CUMBERLAND — If there’s any good news for Cumberland High, it will return to Division I-North action beginning Wednesday afternoon, when head coach Marty Crowley’s crew hosts La Salle Academy at 3:45.
The bad: The Clippers closed their D-I crossover slate Monday afternoon with a 5-0 loss to North Kingstown at Tucker Field, as Skippers’ junior righty Taylor Butler yielded just five hits and two walks while whiffing eight in her complete-game outing.
As for the visitors’ offense, Cumberland sophomore Juliet Nelson didn’t allow a hit to North Kingstown’s final five in the lineup, as they went a combined 0-for-15. The top four, however, hit a combined 8-for-14, or an amazing .571, to push its overall mark to 9-4.
Freshman cleanup batter Natalie Wirth led the charge, going 2-for-4 with a double and four RBI. Butler helped her own cause, finishing at 3-for-3 with three runs scored, while senior Sarah Dent went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs.
Nelson, who had entered the tilt with a 5-5 mark inside the circle, scattered eight hits and four walks with five strikeouts, though all five of the runs she yielded were earned.
“The top of their order did some damage,” Crowley sighed after his club fell to 8-6 overall and in D-I action. “We got behind early (2-0 in the top of the first) and sometimes – emotionally, even though you’re playing at home – you start to chase and swing at pitches you wouldn’t ordinarily.
“You find yourself pressing, and I think that’s what happened with us,” he added. “We did get some girls on base, but we just couldn’t come up with the timely hit.”
NK opened the tilt with a popout, but Nelson walked Butler, who moved to third on Dent’s double to center. Wirth then delivered both with a ground single to right for the 2-0 advantage.
The Skippers seemed poised to rack up at least a couple more in the second. Junior Allie Lomas reached on a fielder’s choice, and – with two down – sophomore catcher Heather Jackson roped a hit between short and third and Butler drilled a single up the middle to load the bags.
But Nelson bore down and forced Dent to ground out to junior shortstop Samantha Bertherman, who made two putouts and assisted on seven others; many of those were of the stellar variety.
In the back half of the second, Bertherman attempted to help her team’s cause when she drilled a one-out single and stole second, though Butler fanned junior Sydney Chabomardenly and forced classmate Tayla Noke to op out to second.
NK put another run on the board in the fourth when leadoff hitter Butler’s half-swing single snuck through the hole between short and third, and Dent walked. Both moved up on a Nelson’s lone wild offering, and Butler raced home on junior Liz Finelli’s groundout to first.
With Wirth at third, Nelson got frosh Devin Neary to ground to Bertherman.
In the Clippers’ fifth, Chabomardenly reached on a bloop hit to shallow center, but was forced at second on Noke’s fielder’s choice. After a Butler strikeout, freshman Rachel Gillardi walked, but junior Caylin Legare fouled out to first to halt that possible flurry.
Nelson provided her teammates with a one-out single to center in the sixth, and Bertherman poked a two-out hit to right to move her to second. But Butler fanned Chabomardenly to shut down the Clippers.
The Skippers rallied for a pair in the seventh with a one-out rally. Butler singled up the middle, then took third when Dent ripped a hit to right, one that right-fielder Noke fumbled a bit.
Wirth’s two-run single to left plated both Butler and Dent for the 5-0 verdict.
“I thought (junior center fielder) Alexis Descoteaux and Sammy (Bertherman) played great defense, and that’s what kept us in the game,” Crowley stated. “I just think we need to keep our focus. Sometimes, if we don’t start something offensively, we take it onto the field, and if we have a couple of errors out there, we bring it to the batter’s box.
“Now we have four games left, and I think we need to win them all,” he added of Cumberland’s opportunity to attain a playoff bid. “The game against La Salle is our final home game, so it would be nice to win it.
“The mode we seem to be in now is one step forward, two steps back, and we have to remedy that.”