CUMBERLAND — Next year is supposed to be the season Mount St. Charles storms through the first round of the Division I playoffs and gets ready to make some noise in the double-elimination portion of the state tournament.
But somebody forgot to fax that memo to this year’s Mounties.
Armed by a 15-hit attack, solid defense, and a rare complete game from junior Kylie Finnerty, the 13th-seeded, senior-less Mounties sprung arguably the upset of the postseason on Thursday afternoon with a stunning 7-2 triumph over fourth-seeded Cumberland at Tucker Field.
It’s the biggest upset in the single-elimination round since 2001, when 16th and last-seeded Portsmouth upended top-seeded East Providence, and the victory comes almost 10 years to the day the Mounties, as the 12th seed in the 2003 playoffs, shocked fifth-seeded Lincoln in the opening round.
Next up for the Mounties is their double-elimination opener against another upset-minded squad, 12th-seeded Toll Gate, which knocked off fifth-seeded La Salle in their opening-round affair yesterday. The Titans will host the Mounties in a game tentatively scheduled for Monday at the Titans’ complex.
As for the Clippers, this marks the third time in the last six years that they were an upset victim in the single-elimination round. In 2008, as the No. 6 seed, the Clippers dropped a 9-2 verdict to 11th-seeded St. Raphael at home, and last year, the Clippers, who were again the sixth seed, fell to 11th-seeded Toll Gate at home in eight innings, 4-2.
“I know Cumberland has got to be crushed,” said Mount coach Cliff Matthews, whose team suffered a 9-2 defeat to the Clippers back on May 11. “But we came here today focused and ready to play. Before (the game), I asked the girls, ‘Are you ready to go home? Let’s make the double-elimination round. You can do something this year to a team that blew you away.’ And they did it. I’m proud of them.”
The Mounties seized a quick 3-0 lead after an inning-and-a-half off Clippers ace pitcher Juliet Nelson, and after the Clippers scored their first run in the bottom of the fourth, the visitors shook up their hosts with a four-run uprising in the sixth.
That was more than enough support for Finnerty, who through the bulk of the season, split the pitching duties each game with classmate Kristen Rodrigues. But this day belonged to Finnerty, who was able to go the distance and scatter eight hits and four walks along the way.
“I saw something in her eyes,” added Matthews. “I had a pretty short leash, and it got close a couple of times (to taking her out of the game), but the bottom line was that she competed and deserved to stay in there, and I think she pitched very well. She was hitting her spots, she kept (Cumberland) off-balanced, and our defense played very well behind her.”
While the victory was very sweet for the Mounties, the defeat was equally bitter for the Clippers, who capped a horrific end to their season with an 11-6 division record (12-8 overall) and their fifth loss in their last seven games.
The Clippers’ inability to deliver clutch hits may have been their biggest reason for their disappointing loss. In the first inning, they had runners on second and third with one out, and in the third, they loaded the bases with one gone, but on both occasions, they were unable to drive in a run.
Down by a 7-1 score, the Clippers tried to stage a rally in the sixth by loading the bases with one gone, but they were only able to drive in one run on a sacrifice fly by Sam Bertherman.
“It wasn’t for a lack of effort on our kids’ part,” said Cumberland coach Marty Crowley, who graduates seven seniors from this season’s team. “We’re a good hitting team, but we didn’t execute and we didn’t get the key hit when we needed it. (Mount) was able to string their hits together and we weren’t able to do that.”
Mount catcher and cleanup batter Taylor Dill had a big game offensively, going 2-for-4 with three runs batted in. She drove in the first run of the game with a ground single to right in the first, and after Emily DiCecco laced a run-scoring double to center in the second, Dill got plunked in the left ankle by a pitch with the bases full to give the visitors their 3-0 lead.
The Clippers scored their fourth-inning run on a two-out RBI single to center by Bridget Connors that drove in Alexis Descoteaux, who legged out a bunt single and went to second on a walk to Taylor Fay, but two innings later, the Mounties struck big.
With one out, they strung together four hits in a row, with the last two -- carbon-copy bloop singles to right by Dill and Rodrigues – driving in runs. And with two gone, Rachel Coia capped the rally with a long two-run double belted deep into the gap in left-center.
Elisabeth Berard also shined from the No. 2 spot by reaching base in all five of her plate appearances, walking three times and collecting two singles, as well as scoring a pair of runs. Briana Castro was also 3-for-5, No. 9 batter Sarah Kennedy singled and doubled, and Rodrigues added two hits.
The bulk of the Clippers’ offense came from Connors, who went 3-for-3, and Nelson and Descoteaux, who joined the multiple-hit club.