COVENTRY — The Coventry softball team committed two errors and made a couple of other defensive lapses in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday which allowed visiting North Kingstown to pull away for a 7-3 nine-inning victory.
But after the game Coventry coach Chris Daigneault didn’t lament the defensive mistakes of the ninth, he was more frustrated by the bottom of the eighth inning where the Oakers had a chance to start the first week of the Division I season undefeated.
“We should’ve won that game in the bottom of the eighth – easily,” Daigneault said. “You have a runner on second – a good runner in Kristin [Gallagher] – and we have the strongest part of our order up. If it wasn’t for a freshman coming through, we don’t even tie that game in the bottom of the eighth. That game should’ve been won in the bottom of the eighth.”
Freshman right fielder Kaitlin Mattera made sure the game went into the ninth inning when she collected the first hit of her high school career to score Gallagher and even the score at 3.
The top of the ninth inning was one the Oakers would like to forget quickly because nothing went right for the home side.
Rachel Kantor, per international tiebreaker rules, started the inning at second base and reached third on a passed ball before Amy Augenstein grounded the ball to Gallagher at third base.
Gallagher faked a throw to first and tried to catch Kantor off third, but the Skipper stayed on the bag. Daigneault wished he told Gallagher to simply throw the ball to first for an out.
“We had passed balls to start both extra innings. We want them to bunt so we can get an out,” Daigneault said. “The Kristin play is a play that we work on and it’s a tough play. I never should’ve called that play. I should’ve told her to throw it to first.”
Two throwing errors later and the Skippers had a two-run advantage. NK senior Taylor Butler, who was the game-winning pitcher, scored senior Kristina Rodriguez with a perfect bunt single. Butler, who had three hits in the win, scored two batters later on a Liz Finelli single.
“I always prefer to be the road team in an extra-inning game because you have the chance to set the pace,” North Kingstown coach Adam Laliberte said. “If you can get two runs that really, really helps out the team a lot.”
Because the meat of Coventry’s order faced Butler in the eighth inning, it was up to the bottom of the order to make a comeback in the ninth inning. Pinch runner Natalia Angelone started the inning on the second and she quickly moved to third on a single by freshman Brooke Keresztessy.
Butler settled down and forced Kerrie DeLiberis and Tatiana Webb to pop out before junior Rachel Ball grounded out to end the game.
Coventry (1-1 Division I) scored over 10 runs in most of its scrimmages, but the squad has scored just nine runs in 15 Division I innings. Amanda Ritarossi, Haley Dennis and Gallagher were the only Oakers to cross the plate Wednesday.
“I know we’re going to hit,” Daigneault said. “We scored six yesterday and we scored three today and that’s usually enough to win in a fast-pitch game, but we should’ve scored more. We should’ve won that game in the bottom of the eighth. I don’t know how we don’t.”
While Coventry already had a game under its belt, North Kingstown (1-0 Division I) opened the season Wednesday. The Skippers, who won the Division I-South title last season before suffering an early exit from the playoffs, received a pair of hits and runs from Rodriguez, Devin Neary, Augenstein, Butler and Finelli had an RBI and a run scored.
“Drawing Coventry in the first game is a tough one, but it’s a good measuring stick this early in the season,” Laliberte said. “We really stuck with it and it’s a good win.”
Extra innings appeared to be the last thing on the cards through the first three batters of the game. Rodriguez, Heather Jackson and Butler all singled to bring up sophomore All-State shortstop Natalie Wirth. Wirth hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Rodriguez, but the inning ended on a Finelli line drive which Coventry second baseman Alyssa Derrick caught to start a double play.
North took a 2-0 lead on a Devin Neary hit, but the Oakers tied the game in the bottom of the second. DeLiberis drove in Ritaorssi with a single and Dennis, a pinch runner, scored on Tatiana Webb’s sacrifice bunt.
Butler and DeLiberis settled down and neither hurler allowed a runner to reach third over the next two innings. North put runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth, but Gallagher made a great diving stop and throw from her knees to force out Wirth.
“The thing with Coventry is they always stick in games and they’re a hard team to put away,” Laliberte said. “What we learned about Kerrie last year is she never gives in and she doesn’t seem to let anything bother her.”
North loaded the bases again in the seventh, but DeLiberis made another great pitch to force Finelli to ground out.
The Skippers and Oakers exchanged runs in the eighth before North took advantage of Coventry’s defensive mistakes to earn the four-run win.