PAWTUCKET — Tolman junior Gina Carpenter saw she was batting seventh in the order for Shea/Tolman co-op in Thursday’s Division IV semifinal against rival Central Falls and had a simple thought.
“Where I was in the lineup I knew I needed to have some big hits, so I viewed myself as the second cleanup hitter in the order,” Carpenter said. “That’s how we set up the lineup today and I really think it worked out in our favor.”
“Gina really came through for us,” Sholman co-coach Steve Cooper said. “We needed other people in our lineup to come through today with Gina moving down in the lineup. We wanted to put speed in front of her and give her a chance to hit with girls on base.”
Carpenter came to the plate with runners on base in all five of her plate appearances and the Tiger delivered with three hits, three RBIs and three runs scored. Carpenter was one of three Raiders to score three runs, as starting pitcher Madison Gibbons and talented catcher Cheyenne Cooper also scored three times in a 21-11 mercy-rule victory over the improving Warriors at Max Read Field.
As dominant as the victory was the team’s co-coaches, Steve and Scott Cooper, know if they want to bring the D-IV title back to Pawtucket the Raiders need to be better in the field and on the bases than they were on Thursday.
“I think the kids just need to relax and they need to listen,” Scott Cooper said. “It was the first playoff game for them as a co-op and there were a lot of people here for both teams and I think that made them a little nervous. The last three days of practice everything went smooth, but today? I just think there were nerves, but as the game went on they started to listen and settle down.”
Central Falls (6-6 Division IV) won five of its last six games to earn a spot in the double-elimination portion of the tournament, but the Warriors were hammered by the Raiders for the third time this season. Senior starting shortstop Savanna Martinez was the best player on the field for either team. The Warrior delivered four hits, drove in five teammates and scored a run.
The Warriors, who received three runs apiece from Darisel Velez and catcher Alexsya Torres, will play the loser of the Central-Classical semifinal this weekend for the right to play again Tuesday.
“We have a brand new team this year with just two returning girls, so it took us a few games to figure it out,” Central Falls coach Selena Martinez said. “We’ve become a lot more consistent. The big issue for us today were the errors and the sloppy throws, we need to cut those down. If we practice a little more defense we should be OK. With every team in this division, there’s going to be a lot of runs.”
The Raiders, who host either Classical on Saturday or Central on Monday in the winners’ bracket final, got off to the worst possible start when Gibbons allowed the first five Warriors to reach base. After giving up runs on back-to-back singles by Torres and Martinez, Gibbons struck out the next three batters to avoid further damage.
Sholman sent 10 batters to the plate in its half of the first to build a 6-2 advantage it would never relinquish. Tolman’s Sarah Masoian and Carpenter both had an RBI and a run scored during the explosion. Freshman No. 9 hitter Alex Larios also added an RBI hit.
The Warriors answered with three runs in the second, but Sholman took complete control of the game with five runs in the second. All five runs were unearned after a pair of infield errors, as Shea’s Ana Avila-Sosa, Masoian, Cooper, Carpenter and Briesha Paige scored runs.
Just when it seemed the Raiders were on their way to a win in five innings, the Warriors responded with five runs in the fourth inning. Pamela Galva delivered an RBI single and then Martinez lashed a two-run single to center to cut the deficit to five.
“We allowed too many runs and some of that was because our outfielders didn’t make a couple of plays and we didn’t field a couple of balls in the infield,” Steve Cooper said. “Central Falls is a good team and they can hurt you if you make mistakes.”
The home side responded with three runs in the fourth and then Carpenter smashed an RBI double to the left-field fence in the fifth inning to plate Hanatha Kante. Carpenter scored later in the inning on a ground out.
Carpenter delivered again in the sixth inning when, with her team leading by nine after runs by Gibbons and Cooper, the junior lined a single to center to score freshman Kasyra Fernandes to end the game an inning early.
“Early in the season the girls from the two schools didn’t know each other, but now we’ve really come together as one family,” said Carpenter, who said she has an affinity for the Shea blue over her school’s color of red. “I appreciate all of these girls, because without them we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello