Top Seeds Johnston High, Prout May Be On Collision Course for D2 Baseball Title
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Defending champion and No. 1 seed Johnston High School cruised into the quarters with wins over Mt. Hope (5-1) and Central High School (10-1).
The Panthers (21-1, 19-1) will face the winner of Mt. Pleasant and Central in the quarterfinal semi-series, and will need just one victory to advance to the semis.
“Our pitching and defense has been the main reason we’ve gotten here,” said Johnston head coach Stephen DeMeo. “In the preseason, we didn’t think we’d be at this level because we’re such a young team (Johnston starts four sophomores and a freshman), but these guys have really stepped up and played well.”
Johnston is led by a trio of outstanding starters, including senior Gian Bianchi, who won the Division II North Cy Young award.
Bianchi was 4-1 this season with a 2.87 ERA. Sophomores James Picchi (6-0, 1.57) and Joe Bongiovanni (4-0, 1.54) have also been outstanding. As a staff, the Panthers have struck out 126 batters and given up just 26 walks.
The Panthers are led on offense by leadoff hitter and centerfielder Chris Pistacchio, who won the Division II North Most Outstanding Player award. Pistacchio hit .429 with 27 runs and 16 RBI, and stole 18 bases in 19 attempts.
Left fielder Mike Pennacchia (.375 BA) and second baseman Ryan McKeon (.333 BA) have also been great for Johnston.
Crusaders Hoping for a Rematch with Johnston
No. 2 Prout (20-4, 17-4) lost to Johnston in the championship round last season, but is back in contention again thanks to Division II South co-MVPs Marshall Vigneault and Shane Sandoval.
Sandoval, also a senior, hit .433 during the regular year with 16 extra base hits. “Our two seniors have put us in a good position all year long,” said head coach Mike Labarbera.
Prout reached the quarterfinals with wins over Burrillville and Exeter/West Greenwich. The Crusaders will face either West Warwick or Exeter/West Greenwich in the quarters. Those two are set to face-off at 4 p.m. this afternoon at EWG.
6th-seeded Westerly has advanced to the Final Four with a 7-3 win over No. 3 Tolman Tuesday afternoon. The Bulldogs (18-6) defeated Tolman twice to advance in the bracket.
On the other side of the bracket, 4th-seed Woonsocket has advanced into the quarterfinal round, crushing North Smithfield 13-2 and then defeating Narragansett, 4-2, to put them into the drivers’ seat. The Villa Novans will wait until Thursday to face either Narragansett or Juanita Sanchez in the quarterfinals.
Juanita Sanchez defeated North Smithfield, 10-5, in an elimination game Tuesday.
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