Bolts complete perfect season

East softball rolls past Pawtucket to win DIII championship

Posted 6/5/24

Special to The Herald

The Cranston East softball team made history on Saturday - and the mark left in the record book will be a bold one.

On the strength of a dominant pitching performance …

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Bolts complete perfect season

East softball rolls past Pawtucket to win DIII championship


Special to The Herald

The Cranston East softball team made history on Saturday - and the mark left in the record book will be a bold one.

On the strength of a dominant pitching performance and a grand slam by Isabella Sousa, the Thunderbolts stormed to the first fast-pitch softball championship in school history with a 10-1 victory over Pawtucket in the Division III title game at Rhode Island College. The win finished off an undefeated season.

“They are so awesome,” head coach Jordan McHale said of her team. “They 100 percent deserve it. They practice hard every single day. They were prepared. I had no doubt they were going to do it.”

The championship is the first for the program since it entered the world of fast-pitch softball in 2005. The undefeated season is also new territory. Prior to its fast-pitch era, there was a successful stint as a slow-pitch program. Full records of the slow-pitch years were not immediately available. It’s possible that this is the first softball title of any kind for the school. 

It comes just two years after the ’Bolts endured a winless season in Division II. After realignment sent them to D-III, they found some building blocks and took a step forward with a solid campaign. This season brought a giant leap, with Sousa joining a strong core, and dominance following. The ’Bolts won by a 4-2 score in their first game of the season and hardly found themselves in any close games the rest of the way. They kept rolling in the playoffs, beating Davies and Tiverton for a spot in the finals.

“It all started with our first couple of games. We knew we were going to be a good team,” junior Nevaeh Fatorma said. “We just kept our heads up and now look at us - we’re champions.”

Pawtucket represented a formidable foe as it made its third appearance in a championship game over the last four years. The regular-season meetings between the teams were two of Cranston East’s toughest challenges.

“We have a team of gamers that never give up,” said Pawtucket co-head coach Chris Colson. “We knew we could hang with them.”

That was the case early, but even then, East’s trademark speed and athleticism tilted the scales. Fatorma led off the first inning with a base hit. She scored on a stolen base and two subsequent errors. In the third inning, after Leanna Garcia walked, Fatorma laced a line drive to the gap. When the ball rolled all the way to the wall, Fatorma turned the hit into an inside-the-park home run.

“I was struggling a little bit with my hitting,” Fatorma said. “I kept getting under the ball. But that hit - it was amazing.”

Speed and a small-ball approach became East’s M.O. this season, and it worked again with the title on the line. The Thunderbolts had four bunt singles on the day and five stolen bases. They also took advantage of key miscues by Pawtucket.

“We love to steal bases, we love to bunt, we love to move people over,” McHale said. “Big emphasis on taking as many bases as possible.”

All season, the ’Bolts paired that style with lights-out pitching from Sousa. The freshman was up to her usual tricks in the title game, striking out 16 and allowing just one run.

““She’s got the grit,” McHale said of Sousa. “Not every kid has that. She comes in, she works hard. She’s not just walking out there, hoping she’s going to pitch well. She’s doing pitching lessons on top of travel practice on top of this. She works hard and she’s where she is because of that.”

As good as her pitching performance was, Sousa’s top entry on the highlight reel came when she was at the plate. With her team leading 3-0 in the fifth inning, Sousa smashed a grand slam over the fence in left-center field, turning a tight game into a coronation. Just a few pitches before, Sousa tried and failed to get a bunt down. On a 1-2 pitch, she did a lot more damage than she would have with a bunt.

“I was trying to drag it down the first-base line and hopefully bring that run in,” Sousa said. “Shea’s pitcher, she’s fast. She’s very good. Hitting off her is hard. I tried to drag that bunt down. It didn’t work, but I ended up getting something better.”

Pawtucket broke up the shutout in the sixth inning, but the one run they scored would be their only tally of the game. Sousa escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth with no further damage. In the seventh, she struck out the first batter. She also fanned the second hitter, but Mayara Carvalho reached base when the pitch got away. Sousa induced a ground ball for the second out, then finished off the game in fitting fashion with her 16th strikeout.

“I was feeling really good. During warmups, I knew I was in good shape. My pitches were working,” Sousa said. “I had jitters the first playoff game. Going into it, we knew all the teams were going to be out for us. This championship game, I knew I had to come in confident. My defense is great and I know they’re going to have my back.”

The win was extra special for Sousa and Fatorma, who are cousins. With family cheering them on, the duo got it done together. Fatorma went 3-for-3 with four runs scored and two RBI. Sousa went 1-for-3 with the grand slam in addition to her pitching prowess.

“It’s amazing - especially having my cousin on the mound,” Fatorma said. “It was really fun. I just know she can strike everybody out. And everyone has her back.”

Jaeda Viveiros and Samaya Imondi each added two hits, a run scored and an RBI. Mariah Means-Waldorf and Kiara McGarty had a hit and a run scored.

After the game, the ’Bolts soaked it all up, saluting each other and taking photos with the championship plaque.

It was one more win - the biggest one yet. 

“It’s just a really, really great group of kids,” McHale said. “They show up every day, no questions asked. They ask me for drills to do at home. They want to get better. You can’t teach that. It’s something that’s built in and I had it built-in to 15 players, which is unheard of.”

Bolts, softball, championship


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