Playing uncharacteristically early this past Saturday, the Cranston West softball team took its time waking up during the first inning of its 11 a.m. game.
Coventry, on the other hand, was raring to go.
The result was a quick 3-0 Oakers lead, and West never recovered. The seventh-seeded Falcons tried to come back late, but their efforts fell short as they lost 6-2 and were eliminated from the Division I playoffs by the fourth-seeded Oakers in the loser’s bracket quarterfinals.
Coventry went on to defeat Bay View and Toll Gate in its next two games, and was scheduled to take on Lincoln in the finals of the state championship on Wednesday, with a second game Thursday if necessary.
West finished the postseason with a 2-2 record, earning wins over East Providence and North Kingstown, with its other loss – besides Coventry – coming to Bay View.
“We just couldn’t get going,” West head coach Jeff Smith said. “Saturday morning kind of thing.”
Falcons’ pitcher Kelly McDonough retired two of the first three Coventry batters she faced, sandwiched around a walk to Rachel Ball.
That brought up Nicole Bent, and West failed to get out of the inning when it had the chance, as it committed an infield error and allowed Bent to reach.
Alyssa Derrick made it count, as she followed with an RBI single for the game’s first run. Freshman standout Jillian Ward added to the lead, smacking a two-run single to make it 3-0 after the first.
The Falcons were quickly behind the eight ball.
“We didn’t have the best energy in the beginning,” McDonough said.
It showed on the offensive end as well, as West’s first six hitters all popped out against Oakers’ starter Kerrie Deliberis. Then, in the third, Coventry added to its lead on a sacrifice fly by Bent, making it 4-0.
From there on out, the game played to a stalemate. The Falcons continually tried to climb back into the game, but it couldn’t seem to get the big hit it needed off Deliberis.
In the third, they got a leadoff single from Laura Isacco and another single from Stephanie Menard two batters later, giving them runners at first and second. A groundout and a strikeout, however, got Coventry out of the jam.
It was a similar story in the fifth, when Isacco singled again to lead off the inning and Sarah Nacci followed that with a walk. With a golden opportunity, West’s next three hitters were retired in order, keeping Coventry in front with its four-run lead.
“We just couldn’t claw our way back,” Smith said. “The pitcher was throwing a lot of junk, a lot of off-speed things and we just couldn’t string a lot of hits together.”
In the bottom half of the fifth, the Oakers added to their lead on a big, two-out hit by Ward. With runners at second and third, Ward won an eight-pitch battle with McDonough when she singled into left, plating two runs. That made the score 6-0, and gave Coventry a little more breathing room.
“We gave up two runs late, with two outs in the [fifth], and it changed the way you play the game,” Smith said.
West did put together its best offensive inning in the sixth, as it tried to fight back. Gianna Hathaway singled with one out and proceeded to immediately steal second. McDonough singled to right, bringing Hathaway in with the Falcons’ first run.
Cassie Manni followed that up with a sacrifice bunt, and Isacco made it a 6-2 with her third single of the day, this one a hard hit ball to center field.
And when the next batter, Nacci, reached on a throwing error, the door was open for West to get back into the game. But Deliberis quickly closed it, getting Menard to fly to left to end the threat.
“In three innings we stranded at least two runners,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t string the hits together and get that extra hit.”
In the seventh, Bethanie Davis reached on an error with one-out, but consecutive groundouts ended the game and West’s season.
Still, there were more than a few positives to what was an up-and-down regular season, and an up-and-down postseason.
West went 10-8 during the season, and then went on add two more wins to that total in the playoffs. Beating North Kingstown – the No. 3 seed – was certainly an accomplishment, as the Falcons knocked off the Skipper 5-2 last Tuesday.
In that game, McDonough allowed only five hits and Hathaway and Menard each had two hits.
“People expected us to be the team that’s not going to win,” catcher Courtney Salisbury said. “I feel like we proved ourselves, especially in the playoffs.”
And there is plenty of hope for the future, as the team will graduate only one senior, Danielle Bomzer, and its entire starting lineup should be back in the fold next year.
“Next year, coming back, they’ll be stronger, smarter and have a higher softball IQ,” Smith said. “They should be ready to go.”