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WAKEFIELDâThe softball season may be just over three weeks old but the contenders in Division II-South are beginning to make themselves apparent.
As expected, everyone is chasing East Greenwich (5-1, 5-0 D-II South) so far but Monday afternoon West Warwick (3-1, 3-1 D-II South) made a statement that itâs at the top of that next tier along with Pilgrim (4-1, 3-1 D-II South).
âItâs looking like itâs going to pan out that way,â West Warwick coach Brian Palazzo said. âItâs looking like itâs going to be one of the three of us; either East Greenwich, Pilgrim or us.â
Monday the Wizards scored a resounding 15-1 victory over Prout (2-5, 2-3 D-II South) to further distinguish themselves as
one of the top challengers to two-time defending D-II champ East Greenwich.
âThis was the best weâve hit the ball all year, not just because of the run total but even the outs we made we hit the ball hard,â Palazzo said.
âI was a little nervous after the first inning. I thought we looked a little confused up at the plate but then from the second inning on they got patient.â
As for the Crusaders it was a step in the wrong direction as they entered the contest having won their last two and scored a combined 26 runs in the process.
âIt was very disappointing because we had taken a couple steps forward,â Prout coach Mark Paliotti said. âAfter that first inning where we didnât score I said, âyou know what, it ainât gonna happen [Monday].â We never changed anything at the plate.â
The Wizards got a tremendous effort on the mound from senior Katelyn Henault, who only gave up one unearned run in a complete game performance.
This season Henault has split time in the circle with sophomore Briana Gough and so far each has proven to be very effective.
âItâs nice that we have the two pitchers this year that pretty much complement each other but theyâre also giving me the innings and quality innings,â Palazzo says. âI really havenât had to make many changes midseason.â
Henaultâs shutout bid was spoiled in the bottom of the sixth when freshmen Kayla Crosby and McKenzie Reilly led off with back-to-back singles and two batters later Crosby scored on a throwing error.
As for the Wizardsâ attack, they enjoyed a great deal of success against Prout starter junior Cherie Ueno.
West Warwick got four runs in the second, two in the third and quickly loaded the bases in the top of the fourth but could not quite put it away.
After Ueno walked Mikeala Grosso to force in a run Paliotti went to Reilly and the freshman got her team out of a jam.
The Crusadersâ hurler recorded back-to-back strikeouts and then induced a pop out to third to get out of the inning.
âMackenzie did a great job,â Paliotti said. âShe came in, got the two strikeouts and then shut the door.â
Prout just could not get its bats going against Henault, however, and never got within striking distance.
Next up for the Crusaders will be a non-league game with Division III Narragansett Wednesday at 11 a.m. at home as Prout will be looking to regain its momentum.
âWeâve got a non-league game against Narragansett and I told them everybodyâs going to play and everybodyâs going to get some at bats,â Paliotti said. â[Weâll] get through the vacation and then weâll start all over again.â