NORTH SMITHFIELD — When you have a very talented team that’s loaded with freshmen and sophomores like the one North Smithfield has this season, even the worst of innings can pop up now and then.
One of those innings took place in the sixth inning of the Northmen’s Division II crossover game at home against Exeter/West Greenwich, and it helped lead to N.S.’s first loss of the season.
The Northmen committed four errors in an ugly inning that saw the defending Division II champion Scarlet Knights scratch out all its runs in a 3-0 victory.
The defeat ruined the varsity debut of freshman pitcher Karissa Carlton, who was truly marvelous in crafting a two-hitter that saw her strike out 15 batters (including six straight at one point), hit a batter with a pitch, and surrender no walks or earned runs.
“It was a tough way to lose,” noted N.S. coach Tom Bourgeois, whose young team, which has eight freshmen and four juniors on its 14-player roster, fell to 4-1. “I keep stressing that we have a young team and I think you saw it in that one inning.”
Carlton matched zeroes through the first five innings with Scarlet Knights ace Juliann Tefft, who finished with a five-hitter that saw her strike out five, walk no one, and induce 11 groundouts.
But then came the fateful sixth.
The first batter, Alex Jendzejec, reached base when her bunt was thrown wide of first, and after she stole second base and the next batter flew out to center, Tefft hit a line drive to right that was misplayed for another miscue.
Jendzejec raced home on the error, and when the throw to second to get Tefft sailed into left field, Tefft was able to circle the bases and score the Knights’ second run.
And EWG wasn’t done. The next batter, Andrea Artesani, blooped a base hit into shallow center that fell among three players, and Shannon Laiho followed with a fly ball to left that was dropped and allowed Artesani to easily score.
“That was a tough inning,” said Bourgeois. “But what a great performance by Karissa. Our defense let her down, but she really did a great job.”
The Northmen were unable to get a runner past second base in the game, but before the sixth, they managed to get two as far as second.
In the fifth, Angela Barber laced a two-out double to right, but the next batter grounded out to second, and in the sixth, Angela Pasquarielli lined a one-out single to left and dashed to second on a sacrifice bunt by Katherine West, but when she wandered too far off the base, she was immediately picked off.
In the seventh, the Northmen put runners on first and second with two gone when Rachael Manzi singled up the middle and Sidra Ethier reached base on a throwing error.
But the late rally and the contest ended when Pascarelli hit a line drive to the left of Artesani at shortstop. Manzi collided with Artesani before she was able to get her glove on the ball and was instantly called out by the base umpire.
The Northmen have another tough contest on Saturday at 7 p.m. against a 16-win team from a season ago, Johnston High, at the Panthers’ Mazzulla Field. It promises to be a very good test for a young team like the Northmen.
“We’re very young,” added Bourgeois, “but as long as we keep playing hard and keep improving, we’re going to get stronger and stronger as the year goes on.”