CUMBERLAND -- As the girls representing the Cumberland A All-Star squad posed for family photos in center field, manager Chris Boddington just smiled, soaking in the joy.
His kids had just clinched the program’s fourth consecutive R.I. Little League District IV Major Division (11-12) Tournament crown after rolling to an 8-2 victory over North Smithfield on Tuesday, this before approximately 125 fans at Diamond Hill Park, and the head coach chuckled while holding yet another championship banner.
“Before the game, I just told them to go out and play Cumberland-style softball,” he said afterward. “Most of these girls, probably of the 11 of 15 (we carry), have been to district and state championship games before. They’re used to the pressure. They know how to respond to it.
“This feels great,” he added. “Now we’re on a roll going into states.”
Cumberland A (so referred to as the town had a pair of teams in the tourney) will carry a perfect 6-0 All-Star mark entering the state championship event. It will face the District I titlist in its initial tilt at 5:30 p.m., Saturday at Pacheco Field in – ironically – North Smithfield.
The Cumberlanders utilized a superb offensive outing from Alex Pina, who finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, a dinger, three RBI and a run scored to gain yet another berth in the state tourney.
And, in the circle, southpaw Jocelyn Boddington hurled a stellar, complete-game one-hitter with just two walks and nine strikeouts.
“(Jocelyn) is calm, cool and collected out there, unlike her father,” the elder Boddington laughed. “She’s been in championship situations before, and she knows how to settle herself down and throw strikes.”
To be fair, North Smithfield righty starter Kelsey Majkut produced a mighty solid effort as well. In another complete contest, she scattered eight hits and gave up only five earned runs while walking five and whiffing nine.
Cumberland A, which won the preliminary coin toss but opted to be the “away” team, didn’t need long to take a lead, just as it had in a pool-play tilt against North Smithfield (a 13-3 triumph) last Wednesday.
Renae Lacroix drew a one-out walk in the top of the first, then moved to second on a passed ball. The pitcher Boddington drew another free bag before Pina clubbed a double through a hole vacated by shortstop Gabrielle DeLuca; that plated Lacroix and moved Boddington to third.
Still, Majkut struck out Chloe Kessler and Hailey Ballou to escape more damage.
North Smithfield nevertheless gained the lead in rather unusual fashion, taking advantage of four uncharacteristic Cumberland A miscues.
Vanessa Venkataraman reached on a swinging bunt, one fielded by backstop Lacroix but thrown wildly to first. She robbed second, and – with one down – Liana Antonelli raced to first on another infield error, then took second on defensive indifference.
DeLuca followed with a slow roller to third baseman Ballou, who fired to the plate to catch Venkarataman, but Antonelli scored when Majkut reached on another infield miscue. The lefty Boddington then fanned Maddie Wholey, though the pitch caromed off Lacroix’s glove for an error, and DeLuca raced home.
All told, the skipper Boddington’s bunch committed four bobbles in that first frame alone.
“I think the girls were a little nervous; that’s the reason I became a little nervous, too,” Coach Boddington noted. “We made some changes in the field, the big one moving Alea (Coyle) from center to short, and she made a couple of big plays for us there. There were at least two.”
It wouldn’t trail for long, however. Abby Goncalves opened the second with a single up the middle, then took second on a wild pitch. Carr walked, and both moved up on a low delivery. Kaitlyn D’Abrosca plated Goncalves on a grounder to short, and Carr scored on a third pitch in the dirt.
Ahead 3-2, Cumberland A recorded another pair in the third; Jocelyn Boddington led off with a walk, and Pina ripped an inside-the-park home run down the right-field line, though Majkut squelched the rally.
In the back half of the third, it looked like North Smithfield’s offense would open up when DeLuca knocked an initial single to center, then robbed second, but Jocelyn struck out the side.
From then on, Boddington retired 12 straight batters, six via the “K.”
Lacroix’s two-bagger came with two down in the fourth, but Majkut struck out Boddington.
In the fifth, Ballou took advantage of a dropped liner in center, and Goncalves reached on an infield error. Carr then delivered a ground double down the left-field line to plate both and give Cumberland A a 7-2 lead.
It added an insurance run in the sixth when Lacroix singled, sprinted to third when Pina reached on an error and scored on a passed ball.
“After that first inning, I think we got into a groove; we settled down and played our game,” the elder Boddington stated. “Alex had a huge game for us, but she’s been consistent with the bat all year. She’s a clutch hitter; she’s on fire right now.”
Naturally disappointed, North Smithfield head coach Kristin Ledger expressed thrill at how well her fireballer Majkut pitched.
“She was fantastic; she’s a fantastic player and a classy, classy kid,” she offered.
When asked what happened after her club had snatched the 2-1 cushion after the first, Ledger explained, “Remember, these are 11 and 12 year-old girls. I felt good about our chances the whole game. It’s really a great group of kids, and – regarding the outcome – I feel so privileged to have coached these kids.”
Cumberland A 122 021 -- 8 – 8 – 4
North Smithfield 200 000 -- 2 – 1 – 3
Jocelyn Boddington and Renae Lacroix. Kelsey Majkut and Liana Antonelli. 2B – Alex Pina 2, Lacroix, Cassidy Carr. HR – Pina.