PROVIDENCE — North Smithfield High head coach Tom Bourgeois stood on a sidewalk in front of Rhode Island College's Gaige Hall late Wednesday afternoon and struggled to find words to describe his squad's inability to field the ball cleanly – or muster a timely hit.
His top-seeded Northmen (from II-North) had entered this R.I. Division II Tournament winners' bracket semifinal tilt against fifth-ranked East Greenwich having dropped just one league decision all year, that a 5-3 nailbiter at Cranston East back on April 10.
They also had outscored their 18 previous foes (excluding a 6-3 Injury Fund defeat to D-I representative Cumberland) by a whopping 139-45 count, and compiled a 15-game winning streak since that defeat to the Thunderbolt.
That history of success, both offensively and defensively, failed to materialize in this one, as North Smithfield committed an uncharacteristic five errors and stranded nine baserunners in a lackluster 7-3 loss to the Avengers.
“Five errors, geez,” Bourgeois stated as he glanced across the driveway to the scene of the crime, the Anchorwomen's home field. “Obviously, we haven't made that many in a game this season; we've averaged maybe one or two, but no more than that.
“I think East Greenwich just came out ready to hit Karissa (Carlton, his always-stellar junior righthander),” he added. “They know she's got a good riseball, and I think they were ready to hit it.”
When told his leadoff batter in all but one of the seven frames reached safely, he just shrugged.
“It all came down to timely hits,” he said. “They got them, and we couldn't get one to continue the inning.”
With the verdict, the Northmen (17-2 overall) now will host West Warwick in a losers' bracket semifinal at their field at 4 p.m. today. The Avengers (16-3) will face No. 1-ranked North Providence (from II-West) in the winners' bracket final here at RIC at 3 p.m., Saturday.
Junior second baseman Jackie DeFusco helped East Greenwich's offense, going 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI, while sophomore Sarah Gavin went 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored and junior Brooke Andreozzi 2-for-4 with two runs.
For Bourgeois's bunch, senior quad-captain Tara Larson finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, junior Jess Tremblay 2-for-4 with a run and fellow quad-captain Jaime LaFazia 2-for-3. The back of his order, Nos. 8 and 9 hitters Angela Pasquariello and Sam Archambault, both went 1-for-3 with a run scored.
“Jackie (DeFusco) was the catalyst,” E.G. skipper Bob Petrucci noted later. “She gave the kids a pre-game speech about our (5-3) loss to North Smithfield (on May 2), saying to them we really needed to win this game. She said that they had come and given it to us in earlier in the season, but we were better now.
“We also talked before the game about Karissa being such a good pitcher, we had to jump on her early and grab a lead,” he continued. “We had to bring our 'A' game and get on top early.”
The Avengers did just that in the top of the first inning. Junior Hannah Anderson reached on an infield hit, stole second and moved to third on Gavin's sacrifice bunt. Carlton whiffed eventual triumphant senior pitcher Lauren Duvall, but DeFusco – on a full count and after having fouled off seven strikes – pounded a double over the outstretched glove of left fielder Allie Depari to gain a 1-0 lead.
It looked as though the Northmen may knot it in the back half after Tremblay poked an infield single and moved to second on LaFazia's sacrifice bunt, but Duvall struck out senior Megan Brodeur and forced Larson to foul out to third.
E.G. recorded another pair in the third for the 3-0 cushion. Andreozzi reached on an infield hit, and Anderson beat out Carlson's errant throw to first. Both tagged on Gavin's fly to right, though – with two down – DeFusco drilled a ground single to center to plate both.
Carlson seemed to have settled down in front of her teammates after she fanned the first two hitters in the fourth. She actually struck out the side, but what happened in between must have been considered a cruel joke.
Freshman Cora Geunes knocked a ground single to left, and Andreozzi took first on an infield hit. Anderson then hustled out a slow grounder/late throw to first to load the bases, and Gavin roped a two-run single to center.
Duvall then delivered a hit to left to plate Anderson, and DeFusco whacked a liner to left, one that clipped off of Depari's glove, and Gavin raced home. Carlton then whiffed junior Kyra Benavent, but the Avengers made the most of sending nine to the plate, notching four and spinning a 7-0 lead.
North finally finally got on the board in the fifth, scoring two, but there could've been more.
Pasquariello and Archambault both ripped ground singles to center, and – with one out – LaFazia reached when right fielder Gavin dropped the liner. The bags juiced, Brodeur plated Pasquariello on a fielder's choice, and Larson's hit to left scored Archambault.
With Brodeur in scoring position, however, sophomore third baseman Jackie Passarotti snared Depari's wicked liner at her shoetop to end the frame.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Northmen manufactured another flurry after Tremblay led off with a double to deep left-center and LaFazia roped a hit to right. While Larson fanned for the second out, LaFazia and Tremblay pulled off a successful double-steal, the former scoring, though LaFazia was injured on the play.
Umpires apparently ruled the shortstop for obstruction, and allowed the play to stand, but Depari flew to left to close it.
Carlton certainly didn't help herself with a bobble and throwing miscue, but she hardly pitched poorly. In her complete-game outing, she yielded nine hits and a walk while fanning seven, but it gets better; only one E.G. run was earned, that in the opening frame.
Duvall also went the distance, allowing nine hits and two free bags with five strikeouts.
“We talked about the fact this was the second time East Greenwich was going to face us, and that they'd be gunning for us,” Bourgeois said. “The second time around is always tougher, so we had to go out and play our best game. (Tuesday) was a perfect example: We beat Exeter/West Greenwich, 11-6, (on May 7), but we had to fight for a 2-1 (playoff) win.
“I told them we couldn't take anyone for granted, and I don't think we did,” he added. “I told the girls after the game that we had to play West Warwick like we did here for the last three innings. They just hopped all over us in (the fourth). If we hadn't allowed six unearned runs, if we had just cut those in half, we still would've been it.”