WOONSOCKET --- These past two weeks have certainly belonged to Cumberland, and that was evident on Friday afternoon in its Division I-North showdown against Mount St. Charles.
The Clippers took over second place and grabbed their fifth win in their last seven outings with a solid performance that saw the visitors claim the early momentum with five runs in the first two innings, play steady defense, and ride the solid pitching of Caylin Legare to a 6-3 victory that put a damper on the Mountiesâ âSenior Dayâ festivities.
The defending state champion Clippers, who are fielding one of their youngest teams in a number of years, with just one senior, captain Becky Geddes, on their roster, improved to 10-6 and leaped over the Mounties in the standings. Mount had rolled into the game with wins in their last five games, but slipped to 9-6.
âOur kids have really grown,â noted Cumberland coach Marty Crowley. âThey really, really have. Theyâve grown, they learned what itâs like to battle, and this is their team now. Weâre still trying to qualify for the playoffs and get hot at the right time, and we have a couple of games next week that are very important, but we took a big step with todayâs win.â
While the Clippers took a big step forward, the Mounties took a step backward with their play early in the game and watched their season-best win streak come to a screeching halt.
They didnât do themselves any favors in the Clippersâ first two innings at the plate by tossing fuel on the fire with a handful of errors and walks, and even though they were able to blank the Clippers over the final four innings behind the splendid one-hit relief pitching of Kristen Rodrigues, they were never able to overcome the early damage.
âWe had five errors and three walks in the first two innings and that was the ballgame,â remarked MSC coach Cliff Matthews. âYou canât overcome a hole like that. We played well after that, but you canât fall behind 5-0. Itâs just too big a hole to crawl out of, especially at this time of the year and against a team like Cumberland.â
The Clippers took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, when with two outs, they loaded the bases and received a RBI single by Alexis Descoteaux and a bases-loaded walk to freshman Rachel Gillardi.
In the third, they again struck with two outs, as two errors and a walk set the stage for a two-run bloop single to left field by Geddes and a run-scoring single to center by Descoteaux.
All that offense was more than enough support for Legare, who was making her fourth start of the season and raised her record to 4-0, and while she wasnât overpowering, yielding nine hits and not striking out anyone, she didnât walk anyone, hit one batter with a pitch, and had her defense back her up admirably.
âWe told the kids that we have two pitchers we can go to and weâre confident in either one of them,â said Crowley. âMountâs a very dangerous team and you can never count them out, but Caylin moved the ball around pretty well and she was in command of her pitches. And we played solid defense today.â
The Mounties got on the board in the home half of the second when Briana Castro doubled into the gap in left-center field and scored on a single by Rodrigues, but the visitors got the run back in the third when Sydnee Shabomardenly also doubled to left-center and came home on a base hit by Janelle Hashway.
Olivia Hendricks drove in the Mountiesâ second run of the day in the third with a sacrifice fly to left, and freshman Taylor Dill smacked a two-out, run-scoring single in the sixth for Mountâs other run.
The Mounties received three hits, one of them a double, from shortstop Emily Hendricks, who played the final four innings in left field and made the play of the day in the sixth with an all-out running catch along the fence in the left-field corner. Rodrigues had two hits as well.
The Clippers have two games remaining on their regular-season schedule, a Monday afternoon game in Smithfield and a Thursday night showdown in Lincoln against the unbeaten Lions. One win or a defeat by the teams below the Clippers in the standings -- the Mounties, Sentinels (8-7) and the Rams (7-7) -- will clinch a playoff berth.
âCliff and I were talking before the game that, top to bottom, weâre in the best division in the state,â noted Crowley. âIt bodes well if you can get through our division and just get to the playoffs. There are a lot of high-pressure games. We had one yesterday against La Salle, and today, we came back, we got the bats going early, and Caylin did a heck of a job on the mound. This was a very good effort from our kids. Weâre very proud of them.â
As for the Mounties, three road games round out their regular-season slate, and two of them are next week, as they will visit La Salle next Monday and Smithfield next Saturday. On Memorial Day at 3:30 p.m., they will take on the Lions at Saylesville Elementary School.
Like the Clippers, the Mounties donât expect the rest of the regular season to be easy, but Matthews hopes his team can put this loss in its rearview mirror and get the job done to return to the postseason.
âWe were playing well on both sides of the ball,â he said. âI think in our last five games, we gave up just three runs and committed three errors. And then to come out today, on Senior Day, in front of a pretty good-sized crowd, and put up a stinker like that? I have no explanation for this. We need to really focus in order to just get into the playoffs at this stage of the game.â