NORTH SMITHFIELD â Assistant coach Paul Mercier put it best after North Smithfield High pulled off an amazing, come-from-behind 3-2 triumph over West Warwick on Thursday afternoon: âThe girls were a whole lot happier today than they were 24 hours ago. It was a really quiet ride home.â
Mercier had referred to the atmosphere on the bus returning the Northmen to school after sustaining a disgruntling 7-3 loss to East Greenwich in a R.I. Division II Tournament winnersâ bracket semifinal at Rhode Island College on Wednesday. In it, they committed five sorry errors and stranded nine, dropping them into a losersâ bracket home semifinal against the Wizards, the fourth-seeded squad from II-South.
North Smithfield, the top-ranked team representing II-North, nevertheless rallied from a late 2-0 deficit, fought back to tie it in the sixth and registered the game-clincher when junior Jess Tremblay ripped a walk-off, bases-loaded single to plate classmate Alli Depari with two outs in the seventh to improve to 18-2.
Also with the verdict, head coach Tom Bourgeoisâs bunch earned a bid into the tourneyâs losersâ bracket final. It will face the victor of St. Raphael-Pilgrim back at RIC at 3 p.m., Sunday.
With the score knotted at 2-2 in the back half of that final frame, Depari led off with a walk off of senior and eventual losing pitcher Briana Gough, and junior Katherine West received the same. Classmate Angela Pasquariello then attempted to sacrifice-bunt them into scoring position, but Goughâs throw to third allowed late.
The bags juiced, however, sophomore Nicole Turcotte whiffed and senior Sam Archambault popped out to second, giving N.S. one last opportunity to extend its season.
Tremblay took care of that, drilling a liner to center, and Bourgeois and Co. celebrated a âstealâ of a win.
âI know the count was 1-0, and I was just thinking âline drive,ââ Tremblay grinned. âI felt it when I swung that I had made good contact; it was solid. I was running down the first-base line thinking, âOh, my God! Iâm so excited!â
âBefore the game, we were all thinking that we went into (Wednesdayâs) game a little scared; in this one, we wanted to kick some butt,â she added. âWe wanted to redeem ourselves.â
Offensively, Depari paced the hosts, going 2-for-2 with a double, home run, walk and two runs scored, and Tremblay went 1-for-4 with an RBI and run.
Another junior, righty starter Karissa Carlton, more than helped out, manufacturing a superb, complete-game performance. She scattered five hits and a walk while fanning nine; both of West Warwickâs runs were unearned.
Part of that storyline was this: Neither Bourgeois nor Mercier thought beforehand sheâd be able to toe the rubber.
âShe came to us with a lot of stiffness from (Wednesday),â Mercier noted. âShe said she had tried to loosen herself up at home before coming here, and thatâs when she brought her soreness to our attention. She wasnât too sure if sheâd be ready to go âŠ We had her throw with our back-up pitcher, (sophomore) Kate McMullen, beforehand, and she said she wanted to give it a try.
âWe understood, because she had pitched three straight games, in three pressure games. I mean, she had already thrown 22 innings over the previous 72 hours.â
Carlton opened the tilt strong, retiring the side in the first, two via âK,â but ran into a bit of a jam in the second. On the initial pitch after third baseman Angela Pasquariello had dropped a foul pop, WW senior Mikaela Grosso knocked a single to center, then took second on Goughâs sacrifice bunt.
But senior second baseman Tara Larson, who covered first on the short grounder to Pasquariello, fired wildly to the middle bag to get Grosso, and the latter scored easily when the throw bounced into left.
In the bottom half, Depari walloped a double down the left-field line, though nothing came of it.
The Wizards (whose season closed at 12-8) recorded an insurance run in the third; No. 9 batter Mari Kate Sprague poked a soft single to left, raced to second on sophomore Dana Barclayâs sacrifice bunt, moved to third on senior Kat Palmerâs groundout to third and scored on a passed ball.
In the interim, Gough had retired eight straight before Depari spiked into the batterâs box in the fifth, but thatâs when she made her first mistake. Depari crushed a 1-2 fastball to deep straightaway center, one that caromed off the yellow, plastic lining and over the fence; with the dinger, she sliced the gap to 2-1.
âWhen Alli hit that home run, we were in the dugout thinking, âHere we go!ââ Tremblay explained. âOnce we get a big hit, weâre all amped up, and we continue to hit the ball. Before that, we were hitting it right at them, but thatâs when we started to find the gaps.â
N.S. tied it in the sixth, and it came in dramatic fashion. Archambault led off by reaching on a dropped pop, but she was thrown out at second when Tremblay grounded up the middle. Tremblay took second on senior quad-captain Jaime LaFaziaâs sacrifice bunt, then hustled in on fellow captain Megan Brodeurâs hit to left.
Junior outfielder Kylie McCallum bobbled the grounder, and that allowed Brodeur to gain second, though Gough whiffed Larson to escape the frame.
All of that led to the Northmenâs late-game heroics.
âWith Jess up to start the seventh, we had a lot of confidence,â Bourgeois stated. âSheâs really tough under pressure; she just loves it, and sheâs successful in those kinds of situations âŠ And, with Alli, she came up huge in this game, but sheâs been huge all year.
âAlli led the team in batting average (.571) going into the playoffs, and she led us in RBI, too,â he added. âHer homer put some life back into them. They werenât really down, but they knew it was late in the game and we were running out of time. She put some fire into us.
âLike I said, weâre coming off three games in a row, in three straight days, so itâs great (not to have another contest until Sunday). Karissa needs some rest, and â actually â the whole team does. We have sore arms out here. Thatâs why I told the girls we wouldnât practice (Friday); I wanted them to stay in and take it easy.â