North Smithfield runner Tara Larson (right) slides home safely as she scores on a wild pitch and Burrillville pitcher Cassidy Tedeschi (left) is unable to field the low throw to the plate during Wednesday afternoon's softball game. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
NORTH SMITHFIELD â€” North Smithfield made it official on a cold, rainy Wednesday afternoon -- the Northmen have repeated as Division II-North champions.
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Backed by the spectacular four-hit pitching of junior ace Karissa Carlton and rallies in the first and fifth innings, the Northmen clinched the title outright by posting a 5-0 victory over neighboring foe Burrillville on the Northmenâ€™s campus.
The win was the eighth straight for the Green & Gold, who are 10-1 in the league with five contests left before the Division II playoffs, and it came against a Burrillville team that has not only played some of its best ball of the season to date -- entering the day with a four-game win streak -- but also gave the Northmen a tough battle in their season opener on April 2 before falling, 7-6.
â€śIâ€™m very happy for our team,â€ť remarked N.S. head coach Tom Bourgeois, whose crew won the division title last year with a 13-3 mark. â€śTheyâ€™re playing well and Iâ€™m very proud of them.â€ť
Bourgeois was also very proud of the pitching of Carlton, who followed up her two-hit, 11-strikeout performance on Monday against Ponaganset with her gem against the Broncos. She struck out nine batters, walked two, hit a batter with a pitch, and only allowed four batted balls to reach the outfield grass.
Carltonâ€™s counterpart, Burrillville senior ace Cassidy Tedeschi, scattered eight hits and fanned six batters in her outing, but she also dished out five walks, four of them in a first-inning rally that saw the rain come down in buckets and the Northmen score twice without the benefit of a hit.
Jess Tremblay led off the frame with a walk, and after she stole second and went to third on a one-out wild pitch, Megan Brodeur lofted a pop fly ball near the Broncosâ€™ dugout. First baseman Marissa Fernandez and catcher Tori Libby raced after the ball, which Fernandez caught near the dugoutâ€™s fence for the second out, but no one was covering home, and Tremblay alertly tagged up and scored uncontested.
Tedeschi then walked the next three batters she faced -- Tara Larson, Allie Dipari, and Katherine West -- to load the bases, and on her second pitch to the next batter, Julia Cloutier, she uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop that allowed Larson to score.
The Northmen plated their other three runs with their fifth-inning rally that saw Jaime LaFazia draw a one-out walk and the next four batters -- Brodeur, Larson, Diparti, and West -- follow with base hits.
LaFazia went from first to third on Brodeurâ€™s second hit of the game, a sharp single to right-center field, and she scored on Larsonâ€™s bloop hit to shallow right. Dipari then drove in a run with a bloop hit of her own to left, and West knocked in Larson with a ringing single to center.
The Broncos, who fell to 6-7, had their best chance to score in the sixth, as Taylor Ross led off with a single to right-center, and with one out, Samantha Moriarty doubled to the fence in left-center to put runners in scoring position.
The next batter, Mikayla Fernandez, then hit a soft liner that was heading to shallow left, but West, the shortstop, raced after the ball and hauled it in with a nice catch. She then turned around and fired a strike to Larson at second base to double off Moriarty and end the threat.
â€śIâ€™m very proud of the way Jess played today,â€ť added Bourgeois. â€śShe was amazing in the field, especially with that play she made, and she had a nice double down the (left-field) line in the second inning. Sheâ€™s been a leader for us.â€ť
Next up for the Northmen is a 7 p.m. contest on Saturday against Johnston at the Panthersâ€™ Mazzulla Field, located at Johnston Memorial Park. The Broncosâ€™ next game is also against Johnston at Mazzulla Field, but that will take place next Monday at 3:30 p.m.