NORTH SMITHFIELD – Assistant coach Paul Mercier put it best after North Smithfield High pulled off an amazing, come-from-behind 3-2 triumph over West Warwick on Thursday afternoon: “The girls were a whole lot happier today than they were 24 hours ago. It was a really quiet ride home.”
Mercier had referred to the atmosphere on the bus returning the Northmen to school after sustaining a disgruntling 7-3 loss to East Greenwich in a R.I. Division II Tournament winners’ bracket semifinal at Rhode Island College on Wednesday. In it, they committed five sorry errors and stranded nine, dropping them into a losers’ bracket home semifinal against the Wizards, the fourth-seeded squad from II-South.
North Smithfield, the top-ranked team representing II-North, nevertheless rallied from a late 2-0 deficit, fought back to tie it in the sixth and registered the game-clincher when junior Jess Tremblay ripped a walk-off, bases-loaded single to plate classmate Alli Depari with two outs in the seventh to improve to 18-2.
Also with the verdict, head coach Tom Bourgeois’s bunch earned a bid into the tourney’s losers’ bracket final. It will face the victor of St. Raphael-Pilgrim back at RIC at 3 p.m., Sunday.
With the score knotted at 2-2 in the back half of that final frame, Depari led off with a walk off of senior and eventual losing pitcher Briana Gough, and junior Katherine West received the same. Classmate Angela Pasquariello then attempted to sacrifice-bunt them into scoring position, but Gough’s throw to third allowed late.
The bags juiced, however, sophomore Nicole Turcotte whiffed and senior Sam Archambault popped out to second, giving N.S. one last opportunity to extend its season.
Tremblay took care of that, drilling a liner to center, and Bourgeois and Co. celebrated a “steal” of a win.
“I know the count was 1-0, and I was just thinking ‘line drive,’” Tremblay grinned. “I felt it when I swung that I had made good contact; it was solid. I was running down the first-base line thinking, ‘Oh, my God! I’m so excited!’
“Before the game, we were all thinking that we went into (Wednesday’s) game a little scared; in this one, we wanted to kick some butt,” she added. “We wanted to redeem ourselves.”
Offensively, Depari paced the hosts, going 2-for-2 with a double, home run, walk and two runs scored, and Tremblay went 1-for-4 with an RBI and run.
Another junior, righty starter Karissa Carlton, more than helped out, manufacturing a superb, complete-game performance. She scattered five hits and a walk while fanning nine; both of West Warwick’s runs were unearned.
Part of that storyline was this: Neither Bourgeois nor Mercier thought beforehand she’d be able to toe the rubber.
“She came to us with a lot of stiffness from (Wednesday),” Mercier noted. “She said she had tried to loosen herself up at home before coming here, and that’s when she brought her soreness to our attention. She wasn’t too sure if she’d be ready to go … We had her throw with our back-up pitcher, (sophomore) Kate McMullen, beforehand, and she said she wanted to give it a try.
“We understood, because she had pitched three straight games, in three pressure games. I mean, she had already thrown 22 innings over the previous 72 hours.”
Carlton opened the tilt strong, retiring the side in the first, two via “K,” but ran into a bit of a jam in the second. On the initial pitch after third baseman Angela Pasquariello had dropped a foul pop, WW senior Mikaela Grosso knocked a single to center, then took second on Gough’s sacrifice bunt.
But senior second baseman Tara Larson, who covered first on the short grounder to Pasquariello, fired wildly to the middle bag to get Grosso, and the latter scored easily when the throw bounced into left.
In the bottom half, Depari walloped a double down the left-field line, though nothing came of it.
The Wizards (whose season closed at 12-8) recorded an insurance run in the third; No. 9 batter Mari Kate Sprague poked a soft single to left, raced to second on sophomore Dana Barclay’s sacrifice bunt, moved to third on senior Kat Palmer’s groundout to third and scored on a passed ball.
In the interim, Gough had retired eight straight before Depari spiked into the batter’s box in the fifth, but that’s when she made her first mistake. Depari crushed a 1-2 fastball to deep straightaway center, one that caromed off the yellow, plastic lining and over the fence; with the dinger, she sliced the gap to 2-1.
“When Alli hit that home run, we were in the dugout thinking, ‘Here we go!’” Tremblay explained. “Once we get a big hit, we’re all amped up, and we continue to hit the ball. Before that, we were hitting it right at them, but that’s when we started to find the gaps.”
N.S. tied it in the sixth, and it came in dramatic fashion. Archambault led off by reaching on a dropped pop, but she was thrown out at second when Tremblay grounded up the middle. Tremblay took second on senior quad-captain Jaime LaFazia’s sacrifice bunt, then hustled in on fellow captain Megan Brodeur’s hit to left.
Junior outfielder Kylie McCallum bobbled the grounder, and that allowed Brodeur to gain second, though Gough whiffed Larson to escape the frame.
All of that led to the Northmen’s late-game heroics.
“With Jess up to start the seventh, we had a lot of confidence,” Bourgeois stated. “She’s really tough under pressure; she just loves it, and she’s successful in those kinds of situations … And, with Alli, she came up huge in this game, but she’s been huge all year.
“Alli led the team in batting average (.571) going into the playoffs, and she led us in RBI, too,” he added. “Her homer put some life back into them. They weren’t really down, but they knew it was late in the game and we were running out of time. She put some fire into us.
“Like I said, we’re coming off three games in a row, in three straight days, so it’s great (not to have another contest until Sunday). Karissa needs some rest, and – actually – the whole team does. We have sore arms out here. That’s why I told the girls we wouldn’t practice (Friday); I wanted them to stay in and take it easy.”