic director since 2013. Since 2015, he has served as an assistant coach on the Central Falls High football team, and he's also been a baseball coach in North Providence on the high school, Babe Ruth League, and Little League levels. Benevides, who has been his newspaper's sports edi- tor since July 2014 and is a member of Words Unlimited, the state's orga- nization of sportswriters, sportscasters, and publicists, received the RIIAAA's Sports Media Award. 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