Words Unlimited, Rhode Island’s organization of sports writers, sportscasters and sports publicists, will honor 14 individuals and three teams for their 2014 accomplishments, or their careers, at its 69th Annual Sports Awards Banquet on Sunday at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick.
Bill Reynolds, a Providence Journal award-winning columnist since 1984 and author of 12 books, will be inducted into WU’s Hall of Fame. His Saturday column, For What It’s Worth, is must reading for Rhode Islanders.
The Cumberland American Little League All-Stars wrote the Story of the Year with their performance at the 75th Little League World Series and coach Dave Belisle’s emotional post-game talk that ESPN captured and which went viral on social media. Belisle received a Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for sportsmanship and was one of 20 nominees for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
Other honorees include Ken Hopkins of Johnston, the winningest baseball coach in CCRI history with a record of 354-164-1, an appearance in the 2012 Junior College World Series, a 10th-place finish in the 2005 national rankings and four New England Division II championships since 2000. He will receive the Amby Smith Award, named for the late sports editor of the Pawtuxet Times.
Jane Hale, girls basketball coach at Middletown High School for 11 years and basketball and tennis coach and women’s athletics director at Salve Regina University will receive the Frank Lanning Award, named for the late Providence Journal-Bulletin sports cartoonist.
John Rock, a 27-year member of the Providence College sports medicine department and associate athletics director since 2010, will receive the Bill Cawley Award, named for the late sports editor of the Westerly Sun.
Brown wrestler Billy Watterson is the Ben Mondor Community Service Award recipient for taking a year off and founding Beat the Streets Providence, a nonprofit that takes wrestling to urban youth. The award is named for the late owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Bryce Cotton of Providence College, the MVP of the Big East basketball tournament, is the Male Athlete of the Year. He led the Friars to their first Big East title in 20 years and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years. He was an AP honorable mention All-America.
Molly Huddle of Providence, one of the best road runners in the nation, is the Female Athlete of the Year. She compiled seven personal bests, won four national road titles and won her second 5,000-meter championship.
Kevin Boles, rookie manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox, is the Men’s Sports Co-Coach of the Year for leading the PawSox to the Governor’s Cup while sending 25 players to Boston and using 66 players in 150 different lineups in 153 games.
Craig Stewart of Providence College is the other Men’s Sports Co-Coach of the Year for guiding the soccer team to its first Big East championship and the NCAA College Cup semifinals.
Bryant softball coach Shayne Lotito is the Women’s Sports Coach of the Year. Her Bulldogs won a program record 32 games and the Northeast Conference regular-season and tournament titles. They also made their first NCAA Tournament appearance as a Division I program.
Quarterback John Toppa of Bishop Hendricken is the Schoolboy Athlete of the Year for leading the Hawks to their fifth consecutive state championship. He scored three touchdowns and passed for one in the title game. He passed for 1,115 yards and ran for 946 during the season.
Track star Maddy Berkson of Providence is the Schoolgirl Athlete of the Year for leading Classical to the state outdoor championship. The most decorated female athlete in school history broke one of her four outdoor records and won two events at the outdoor championships. She also holds four indoor records. She is a freshman at Stanford.
Smithfield swimming coach Dave Cote is the Schoolboy Sports Coach of the Year for the Sentinels state championship that broke Bishop Hendricken’s 24-year reign. Smithfield did not win an event in the state meet but won the title on its depth.
Josh Bednarczyk led Exeter-West Greenwich to a 17-0 record and the Division I volleyball title after winning four Division II championships and is the Schoolgirl Sports Coach of the Year.
The PC men’s soccer team is the Team of the Year. The Friars won 16 games, a program record, the Big East Tournament and reached the NCAA semifinals.
The Roger Williams University women’s rugby team is the Small College Achievement Award recipient for winning its second national championship.
A reception is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the dinner at 5:45 p.m. Tickets are $30 each. Contact the Words Unlimited president, John Parente, at 401-826-0555 or any Words Unlimited member.