CUMBERLAND — Stranding runners on base has been a sore subject with Cumberland High this month, but on Monday afternoon, the Clippers were able to deliver some timely hits in their Division I crossover battle with East Providence High at Tucker Field.
Rebecca Geddes, Samantha Bertherman, and Bridget Connors each drove in a run during a four-run uprising in the home half of the fourth inning, and that rally, parlayed with the dominant one-hit pitching of senior ace Bethany Paul, helped the hosts grab a 4-1 victory.
The Clippers, who raised their record to 4-3, entered the game with an ugly statistic in the LOB department – 47 runners stranded on the sacks in their six games. That includes the 10 from a stunning 1-0 loss to Toll Gate High last Thursday, and the seven (six in scoring position) in their wild 8-5 defeat the previous week to division rival Lincoln High.
“We finally had an inning there where we hit the ball hard and drove in some runs,” said Cumberland coach Marty Crowley. “I thought a lot of our kids had better swings today. Hitting’s contagious, and it’s good that we finally had an inning like that, but you want to be more consistent when it comes to putting runners on base.”
Against the Townies and senior southpaw pitcher Erin Strik, who was making her second varsity start, the Clippers were able to collect 10 hits and only leave four runners on base.
Four of their hits came in the decisive fourth inning, and three of them came with one out and helped the Clippers erase a 1-0 deficit.
Kaitlyn Pluta, who went 3-for-3 with three opposite-field singles to right field, got things going with a base hit and scored on a long double to left by Geddes, who moved up to the No. 6 slot in the lineup after belting a pair of home runs in two of the Clippers’ last three games.
Geddes’ hit might have been caught by left fielder Courtney DeCastro had she not slip on the wet outfield grass, but when she stumbled on her first step after the hit, Pluta was able to speed around the basepaths and score with ease.
Geddes, who took second on the throw back into the infield, then scored on Bertherman’s sharp ground single to left.
Bertherman also took second on the throw back to the infield, and after she went to third on a groundout to first by Kelsey Cahill, she came home when Kayleigh Martins lofted a fly ball to center that was misplayed for an error.
“I thought (Strik) pitched a very good game, keeping a very potent offense somewhat in check,” added E.P. coach Rob Traverse. “We just have to make plays. We’re averaging about five errors a game. It could have been a 2-1, 3-1 game and who knows what could happen.”
Connors then concluded the rally with a ground single up the middle to plate Martins and give Paul more than enough support.
And speaking of Paul, she was outstanding in striking out a dozen batters, walking three, and allowing just three batted balls to reach the outfield.
The Townies scored their run in their opening swings on their lone hit, a two-out ground single to right by Alyssa Rizzi that drove in Lindsee Allienello, who reached base on an infield error and took second on a wild pitch. But after that, the Townies were only able to get one runner as far as second base off Paul.
“She pitched really well today,” said Crowley. “She was spotting her pitches, (catcher) Krissy (Peffer) did a great job calling (the game), and their senior leadership definitely showed today. Beth’s just getting better and better each time out. It’s been a week since she pitched, so she was very fresh and rested.”
Before their fourth-inning rally, the Clippers nearly broke on the board in the third, when with one out, hits by Connors and Peffer placed runners in scoring position for Paul, their lethal No. 3 batter.
But Paul lofted a high fly to center that was gloved by center fielder Amanda Horton, and when Connors tagged up and tried to score on the flyout, she was thrown out at home on a perfect throw from Horton to Allienello behind the plate.
“We ran into outs a couple of times, once at the plate and the other on the back end of a hit, and we got caught stealing a couple of times,” noted Crowley, “but we’re trying to be aggressive on the bases, and sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. You can’t change your philosophy.”
The Townies, who fell to 2-5 in the division, are fielding one of their youngest teams in recent memory and have four sophomores among the top six batters in their lineup.
“We only have two players who have played the field for two years or more, so we’re learning,” said Traverse. “My goal is that in the second half (of the season), we’ll have a good team and we’ll steal a couple of games, but this was a tough game to steal.
“Cumberland’s good. They were picked to be in the upper echelon. Marty and (assistant coach) Tony George do a great job with that team. We would have had to play flawless softball today, and that’s something we haven’t done yet this year.”
Both the Clippers and Townies have difficult games awaiting them tomorrow afternoon. The Clippers will visit Division I-Central leader Cranston West High, while the Townies entertain Division I state finalist Mount St. Charles Academy at Pierce Field.
East Providence 100 000 0—1-1-1
Cumberland 000 400 x—4-10-1
Erin Strik and Lindsee Allienello; Bethany Paul and Krissy Peffer. 2B – Rebecca Geddes (C).