WOONSOCKET — On Monday afternoon at Slater Park, Tolman High mustered only one hit in a 3-0, extra-inning loss to defending Rhode Island Division I champion Lincoln.
Naturally, that was a point of contention for head coach Craig Giarrusso, who in practice has been working with his girls to produce more at the plate.
It showed, and then some, in a Division I showdown with Woonsocket on Wednesday afternoon. The Tigers bashed 14 hits, 11 of them in the final three frames, to post an easier-than-anticipated 8-0 victory at Cold Spring Park’s Baldelli Field.
Sophomore Cristen Chiaverini, hitting eighth in the order, finished 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored, while senior Ashley Clark went 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs, sophomore Megan Klemanchuck 2-for-4 with a run and freshman Kaylee Molina-Vaz 2-for-3 with an RBI.
And senior Ashley Hessler not only poked two hits, one a three-bagger, and scored once, but also played magnificently at third; she not only made three nice snags of foul balls near her own third-base dugout, but also earned three assists.
“Offense has been an issue for us since the season started,” Giarrusso stated after his club’s first win of the season (Tolman is now 1-2). “In this one, we hit the ball a little better than all of this year, but they’re still not hitting the way they’re capable – or to my satisfaction.
“We had 14 hits, OK, but we didn’t have the key hits with people on base,” he added. “We didn’t have them begin to come together until the fifth (inning). We left a lot of girls on because we didn’t execute.”
He nevertheless couldn’t have been happier with the mound presence of senior righty Olivia Larson, who scattered just five hits, two walks and a pair of hit batsmen around a trio of strikeouts.
“She’s been pitching great,” he noted. “This is absolutely the best I’ve seen her throw in four years. I think it’s just because she works hard. She takes her pitching seriously; if she gets behind (in the count), she doesn’t get frazzled.
“You know, she was the key to us being in the game against Lincoln. I mean, she held them scoreless through seven, and she kept us in it.”
It appeared the Tigers would score at least once in the top of the first inning; with one out, Hessler knocked a single to left, then stole second and took third on a wild pitch.
Clark followed with a walk, and sophomore Megan Klemanchuck attempted to plate Hessler with a suicide-squeeze bunt, though sophomore righthander Amanda Nunez made a stellar play with the glove and fired to first.
Molina-Vaz then ripped a grounder to sophomore shortstop Tayla Sevigny, who made an outstanding toss to first to squelch the possible rally.
The Villa Novans (0-3) didn’t come up with a real threat until the back half of the fourth. With one down, senior Amanda Alexion walked, and frosh Brittany Girard whacked a ground single to center. Both moved up on sophomore Emily Brunetti’s sacrifice bunt, and Larson hit Varsana Schobel to load the bags.
The hurler got out of the jam when she fanned No. 9 batter and sophomore Dacia MacNeil.
Giarrusso’s crew started the fifth with Chiaverini’s opposite-field double over the head of right fielder Schobel, and senior Brittany Bilodeau sacrifice-bunted her to third. Sophomore Leiandra Wilson grounded to short for the second out, but it did plate Chiaverini.
That’s when the floodgates opened. Hessler pounded a triple to center, then scored on an errant relay throw. Incredibly, Clark did the same thing but to left. (No, they weren’t dingers).
Both Megan Klemanchuck and Molina-Vaz followed with singles, but the catcher Girard tagged out Klemanchuck attempting to score on what would’ve been another off-target relay.
Woonsocket squandered sophomore Taylor Pawlina’s one-out hit up the middle in the fifth, and the Tigers responded with another run in the sixth. Senior Jordyn Klemanchuck poked a hit to center, hustled to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on Chiaverini’s first single and scored when Girard’s throw to third sailed into shallow left.
Down 4-0, Alexion gave the Novans hope with a leadoff two-bagger in the bottom half, though nothing came of it, and Tolman rallied for four more in the seventh.Clark singled and took second on a miscue, and Megan Klemanchuck reached on an infield error. Molina-Vaz stroked a hit to left, plating Clark and moving Megan to third, before senior pinch-hitter Shelby Hofknecht’s single to left scored her.
Molina-Vaz’s pinch-runner, Miranda Echeverria, was thrown out at the plate, but senior Crystal Ritcey (Hofknecht’s pinch-runner) and Jordyn Klemanchuck both raced home on Chiaverini’s opposite-field hit to right.
In the bottom of the seventh, senior pinch-batter Paige Houle earned a walk, though Larson capped her stellar outing with a groundout and two pop flies to center fielder Clark.
“I thought Amanda pitched very well, just like she did against Westerly (in a 6-5, extra-inning loss on Monday),” mentioned Novans’ mentor Dan Belisle. “She only gave one earned run, and she gave up four today.
“There were just too many errors,” he added of the quartet committed, all in the last three frames. “We played well defensively, especially early on, but then they came in bunches. We were right there through four, playing them even, but we didn’t hit the ball that well. Still, I can live with that.
“I thought we let down (emotionally) in the seventh inning especially, and that was after playing hard and tough for six. It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I thought they were just kind of pouting out there.
“I could’ve lived with a 3-0 or 4-0 loss, especially with those back-to-back triples, but I can’t with the seventh-inning attitude. That’s got to change.”