PAWTUCKET — It’s no secret: Tolman High can hit. And on Thursday afternoon, the Tigers put on a hitting clinic at the expense of one of the Division II’s top teams.
Leadoff batter Alex Lacoste went 4-for-5 with three runs batted in to spark a season-best 17-hit attack and help the Tigers claim their sixth straight contest, a 9-5 triumph over the Prout School in Division II crossover action at Slater Park.
The Tigers, who lead the Division II-East ranks with a 9-1 record and all 24 teams in the league with an average of 11.8 runs per game, have cranked up their offense during their win streak. In their last five victories, they totaled 62 runs and 60 hits.
“We take pride in our hitting,” noted Tolman coach Craig Giarrusso. “We spend a lot of time hitting at practice. Every pitch, we’re focused, we know what the job is that we’re trying to do, and the kids execute. If it wasn’t for the kids, we wouldn’t be where we are, and I have a great group (of kids) that are hitting the ball very well right now.”
The Tigers came out swinging against a tough Prout team that rolled into the contest with the fourth-best record in the entire division (7-2) and a five-game win streak that also saw them hit the ball with authority and total 69 runs.
The Crusaders managed to collect a dozen hits off Tigers pitcher Olivia Larson, who only struck out four batters and walked two, but wiggled out of three big jams in the first three innings that saw Prout strand seven runners on base.
“Olivia pitched well,” added Giarrusso. “Even when she fell behind a little bit, she found it within herself to battle back and make some tough pitches to some very good hitters. I think Prout’s one of the better hitting teams in this division, so for her to allow that many hits, I consider that a huge accomplishment for her. She did a very good job.”
The Crusaders grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run bloop single to left field by Samantha Wilcox, who led the Crusaders’ assault by going 3-for-4 with three runs batted in. But the Tigers answered back with four runs in their half of the inning by marching 10 batters to the plate and pounding out six hits.
Singles by Victoria LeJeune and Crystal Ritcey kicked off the rally, and Ashley Hessler, after fouling off five two-strike pitches, drove them both in with a long double that one-hopped the fence in left-center field.
After a one-out walk to Brittany Bilodeau and a single to right by Katie Therriault loaded the bases, Lacoste lined a single to left to drive in Hessler and Jordyn Klemanchuck laced another base hit to left to score Bilodeau.
The Crusaders got back a run in the third when Kaitlynn Ueno tripled to deep right-center and scored on a bloop single to right by Katelyn Chadwick. They then proceed to load the bases with one out, but Larson left them full by getting the next two outs on a groundout and a strikeout.
In the bottom of the third, the Tigers made it a 5-3 game on a two-out, run-scoring single by Bilodeau, and two innings later, they broke the game open by scoring four runs on a two-run single to left by Lacoste and two-out RBI singles to center by Ashley Clark and LeJeune.
In addition to Lacoste’s superb day at the plate, every player in the Tigers’ starting lineup had at least one hit and five had multiple-hit games – LeJeune, Ritcey, Larson, Bilodeau, and Therriault. Ritcey also doubled in the fourth, and Bilodeau reached base four times via a pair of singles and as many walks.
The Tigers are back in action tomorrow with a 6 p.m. crossover meeting against South Kingstown High at the Broad Rock complex in Wakefield.
Then on Monday, Tolman will return to Slater Park for a 4 p.m. showdown against the Division II’s lone unbeaten team, Middletown High, which is 10-0 and has outscored its opponents, 89-5.
“Monday’s going to be a tough,” said Giarrusso. “Middletown’s still undefeated and they haven’t given up a lot of runs. I think it’s going to come down to how well we hit their pitching. If we swing the bats the way we’re swinging them right now, I think we have a chance to beat them.”