NORTH SMITHFIELD- The venue changed, but the outcome remained the same. Coventry capped a season sweep against North Smithfield on Wednesday afternoon, beating the Northmen, 10-0 at Pat Dowling Memorial Softball Field to follow up a 13-0 win over them on April 6 in Kent County.
The Oakers (10-5) did all of their scoring in the top of the fourth inning against starting pitcher Kayla Butler, who otherwise turned in a strong performance over five innings of work, though it would not be enough as North Smithfield dropped to 9-8 on the year with the defeat.
For Coventry, the win currently gives them sole possession of first place in the Penkala Division over rival East Providence. Wednesday’s win ultimately came down to one highly efficient showing at the plate in the top of the fourth.
“I’d say it was a matter of the bats waking up, got a little contagious. Once one got a hit, they all felt like they were going to get a hit,” Oaker head coach Chris Daigneault said of the rally that proved to be the difference in the game.
Diana Petrarca drove home a run in two separate at bats as part of the explosive offensive outburst by the visitors, while Hannah Hawley launched a two-run home run to right center to cap the surge and ultimately enable the game to be completed after just five innings of play via the ten-run rule.
“It was good to see. I would have liked to have seen us do it a little bit earlier, but aside from that when you look back, you see that we pitched well and played good defense too, so that’s a good thing,” Daigneault said of his team’s overall performance on the day.
Sierra Ricci turned in five shutout innings of work in the circle for Coventry, allowing just two hits while striking out five in the winning effort.
The home half of the third proved to be the only bump in the road.
Hannah Goodier led the frame off by ripping a single to left before Abigail Fortin drew a walk, putting two runners on base with no one out.
Catcher Marissa Allen then took a foul ball off her right throwing hand with Julia Robichaud at the plate, leading to Hawley taking over for her behind the plate. The break in action worked in Ricci’s favor however as she struck out Robichaud, got Tessa LaBarre to pop out and Elizabeth Jalette to strike out, ending the home team’s threat to get on the board first.
Butler was strong in the circle for the Northmen through the first three innings, as she appeared to be locked in a pitchers’ dual with Ricci.
She needed just four pitches to retire the Oakers in the top of the second, part of string that saw her retire eight Coventry hitters in a row.
Then the top of the fourth came around.
“She made a couple of mistakes, but overall, I thought we just opened the innings too much. head coach Paul Mercier said of the Northmen’s inability to contain Coventry’s offense.
“When there should have been two or three outs, there was only one or no outs, or the bases were loaded or there was second and third. It just wasn’t a good day.”
Aly Woods led off the fourth with a double to left before Petrarca singled her home on a pitch that ricocheted off the second base bag, a sign of the misfortune that lay ahead for the home team.
Olivia Saccoccio drove home a pair of runs, while Allen, Jess Mahoney and Jordan Dwyer all picked up RBIs during the ten-run onslaught.
“We fell apart. We didn’t have much depth today. We played some girls out of position and I think it just kind of all fell apart at once. It happens,” Mercier said of both the inning and the loss as a whole.
On the bright side, the Northmen are still headed to the playoffs, which given that this is their first year playing in D-I, can only be viewed as a success.
“For the first time in D-I, I feel pretty happy with where we are. I just want to make sure we end it playing better,” Mercier said.
The Northmen will close out the regular season on the road at East Providence on Saturday night at 7 p.m. before getting set for the playoffs which begin next week.
Coventry, after playing a pair of makeup games against Prout and Moses Brown, will close out the regular season themselves at home against East Providence next Monday at 3 p.m. The two sides faced each other earlier this week on Monday, but a game-tying home run by Woods in the seventh inning ultimately went for naught once the skies opened up, forcing the game to be postponed. Monday’s contest will begin from scratch.