End of the line for Northmen in Division II softball playoffs
North Smithfield saw its season come to an end Monday.
PAWTUCKET â€” No. 2 and No. 3 seeds donâ€™t usually battle each other until the semifinals of a winnersâ€™ bracket, not in the opening round of a losersâ€™ bracket, but thatâ€™s where Tolman and North Smithfield were contesting each other on Monday afternoon.
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And not only did both teams head into Slater Park looking to erase the sting of 1-0 defeats from the previous afternoon, but they had to combat the misty weather and temperatures in the low 50s thoughout this part of the state.
Luckily for the Tigers, they were able to handle the elements well, and even though they collected just six hits in the game, they took advantage of nine walks from one of the Division IIâ€™s best pitchers and came away with an 8-2 win that keeps them alive in the double-elimination tournament.
The Tigers (17-2) will now face the loser of Wednesdayâ€™s winnersâ€™ bracket semifinal-round game pitting top-seeded East Greenwich and fourth-seeded Prout on Thursday at 4 p.m. If E.G. loses, the Tigers will visit the Avengersâ€™ field, but a Prout defeat sends the Crusaders to Slater Park.
Tolman was fresh off its 1-0 defeat to seventh-seeded Woonsocket that saw the Tigers collect a season-low three hits. It was a bitter pill for a squad that had won eight in a row to swallow, but the Division II-East champion Tigers did their best to turn the page and focus on beating the Northmen (14-5).
â€śOur goal today was to put that (loss) behind us,â€ť said Tolman coach Craig Giarrusso. â€śWe had a great season and we werenâ€™t going to throw the season away because we had a tough loss, and I couldnâ€™t be prouder of the way we came back and played today.â€ť
While the weather resembled the type that you would normally expect in an early April game, it also seemed to play a role in the number of walks in the game.
Both teams combined to issue 18 free passes and six wild pitches, and while Tolman starter Olivia Larson (five walks) and reliever Alex Lacoste (four) split the damage, N.S. ace Karissa Carlton (who had eight strikeouts) issued a career-high nine walks and three wild pitches.
â€śI donâ€™t know if it was the back-to-back games or the weather, the wet ball,â€ť said N.S. coach Tom Bourgeois, who saw Carlton toss a six-hitter and strike out 12 in his teamâ€™s 1-0 loss to sixth-seeded West Warwick on Sunday. â€śBut (Tolman) was disciplined up there. You have to give them credit.â€ť
If thereâ€™s one area that definitely plagued the Northmen, it was the number of runners they stranded on base. They left an unlucky 13 on the sacks, 11 in the last five innings and the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh.
â€śWe got runners on base, but we just couldnâ€™t get that key hit,â€ť Bourgeois added. â€śThe balls that we did hit were right at their fielders, and Tolmanâ€™s a very good fielding team and they made the plays.â€ť
The Division II-North champion Northmen drew first blood in the top of the third on a run-scoring groundout by Jaime LaFazia, but the Tigers responded with four runs in their half of the frame to take the lead for good.
A leadoff single by Lacoste and walks to Ashley Hessler and Ashley Clark loaded the bases with one out and set the stage for a bases-clearing triple to the gap in right-center field by Megan Klemanchuck. She eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Leiandra Wilson.
The Tigers then made it a 5-1 game in the fourth on a run-scoring wild pitch, and after the Northmen also scored a run on a wild pitch in the fifth, Tolman again upped its lead to four runs in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single to center by Larson.
The Tigers then flexed their muscles to score their final two runs in the sixth. First, Hessler smacked a triple down the left-field line that one-hopped the fence and eventually scored on an error, and then Clark legged out an inside-the-park homer that she belted deep into the gap in right-center.
â€śWe didnâ€™t hit the ball that well yesterday,â€ť admitted Giarrusso, â€śbut I think today we came out right from the beginning and hit the ball. Again, we had key hits with runners on base, Olivia pitched a great game, and Alex came in and closed it out.â€ť
Larson, who tossed the first four innings before exiting the game in the fifth after walking the first two batters she faced, and Lacoste, who pitched the rest of the game, teamed up to scatter seven hits and strike out seven batters.
They were also supported by some errorless defense by their teammates, and the play of the afternoon was also the game-ending one. With the bases full and two outs, Samantha Archambault ripped a long drive into the gap in left-center that left fielder Brittany Bilodeau gloved with an all-out diving catch.
The only two players in the contest with multiple hits were the Northmenâ€™s Jess Tremblay and Angela Pasquariello. Tremblay also drew a pair of walks from the leadoff spot.
The loss puts an end to the Northmenâ€™s finest season since 2005, when they went 17-3 and lost in the championship game of the Division II tournament. With just one senior (outfielder Sidra Ethier) graduating, the ballclub could be in line for bigger and better things in 2013.
â€śThis was an excellent season,â€ť added Bourgeois. â€śWe improved from last year, and hopefully next year, weâ€™ll take it a little bit further.â€ť