NORTH SMITHFIELD — North Smithfield made it official on a cold, rainy Wednesday afternoon -- the Northmen have repeated as Division II-North champions.
Backed by the spectacular four-hit pitching of junior ace Karissa Carlton and rallies in the first and fifth innings, the Northmen clinched the title outright by posting a 5-0 victory over neighboring foe Burrillville on the Northmen’s campus.
The win was the eighth straight for the Green & Gold, who are 10-1 in the league with five contests left before the Division II playoffs, and it came against a Burrillville team that has not only played some of its best ball of the season to date -- entering the day with a four-game win streak -- but also gave the Northmen a tough battle in their season opener on April 2 before falling, 7-6.
“I’m very happy for our team,” remarked N.S. head coach Tom Bourgeois, whose crew won the division title last year with a 13-3 mark. “They’re playing well and I’m very proud of them.”
Bourgeois was also very proud of the pitching of Carlton, who followed up her two-hit, 11-strikeout performance on Monday against Ponaganset with her gem against the Broncos. She struck out nine batters, walked two, hit a batter with a pitch, and only allowed four batted balls to reach the outfield grass.
Carlton’s counterpart, Burrillville senior ace Cassidy Tedeschi, scattered eight hits and fanned six batters in her outing, but she also dished out five walks, four of them in a first-inning rally that saw the rain come down in buckets and the Northmen score twice without the benefit of a hit.
Jess Tremblay led off the frame with a walk, and after she stole second and went to third on a one-out wild pitch, Megan Brodeur lofted a pop fly ball near the Broncos’ dugout. First baseman Marissa Fernandez and catcher Tori Libby raced after the ball, which Fernandez caught near the dugout’s fence for the second out, but no one was covering home, and Tremblay alertly tagged up and scored uncontested.
Tedeschi then walked the next three batters she faced -- Tara Larson, Allie Dipari, and Katherine West -- to load the bases, and on her second pitch to the next batter, Julia Cloutier, she uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop that allowed Larson to score.
The Northmen plated their other three runs with their fifth-inning rally that saw Jaime LaFazia draw a one-out walk and the next four batters -- Brodeur, Larson, Diparti, and West -- follow with base hits.
LaFazia went from first to third on Brodeur’s second hit of the game, a sharp single to right-center field, and she scored on Larson’s bloop hit to shallow right. Dipari then drove in a run with a bloop hit of her own to left, and West knocked in Larson with a ringing single to center.
The Broncos, who fell to 6-7, had their best chance to score in the sixth, as Taylor Ross led off with a single to right-center, and with one out, Samantha Moriarty doubled to the fence in left-center to put runners in scoring position.
The next batter, Mikayla Fernandez, then hit a soft liner that was heading to shallow left, but West, the shortstop, raced after the ball and hauled it in with a nice catch. She then turned around and fired a strike to Larson at second base to double off Moriarty and end the threat.
“I’m very proud of the way Jess played today,” added Bourgeois. “She was amazing in the field, especially with that play she made, and she had a nice double down the (left-field) line in the second inning. She’s been a leader for us.”
Next up for the Northmen is a 7 p.m. contest on Saturday against Johnston at the Panthers’ Mazzulla Field, located at Johnston Memorial Park. The Broncos’ next game is also against Johnston at Mazzulla Field, but that will take place next Monday at 3:30 p.m.