CUMBERLAND — Cumberland didn’t need to seek the services of a witch doctor or a sorcerer to eradicate the single-elimination playoff round curse that had plagued the team in recent years.
Instead, the Clippers parlayed the strong three-hit pitching of Juliet Nelson with some errorless defense and clutch hitting into a 7-0 triumph over Westerly at Tucker Field that not only exorcised their demons, but also vaulted them into the double-elimination portion of the Division I state tournament.
The fifth-seeded Clippers, who improved to 12-5 and have won six of their last seven games, will take on 13th-seeded Mount St. Charles, which sprung an 8-1 upset victory over fourth-seeded East Providence, in their next game, slated for Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. back at Tucker.
“One through whatever, it doesn’t matter what seed you are in Division I this year,” added Cumberland coach Marty Crowley. “There are a lot of good programs out there. It’s wide open, and we feel we have as good a shot as anybody. Everybody left, when you get to this point, is good and deserves to be here, so you just have to be ready to play.
“I’m very proud of our kids, but we’re moving forward, and I told them, ‘Celebrate today. Tomorrow, it’s on to your next opponent.’ ”
Surprisingly, the win was the Clippers’ first postseason victory since they defeated Mount St. Charles three years ago in the Division I state championship game at Rhode Island College.
In the two seasons since, the Clippers found themselves on the wrong end of an upset verdict. They were the fourth seed when they lost last year’s playoff opener to the 13th-seeded Mounties, and they absorbed an extra-inning defeat the year before that as the sixth seed to 11th-seeded Toll Gate.
But the Clippers, who also lost a single-elimination playoff game in 2008 as the sixth seed, refused to dwell on the past, or the possibilities of the future. The present was the only time that mattered to them and they clearly rose to the occasion.
“We didn’t talk about seeds,” said Crowley. “All we talked about was Westerly. That was our opponent. We didn’t care about what happened the last time we played them, what we were seeded, who we would play next, or anything else. Our focus was on today.”
The 12th-seeded Bulldogs (6-11), who also lost to the Clippers by the same 7-0 score back on April 29 at Westerly’s Cimalore Field, were no-hit by Nelson in that contest, and in Thursday’s rematch, they again couldn’t do much with her pitching. The senior standout struck out only four batters (but recorded a dozen groundouts), and not only did she not walk anyone, but she also didn’t allow a runner to get past first base.
“Nellie pitched very well today,” said Crowley. “She hit her spots and our defense played well behind her.”
Offensively, the Clippers received all eight of their hits from the top four batters in their lineup -- sophomore Taylor Fay, Nelson, and freshmen Madison Leite and Sydney Provencal. Each collected a pair of hits, Fay scored three times, and Fay, Leite, and Provencal also tripled.
The Clippers scored the only run they needed in the bottom of the first when Fay led off with her triple to right field and scored on a groundout to second by Leite.
In the third, they added to their lead when Fay led off with a walk and scored on Leite’s triple lined down the left-field line. Provencal then got plunked by a pitch, and the two immediately executed a perfect double steal to make it a 3-0 game.
The Clippers doubled their lead in the fifth, when after Nelson and Leite led off with base hits, Provencal laced her three-bagger with a shot that was almost a carbon copy of Leite’s hit. She then came home on a groundout to second by Sam Jalbert.
Cumberland’s final run came home in the sixth on an outfield error on a base hit to right by Nelson that brought home Fay, who had reached base with a two-out single.
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