CUMBERLAND — There’s no place like home. And for Cumberland, which played eight of its first nine games of the season (two of them non-league contests in Massachusetts and one an Injury Fund non-leaguer) on the road, Wednesday afternoon’s Division I showdown against La Salle in the friendly confines of Tucker Field was certainly a welcomed breath of fresh air.
The Clippers made the most out of their homecoming with a strong performance against an always-tough opponent and a longtime rival. Juliet Nelson provided the pitching with a splendid two-hitter, and Samantha Bertherman led the offense with a 3-for-4 day to help lead the Clippers to a 6-1 triumph.
“It’s good to be back at Tucker,” added Cumberland coach Marty Crowley, whose crew is 6-1 in the division and trailing only undefeated Lincoln and North Kingstown in the standings. “It’s been a long month for us, but it’s always good to be home.
“Today, we played a very good program, and Coach (Stefanie) Bello does a great job with her kids. La Salle only had two losses coming in, so we had to make sure that we were ready to play them.”
Nelson was certainly ready to go on Wednesday with her fine outing, which included nine strikeouts, no walks, and only four batted balls to reach the outfield grass. She also finished the game strong by setting down eight of her final nine batters, and she received a nice helping hand from her infielders, which recorded 10 groundouts.
Nelson’s only hiccup of the day came in the fifth, when she gave up both of the Rams’ hits, one of them a two-out ground single up the middle by No. 9 batter and starting pitcher Brianna Swanholm that drove in Maxine DeLuise, who ruined Nelson’s no-hit bid with a one-out bloop single to center. That run broke a string of 23 scoreless innings for the junior pitcher.
“Juliet pitched wonderful,” said Crowley. “She’ll keep us in every game. She throws the ball well and she mixes her pitches well. This was her first time pitching on one day’s rest, and outside of that fifth inning, she came back and pitched very well.”
Bertherman, meanwhile, had a marvelous afternoon from the No. 2 spot in the Clippers’ lineup. She stole three bases in the game, ripped line singles to left in her first two at-bats, and belted an outside pitch down the right-field line for a run-scoring double in the fourth.
She nearly had a fourth hit in her final at-bat in the sixth, but third baseman Kendall Jackson made a nice play on a sharp grounder to her left to deny Bertherman of another single.
Leadoff batter Bridget Connors and Sydnee Shabomardenly also contributed to the cause with two hits each.
The Clippers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a sacrifice fly to center by Nelson that drove in Connors, who led off with a ground single to left, stole second, and went to third on Bertherman’s first hit.
In the fourth, the Clippers boosted their lead to 4-0, thanks to back-to-back throwing errors by the Rams. Shabomardenly led off with a single to left, and after she moved to second on an errant pickoff throw, she raced home when Alexis Descoteaux’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away for another error.
A sacrifice bunt by Bea Caron advanced Descoteaux from second to third, and with two gone, Connors and Bertherman each knocked in a run with a double, with Connors’ hit belted deep into the gap in left-center.
The Clippers’ other two runs came in the fifth. Caylin Legare led off with a line single, and an out later, Shabomardenly ripped a ground single up the middle that went through the center fielder’s legs and allowed Legare to score. Shabomardenly motored into third on the miscue (La Salle’s fourth of the game) and soon came home on a line single to left by Descoteaux.
The Clippers are back at Tucker Field today with a 3:45 p.m. matchup against winless Warwick Vets. This makeup contest will be the second game of a five-game homestand for Cumberland, which will spend seven of its next eight games on its home turf.