PAWTUCKET – Sure, the two-run inside-the-park home run by junior Jordyn Klemanchuck was mightily impressive. So too was the double off the bat of classmate Olivia Larson.
Yet ask Tolman head coach Craig Giarrusso about what stood out about the six runs his team exploded for in the fifth inning of Thursday’s Division II single-elimination contest against South Kingstown and he’ll gladly point to the little things.
The little things, as in the bunt singles by Brittany Bilodeau and Megan Klemanchuck and an infield hit by senior Alexandra Lacoste. The little things, as in the 10-pitch walk that junior Ashley Hessler drew with the bases chuck full of Tigers.
In short, Tolman’s small ball tendencies allowed Giarrusso & Co. to put S.K. down for the count. The Tigers said goodbye to the always nerve-wracking one-and-done playoff scenario with a resounding 11-1 “mercy rule” triumph against the Rebels at Slater Park’s Al Bailey Field.
Speaking specifically about how the Tigers went about attacking the visitors in the fifth, an inning that saw 10 batters come to the plate and feature six hits, Giarrusso stated, “We had runners on early through the bunts and the execution of what we tried to put on. The girls came up with big hits again.
“With this team all year, hitting has been contagious,” the coach added. “The minute we got a bunt single, the whole morale started to pick up.”
The tenor of these playoffs now changes, as it’s double elimination from this point moving forward. Tolman’s first game in this new format takes place under the lights Saturday night at home against seventh-seeded Woonsocket.
There were plenty of offensive stars for Tolman, the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Leiandra Wilson paced the II-Central champs with three hits and two RBI while freshman Cristino Chiaverini collected two hits and two runs. Hessler and Larson also enjoyed multiple hit games as the Tigers out-hit the Rebels, 14-3.
The Tigers would get all the offense they would need in the home portion of the first inning. The first three batters reached with Lacoste, the team’s leadoff hitter, scoring the game’s first run on a South Kingstown throwing error. The Rebels, seeded 15th, would allow two more runs in the frame to trail, 3-0.
The bats for Tolman went through a dry spell over the next two innings before resuming their scoring ways in the fourth. With two on and two down, Ashley Clark sent a screaming shot to shortstop to produce one run. Some heads-up baserunning by Hessler, who doubled earlier in the inning, paved the way for a second Tolman run that made it 5-1 in favor of the home team.
“We hit well in the first inning and the bats kind of got a little silent. Some plays that I put on, we didn’t execute them and it ended up costing us a couple of runs,” Giarrusso said. “Then in the fifth inning, it all seemed to come together.
Did it ever. After South Kingstown got on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth, Tolman went to work in such authoritative fashion that the Rebels weren’t even afforded another turn at the dish. The blast by Jordyn Klemanchuck, which ended up sailing over the head of the S.K. left fielder, helped extend the Tigers’ lead to 7-1.
A single up the middle by Chiaverini plated Jazmine Almeida with Bilodeau and Lacoste following with hits that didn’t even travel a combined 50 feet. The discipline Hessler showed yielded yet another Tolman run before Clark lofted a sacrifice fly to make it 10-1.
A two-strike bunt single by Megan Klemanchuck helped prolong the carnage on the part of the Tigers. Up strolled Wilson, who had a chance to end the game with one swing. She came through with a two-strike hit to cap off what was a banner performance by a team that figures to be a tough out this postseason.
Lost in the offensive outburst was the mound work turned in by Larson, who limited the Rebels to three hits while striking out three. The Tigers also flashed some leather as Jordyn Klemnachuck fielded a line drive at third base in the fifth inning before throwing across the way to double up a South Kingstown runner that had drifted a little too far off the bag. A sliding catch by the right fielder Hessler helped lower the curtain on the Rebels in the third inning.
The postseason win was Tolman’s first in three years as the team saw its season come to an end in the single-elimination round in each of the past two years.