On Sports

Former Providence Journal sports writer Mike Szostak blogs regularly with news and analysis about sports in Rhode Island.

Barring an Ivy League championship next fall, the highlight of Brown University’s football season will be the Nov. 10 game against Dartmouth at Fenway Park. That’s right, Fenway Park, the iconic home of the Red Sox.

The Bears and Bruins will kick off on Friday night as the first of three college football games scheduled for the 104-year-old ball park during the 2017 season. The University of Massachusetts and the University of Maine will play on Saturday, Nov. 11, and the University of Connecticut and Boston College will meet a week later on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Bryant University hired a new football coach this month, and thanks to the generosity of two trustees, he will send his players on to a new artificial turf, lighted field next season.

Bryant will be the first of Rhode Island’s three Division I programs to play home games on artificial turf with the option of playing night games. The University of Rhode Island and Brown University play on grass, and Meade Stadium at URI and Brown Stadium in Providence do not have lights. Brown has rented portable lights for one game per season in recent years.

Apologies to the Brown University men’s lacrosse program and attackman Dylan Molloy for not including them among the top sports stories of 2016 posted on Dec. 30. They absolutely deserve a spot in the lineup, and kudos to the sports staff at The Providence Journal for recognizing them on their list of top stories.

Championships eluded New England’s Big Four this year, but the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins still provided us with memorable moments. So did Providence College, Bishop Hendricken and Johnson & Wales. Here, then, are my choices for the Top 10 Local Sports Stories of 2016, assuming you agree that whatever happens with the Pats, Sox, Celts and Bs is of local interest.

TOM BRADY RETURNS

So I’m reading my Boston Globe sports page this a.m. when I spied Chad Finn’s sports media column and I almost tossed up in my Cheerios: CSN is cutting old friend and great baseball analyst Sean McAdam, along with veteran Boston sports guru Bob Neumeier.

While coaches Jim Fleming of the University of Rhode Island and Phil Estes of Brown shop for football talent these days, Bryant athletics director Bill Smith searches for a head coach to replace Marty Fine, who resigned on Dec. 1 “to pursue other opportunities.”

Expectations are like sand castles at Scarborough Beach. Threatened by waves and tides, here now but probably gone later. And then rebuilt.

So it is with University of Rhode Island and Providence College basketball this season. The Rams started with great expectations based on the return of injured stars E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin. A Top 25 ranking raised expectations higher. Then a three-point loss at Valparaiso  and a heartbreaking three-point loss to Providence at the sold-out Dunkin’ Donuts Center Saturday dashed those expectations. Good-bye Top 25.

November 3, 2016

Dear Chicago,               

You finally did it! After 108 years of failure, disappointment and heartache, you finally did it! You are World Series Champions!

Congratulations! No, make that CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Are you surprised the Indians eliminated the Red Sox in their best-of-five American League Division Series? I’m not. Swept? Yes. Eliminated? No, and here’s why.

After that stirring 11-game winning streak September 15-25, the Red Sox lost eight of their next nine games, five of six at the end of the regular season. They dropped three in New York two of three at home during David Ortiz Weekend and then two in Cleveland in the ALDS and the 4-3 finale Monday night at Fenway Park.

Phil Estes remembers his first visit to Meade Stadium on the University of Rhode Island campus. The year was 1977, he was a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, and he played guard for the Wildcats football team, the defending Yankee Conference champion.

Dick Ernst was as Rhode Island as Del’s Lemonade, Federal Hill and the Big Blue Bug. Cranston-born and Cranston-bred, he accomplished much in life, almost all of it right here in the Ocean State.

Dick died this week at his home in Cranston. He had turned 78 on Sept. 4. His passing shocked me because even though he had slowed a bit in recent years, I still thought of him as the passionate hockey player always searching for a frozen pond, the gritty tennis player wearing down opponents with his stubborn baseline game, and the coach ever in search of a team.

September has turned into the sweetest month this year, and here’s why.

THE RED SOX

Jared Donaldson, the kid from Chepachet who always wanted to play professional tennis, is in the third round of the U.S. Open in New York. Wait a minute. A Rhode Islander in the main draw of the U.S. Open? An Ocean Stater in the same tournament as No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Andy Murray, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, No. 4 Rafael Nadal and the rest of the best tennis players in the world? Yes! And he’s in the third round? Yes, again.

Chris Marerro
MiLB Pawtucket Red Sox

Chris Marrero, the Pawtucket Red Sox star, has been named to the 2016 post-season International League All-Star Team, the team announced today.

Marrero, 28, is leading the team in almost every offensive category and is among the league leaders as well. In 124 games this season, he is hitting .287 with 23 home runs and 69 Runs Batted In. He leads the International League with 234 total bases and is first in extra base hits with 52, and has a .501 slugging percentage, second in the league.

The Rio Olympics are history, its torch extinguished Sunday night amid an explosion of color and sound befitting the conclusion of this quadrennial spectacle celebrating athletic prowess and human spirit. Like you, I watched on television, as I had from time to time during the two weeks or so of competition. Like you, I watched Michael Phelps swim into Olympics history; gymnast Simone Biles dazzle with her smile and her stunning array of leaps, twists and tumbles, and Usain Bolt dash to gold for the third straight Olympiad.

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