SCITUATE --- One third of its way through its Division II-North schedule, North Smithfield is looking like not only the team to beat in the North, but also one of the elite squads in the entire division.
The Northmen continued their spectacular start on Monday afternoon by winning for the fifth time in as many games, defeating Scituate by a 5-1 score at Manning Field behind an 11-hit attack and another masterful outing by ace pitcher Karissa Carlton.
The senior standout, who was 48 hours removed from delivering a perfect game against Johnston that saw her strike out 15 of the 21 batters she faced, ended up tossing a two-hitter at the Spartans that featured 14 strikeouts.
Carlton also walked two batters (only her fourth and fifth free passes of the year) and carried a no-hit bid into the sixth, only to watch Alissa Harris ruin it by leading off with a slap bunt single to the left side of the diamond.
“As good as Karissa was against Johnston, she was even better today,” said N.S. coach Paul Mercier. “She pitched a great game.”
In her five starts, covering 31 innings, Carlton has been truly magnificent. She has struck out 60 batters, yielded just eight hits (including back-to-back one-hitters to open the season), and allowed just three runs.
And while Carlton has been splendid, so has the Northmen’s lineup, which came into the day averaging exactly 11 hits per game and matched that total against Scituate pitcher Jess Santanelli.
And the same can be said for the Northmen defensively. Playing with a new-look infield that consists of two juniors and two sophomores, the Northmen played errorless ball yesterday and has committed just two errors all season long.
“We’re very happy,” noted Mercier, whose team has outscored its opponents by a 46-3 count. “Again, Karissa’s been really solid, and we’re playing good defense behind her. We’re very young this year, but the girls are doing what they have to do and they’re still learning, and that’s all we can ask for.”
The Northmen struck quickly for a pair of runs in their opening at-bats, as a leadoff line single to center by Katie McMullin and an error on a grounder by Katherine West was soon followed by a run-scoring grounder by Angela Pasquariello and a sacrifice fly to left by Nicole Turcotte.
Turcotte, who hit the ball hard all afternoon, led off the fourth with a triple crushed deep into the gap in left-center field, and that was followed by three singles in a row by her teammates that helped give the Northmen a 5-0 lead.
Julia Cloutier drove in Turcotte with a sharp ground single to left, and after Alli Depari beat out an infield hit, Cloutier and Depari moved into scoring position on a double steal and soon came home when Emily Larson dropped a single into right.
Not only did Carlton watch her no-hit bid sail away in the wind in the sixth, but she also lost her bid for her fourth shutout of the spring on a two-out line single to center by Nicole Venturini. That was the Spartans’ only batted ball to leave the infield.
Carlton, who has 10 or more punchouts in each of her starts, also struck out the side in order in the first and final innings, and she received a couple of solid defensive plays from Cloutier at third base and one from Pasquarelli, her catcher, that saw her crash into the backstop to glove a pop foul.
McMullin, Turcotte, Depari, and Larson each finished the day with multiple hits, and West and Turcotte also belted hard-hit doubles to deep center in the latter innings of the game.
The Northmen’s next five games will be crossover contests against Division II-South teams. They are back in action tomorrow with a game in Wakefield against the Prout School and on Saturday at home against South Kingstown. Both games are scheduled for 4 p.m.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24