Gershkoff Auto expands, expects busy summer

Posted 6/19/24

The Gershkoff Auto Body American Legion baseball program returns this summer and is bigger than it’s ever been.

The Cranston-Johnston organization now fields four teams - 9-U, 14-U, 17-U …

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Gershkoff Auto expands, expects busy summer


The Gershkoff Auto Body American Legion baseball program returns this summer and is bigger than it’s ever been.

The Cranston-Johnston organization now fields four teams - 9-U, 14-U, 17-U and 19-U, and all are looking to make noise at both the state and regional level.

The big news coming from the club in the early going this season has been the emergence of the newly-formed Top Notch Lightning Elite 9-U club, which is a future’s team that is focused on development.

The team enjoyed success immediately in its inaugural season and wound up finishing second in the Massachusetts Elite New Balance League, which boasts one of the most competitive youth fields in the region.

What was perhaps the most impressive part of the team’s run was that some of the 9 year olds were not on All-Star teams, while others barely even played.  They played in tournaments and league play, taking their lumps, going from the bottom all the way to the top. Andrew Tavarez went on to make the New Balance 9-U All-Star team.

Head coach Ed Tavarez said, “The journey is just beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited to see these kids develop and flourish on the diamond.  Every game, every pitch, every play at the 9-U level is a building block for these young players. Our job as coaches is to nurture their love for the game and help them grow, both as athletes and individuals.”

Manager Andrew Piccirillo wrote on social media, “This team has come such a long way from where they started at the beginning of this season. The fact that they made it all the way to the Championship game today is beyond impressive and I am so proud of each and every one of these boys!! Even though they lost (4-3), every single player should be proud of how they played today. I love this team, the parents, and the incredible coaches that we have! Couldn’t have asked for a better first season.”

The 14-U team entered the 15-U Connecticut American Legion league. The team has competed in three tournaments and will be traveling to Old Orchard Beach, Maine  to compete in the Firecracker tournament, followed by the Myrtle Beach National tournament. 14-U coach Dave Schiappa is focused on preparing these players for the high school level.

The 17-U program will also be making the trip to Maine, and will also compete in the Perfect Game and New England Junior Legion tournament later this summer.

Coach Craig Zarrella stated, “With all new players from all parts of the city and one from Johnston,  we are ready for a new chapter with every game, every pitch and every play,  we embraced the hard work that was put in over the winter, so that we can pursuit excellence this summer.”

Finally, the senior 19-U team will also have a young roster, with only one college player returning and five high school seniors. With many high school juniors and seniors, the goal for these players is to prepare for the college level.

Coach Steve Piscopiello, who returned to coaching after a long hiatus and played and coached at CCRI and RIC, said,  “I want to stress the fundamentals and playing hard and if we play fundamentally sound baseball, we will be very competitive.”

Coach Don Ceseretti stated, “We have many players that are interchangeable. If we execute our plays, we should position ourselves well for the playoffs.

Gershkoff, along with other area American Legion teams, have been challenged going up against other travel teams and AAU programs in recent years. Schiappa, who also serves as the Gershkoff general manager, enters his 30th year heading the program and was excited to add the new 9-U club to the mix as Gershkoff looks to remain a staple in the Rhode Island baseball community.

“We’re building this team into one that, hopefully, can compete in the junior and senior regional championships and World Series. We want them to be good citizens as well, it goes beyond just baseball. Our goal is to develop a competitive program and we also would like to host regionals. We want to do it and we want to do it with local kids, our Cranston and Johnston kids,” Schiappa said.

Gershkoff is proud to also field rosters made up of kids strictly from Cranston and Johnston, instead of recruiting from other states.

“There are several pay-to-play teams in the area, we are up against those teams that are competing for the same kids. We’re thinking bigger and better. We’re one of the only community charters left after Little League that are going for state championships. We’re charging a quarter of the price and giving three times as much back. Our motto is more for less,” Schiappa said. “That’s why we started the 9-U futures team. It was about development, but they ended up going to the Massachusetts Elite New Balance League and (finishing second).”

The 9-U team’s season concluded in the New Balance League championship, and the remaining three Gershkoff clubs are underway in their regular seasons.

The 19-U team includes: Alex Ceseretti, Ryan Zarrella, Brendan Smith, Dylan Martin, Logan Martin, Dante Piscopiello, Corey Blanchette, Chris Barboza, David Miller, Jack Fontaine, Adam Stoloff, Dylan Bowry, Ethan Madden.

The 17-U team includes: Michael Blair, Ethan Conrad, Ricardo Crisostomo, Ethan Davis, Brayden Enright, Jack Fontaine, Joshua Gillen, Dylan Guglietta, Sam Maynard, Johan Nawrocki, Michael Nunez, Gabriel Oliveira, Adam Stoloff, Reece Zarrella, Craig Zarrella, Rick Nawrocki, Brian Davis.

The 14-U team includes: Aidyn Pizzuti, Andrew Schiappa, Corey Ogden, Anthony Campagnone, Matthew Iannitti, Joseph Nunez, Lucas Santo, Lucca Ricci, Lucca Schroder, Aiden Neil, Dylan Milano, Max Pilkington, Eddie Wenzl.

The 9-U team includes: Matthew Mazzola, Vincenzo Vlaun, Brayden Proppe, Andrew Tavarez, Jakob Kowalczyk, Luca Mariotti, Anthony Hernandez, Benjamin Leveillee, Bryson Ramos, Jacob Fiontella, Luca Orsini.

Gershkoff, baseball, club


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