Cirillo Wins It for Providence, 13-2 : Pioneers Pummel Linfield Christian for First Baseball Title
It was the sixth inning of the Southern Section Small Schools Division championship, and Providence High coaches Marc and Dana Saraceno had their heads together poring over the score book.
“Help me out, Dana,” Marc said.
“I’m checking it,” Dana replied.
Were they counting the number of pitches Providence ace Jeff Cirillo had thrown? Had a Linfield Christian player batted out of order? A championship was at stake and the coaches could have been making any sort of strategy.
But, as has become routine, Providence led by a wagonload of runs and all the Saraceno brothers were doing was penciling in pinch hitters for Pioneers who had completed a successful day’s work.
Providence pummeled Linfield Christian, 13-2, Friday at College of the Canyons and soon the coaches had their heads down again. This time they were ducking various carbonated beverages that gleeful players were squirting.
At the forefront of the festivities was Cirillo. The serious expression he had worn for seven innings had given way to giggles. After ending the game by striking out Jim Misner----Cirillo’s 11th strikeout of the game--he went into a five-minute frenzy where hugs and kisses were doled out in liberal doses.
“I’m so happy,” Cirillo said. “We’re champions. Once I got the lead, I reared back and threw, sort of put it in cruise control.”
Marc Saraceno, who is in his first season as head coach, noticed the abrupt change in Cirillo’s demeanor.
“When he walks between the white lines he’s got a mean look,” Saraceno said. “But look at him now.”
Cirillo (12-2) had reason to be pleased in a personal, as well as a team, sense. After a shaky first inning in which Linfield Christian scored twice, the right-hander settled down and finished with a three-hitter. Cirillo also singled twice, walked, hit a sacrifice fly and stole three bases.
Just as effective with the bat was Cirillo’s stepbrother, shortstop Adam Grant, who singled twice, hit a sacrifice fly and capped the afternoon with a two-run home run to left field.
Grant is no more a one-dimensional player than Cirillo. In the third inning with the score tied, 2-2, Grant initiated a slick double play in the fourth.
“Adam and I talked last night about what to expect,” Cirillo said. “All we do at home is talk baseball.”
And all they did in the playoffs was play the game extremely well. Grant was 13 for 18 and Cirillo was 6 for 13 with three wins. After pitching, hitting and fielding Providence to the Small School title-the school’s first baseball title-what could the pair possibly do for an encore?
How about take a shot next season at the championship of the 1-A Division? That’s where the Delphic League, including Providence, moves next season.
And Cirillo and Grant will be along for the move. Both are juniors.
“They took charge,” Marc Saraceno said. “They’ve done it all at this level, but we’re moving up so I hope they’ll be challenged all over again.”
Leaving Providence will be four seniors, all of whom made strong contributions to the championship. The Pioneers have a roster of only 13 players and the nine starters play nearly all the time.
The most sorely missed of the seniors will be third baseman Tony Ross, who was 14 for 22 in the playoffs and batted .500 during the season. First baseman Kevin Miller (.410), catcher Doug Ferrante (.357) and outfielder Jim Recker (.312) also graduate.
Providence outscored five playoff opponents, 73-13, and finished with a record of 23-3. Linfield Christian of Temecula, is 21-4-1.
Linfield Christian Coach Al Cariss said Cirillo was the most overpowering pitcher his team had faced.
“He’s the best I’ve seen in my three years here,” Cariss said. “He had excellent velocity and a good breaking ball.”
After Linfield Christian scored two in the first, Providence came back and evened the score in the bottom of the inning. Grant singled home Steve Ross, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Cirillo’s pop fly that Lion second baseman Richie Camp caught in short right field.
Singles by Grant and Cirillo ignited another two-run rally in the third. The Pioneers broke the game wide open in the fourth when two walks and a single set up a sacrifice fly by Grant, an RBI single by Cirillo and a two-run single by Ferrante.
Although they led, 9-2, after four, the Pioneers didn’t coast. Grant’s home run scored two in the fifth, and four Linfield Christian errors accounted for two more Providence runs in the sixth.