CUMBERLAND --- The Cumberland Major Division all-star team’s roads to the District IV and state championships were tough. The squad’s next venture only promises to be a whole lot tougher.
Cumberland joined nine other ballclubs from the northern part of the country this weekend to take part in the Eastern Regional Tournament at Breen Field on the Bart Giamatti Complex in Bristol, Conn.
If that place sounds familiar to local fans, it should. That’s where the Eastern Regionals for Major Division baseball take place every August. But from this afternoon’s opening games to the championship game on July 30, the complex will host the softball regionals for the first time in its history.
There has been plenty of excitement around town since the all-stars shut out East Greenwich, 3-0, in the state championship game last Friday in Riverside. The opportunity to play at the Bart Giamatti Complex instead of Albany, N.Y. has added to the buzz, as has the countdown to today’s opening game.
And speaking of the opener, Cumberland won’t have to wait long for it. At 2 p.m., they will face Hermon, Maine in the second game of a quadrupleheader that fans can actually follow live on http://llseast.bbstats.pointstreak.com .
“These girls are ready to play,” said Cumberland coach Mike Gillardi. “This is a very talented group of young players. They’re nice kids and they work very hard, and that’s one thing I’m so proud of, it’s how hard they work and how the results have been there for them because of that hard work.”
Cumberland has had to work extra hard to move on to the regionals because the team had to overcome some challenges from the likes of North Smithfield and Lincoln in the District IV tournament and East Greenwich in the states.
In pool play in the District IV playoffs, Cumberland held off N.S., 4-2, before dropping a 6-5 decision to Lincoln. Both Cumberland and Lincoln eventually renewed acquaintances in the title game, which Cumberland won, 9-7.
“Lincoln was very tough,“ added Gillardi. “We beat them by two runs in the championship game, but we were winning 9-3 at one point. They wouldn’t go away and they didn’t go down easily.”
In the double-elimination state tournament, Cumberland seized all three of its games, but two of them were thrillers against East Greenwich.
“(East Greenwich) was also very good,” remarked Gillardi. “We beat them in two games by a combined score of 6-2. Their pitching was very good and the defense was pretty solid as well.”
Cumberland will now battle in a New England pool that also features teams from Fairfield, Conn., Lynn, Mass., and Swanton, Vt. After playing Hermon today and taking Saturday off, the locals will take on Swanton on Sunday at 1 p.m., Fairfield on Tuesday at 7, and Lynn on Wednesday at 8.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Gillardi noted about the competition. “Some people will tell you, ‘Watch out for Connecticut,’ or ‘Watch out for this team,’ but certainly, we’re looking at the best of the best from all over New England and I’m certain we’re going to see some fantastic pitching.”
While the other four New England teams promise to have strong pitching, so does Cumberland, and the locals are very deep with a staff that includes Sam Jalbert, Sydney Provencal, Katerina Kent, and Emily Durand, who is slated to get the start in today’s game against Hermon.
And while Cumberland’s pitching and hitting are very good, the defense is superb. Kailey Brodeur is the catcher, and the infield has first basemen Ellie Ackerman, Jen Rioux, and Durand, second basemen Emily D'Abrosca and Julianne Ross, third baseman Maddi Leite, and shortstop Brianna Frankina.
Hannah Tremblay, Abby Drezek, and Sarah Marsland patrol the outfield, as does Provencal (who can play almost every position on the field), Kent, and Jalbert.
Gillardi is also joined on his coaching staff by assistants Ken Jalbert and John Brodeur, who both were managers of state championship teams last summer.
Jalbert was the head coach of Cumberland’s Minor Division (ages 9 and 10) softball team that captured the state crown, and Brodeur led the Cumberland National Major Division baseball team to a state title and an Eastern Regional appearance in Bristol.
“Ken and John are excellent coaches,” said Gillardi. “I’m lucky to have them. They’ve been with this age group longer than I have, and they’ve done just as much work as I have.”