PROVIDENCE â€“ Head coach Dan Belisle couldn't have been more matter-of-fact after Woonsocket High suffered an 8-5 loss to West Warwick High in a R.I. Division II Tournament losers' bracket final at Rhode Island College on Monday night.
â€śI'm really proud of my kids,â€ť he said following a contest best described as wild and, well, weird. â€śThey showed a lot of fight, they showed grit, and they swung the bats well. It just didn't go our way.â€ť
It certainly went the way of the Wizards' senior righty, Valerie Kiers. Not only did she scatter just seven hits and a pair of walks while fanning two in her seven-inning stint, but she added a 2-for-3 outing at the plate with a double and a whopping five RBI.
Her teammate, junior Mikaela Grosso, also aided Kiers' cause, going 3-for-4 with a two-bagger, two RBI and two runs.
For the Villa Novans, who closed at 13-8 overall, senior tri-captain Allyson Cartier went 2-for-4 with a RBI, junior Taylor Kerrigan 1-for-4 with a RBI and run and fellow tri-captain Kelsey Boucher 2-for-4 with a run.
West Warwick got on the board in the second, and Grosso started the rally with a base hit to center, then moved up on freshman Jamie Furtado's sacrifice bunt. Kiers ground single up the middle plated her, and Mari-Kate Sprague, her pitcher's courtesy runner, took second when senior Taylor Levesque punched another hit to center.
After eventual losing pitcher Amanda Nunez fanned senior Nicole Moretti for the second out, Katherine Palmer reached on an infield error, allowing Sprague to score.
Woonsocket immediately responded in the third with a trio to snare a 3-2 advantage. Senior Caitlyn Marcoux reached on a fielder's choice, and freshman Taylor Pawlina's single to right-center pushed her to second.
Boucher then reached on an infield single, and Marcoux hustled home when the Wizards began throwing the ball from base to base. Nunez took first on yet another infield miscue, and her courtesy runner, Kayla Rivers, raced to second on defensive indifference.
Cartier followed with a bloop hit to right, plating Boucher and sending Rivers to third. When West Warwick catcher Camille O'Brien tried to pick off Rivers, her throw sailed into left, and the Villa Novan scored easily.
The Wizards, however, tied it up at 3-3 in the bottom half. Freshman Dana Barclay led the frame with a single to center, went to second on classmate Briana Gough's ground hit to left and scored on Grosso's double high off the left-field fence. (Actually, it missed clearing the chain links by perhaps two feet).
West Warwick added a pair in the bottom of the fifth to go up, 5-3. Sophomore Kayla Rutter led off with a single to right, and Gough grounded to shortstop Marcoux. While trying to get the lead runner at second, she threw wildly to the bag, allowing Rutter to take third and Gough second.
Nunez then walked Furtado to juice the bags, and Kiers ripped a single to left to plate the two.
Again with the bases full, Moretti grounded to third baseman Pawlina, who fired to Boucher at the plate for the force out that ended the flurry.
Undaunted, the 'Novans fought back, answering with two to knot it again at 5-5. Kiers walked Nunez, who was replaced at first by Rivers, and she moved to second when Cartier reached on an infield miscue (one of five for the Wizards). Kerrigan then crushed a double to deep left, scoring Rivers and sending Cartier to third.
That's when the drama occurred. Junior Amanda Alexion bunted to load the bags, and sophomore Varsana Schobel reached on first baseman Levesque's dropped-ball error at first. When she fired to the plate, Kerrigan already had slid under the tag.
Freshman Dacia Macneil then attempted a sacrifice bunt, but the home-plate umpire called her out for interfering with backstop O'Brien, and Marcoux's groundout to Kiers closed an inning that could have provided Woonsocket with one or two more runs.
â€śI didn't see (the interference), so I couldn't argue it,â€ť Belisle said later. â€śIt certainly was a critical play, because we still would've had runners at second and third with one out. I guess it just wasn't mean to be.â€ť
The Wizards broke the deadlock with three in the back half of the sixth. Barclay roped a base hit to right, then took second on Rutter's sacrifice bunt. Nunez whiffed Gough for the second out, but Grosso's single to left plated Barclay, and Grosso took third when the ball eluded left fielder Schobel.
Furtado walked, and Kiers slammed a double to deep left to score Grosso and Furtado with a pair of insurance runs.
With the win, West Warwick, not Woonsocket, qualified to battle top-seeded East Greenwich for the D-II championship at 7 p.m., Wednesday.