Freshman Amanda Nunez's three-run homer in the second inning helped Woonsocket mercy-rule West Warwick, 13-0, and advance to the Division II winners' bracket finals.
PROVIDENCE -- Woonsocket hit with two outs. The Novans hit for power. The Novans peppered the gaps with hits.
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Seventh-seeded Woonsocket kicked off the Rhode Island College portion of the Division II tournament by roughing up one of the divisionâ€™s least scored upon teams on Tuesday night in the winnersâ€™ bracket semifinals.
Freshman Tayla Sevignyâ€™s bases-clearing triple in the top of the first inning and classmate Amanda Nunezâ€™s three-run homer in the second were the big hits in the Novansâ€™ stunning 13-0 triumph over sixth-seeded West Warwick.
The victory, which was stopped after five innings by the mercy rule, pushes the Novans (13-6) into Thursdayâ€™s 7 p.m. winnersâ€™ bracket final against the winner of tomorrowâ€™s other semifinal-round game between top-seeded East Greenwich and fourth-seeded Prout.
If the Novans can claim their next two games, they will complete a magical worst to first turnaround, going from 1-15 a season ago to winning their first Division II championship since 2004.
â€śOne game at a time,â€ť said Woonsocket coach Dan Belisle, whose Novans also won the Division III title in 2010. â€śWe donâ€™t want to get too high. Just forget this game, put it in the rear view, and concentrate on Thursday.â€ť
While Belisle was obviously happy with the victory, he was also pleasantly surprised at the hitting clinic his Novans displayed, especially in the early going, when they took a 7-0 lead after an inning and a half by scoring all of their runs with two outs.
It was clearly a shocking setback for the Wizards (13-6), who allowed just 36 runs during the regular-season (the third fewest of the leagueâ€™s 24 teams) and lost their previous five games by a combined 11 runs.
â€śItâ€™s hard to explain,â€ť Belisle said. â€śI really donâ€™t know what to say. Weâ€™ve hit, we have the potential to hit, but this even surprises me. Up and down the lineup, line drives, weâ€™re staying back and going to right field. Weâ€™re doing everything weâ€™re supposed to do, and itâ€™s nice.â€ť
But the Novansâ€™ hitting was only part of the story. They also sparkled in the pitching and defense departments, with Nunez blanking the Wizards on five base hits and a walk and striking out five batters, and her teammates backing her up with errorless defense.
â€śWhen she throws strikes and trusts her defense, weâ€™re going to get outs for her,â€ť Belisle said of Nunez. â€śWe have a good infield defense, itâ€™s solid, and all she has to do is keep the walks to a minimum and weâ€™ll be fine.â€ť
The Novans also turned in a couple of gems in the field. Shortstop Caitlyn Marcoux and first baseman Allyson Cartier each made a spectacular play on a 6-3 double play in the second, and catcher Kelsey Boucher made an all-out diving catch of a foul pop near the backstop in the fifth.
The Novans took a 3-0 lead in the first on Sevignyâ€™s triple, a line drive into the gap in right-center field that knocked in Taylor Pawlina and Cartier, who drew walks, and Boucher, who reached base on a dropped fly ball along the right-field line.
In the second, the Novans had two outs and no one on base when Marcoux belted the first pitch she saw over the head of right fielder Briana Gough for a triple.
She scored on a single to center by Pawlina, and after Boucher laced a base hit to left, Nunez stepped to the plate, turned on a 1-0 pitch by Wizards ace pitcher Valerie Kiers, and hammered it well over the fence in left-center for her home run and a 7-0 command.
After the Novans scored twice in the third on an infield error, they collected five hits in the fourth, including four in a row to kick off the inning, to score their final four runs.
Nunez led off with a long double off the fence in center and just to the left of the 225-foot sign. Cartier singled to center, Sevigny and Taylor Kerrigan each drove in a run with singles, and Marcoux capped the rally with a hard-hit, two-run double to left-center.
Sevigny concluded the night with a 3-for-3 performance and her four RBIs. Kerrigan, Marcoux, and Nunez each added two hits, and Pawlina, Boucher, Cartier, and Sevigny each scored twice.