COVENTRY- The Coventry High School softball team left Rhode Island College on Tuesday afternoon disappointed, but also determined.
Disappointed for having fallen to No. 2 La Salle, 4-1 in the semifinals of the D-I winners’ bracket, but also determined to not have that defeat be the only time that they would make the trip to RIC this year.
In order to get back there, the No. 3 Oakers found themselves facing rival Chariho in the losers’ bracket back home on Wednesday, needing to secure a win over the No. 5 Chargers in the do-or-die contest.
Behind dominant pitching performances from Sierra Ricci and Sam Bergantino, the Oakers scratched just enough runs across the board against Chariho starter Kate Powers, coming away with a 3-1 victory and guaranteeing that their season will last for at least one more game.
“We live to see another day,” head coach Chris Daigneault said, proud of the resiliency his team displayed with everything on the line.
Jess Mahoney and Jordan Dwyer each recorded RBI singles during a two-run bottom of the fourth, while a blooper off the bat of Hannah Hawley plated the home team’s only other run of the game. Powers, having blanked the Oakers over seven full frames in a 2-0 win the last time the two teams met, turned in a solid performance on Wednesday, lasting six full frames for the Chargers in the losing effort.
Coventry will now await the loser of La Salle and No. 1 Pilgrim to find out who they will face next. The Rams and Patriots are not slated to play each other until tomorrow at RIC, leaving some time for the Oakers to get their rotation and roster as a whole back in order.
As for Wednesday’s win, it was clear to Daigneault what stood out most.
“Strong pitching,” he said. “Sierra started us off, pitched absolutely phenomenal the entire game. I wouldn’t even really say that she struggled when I finally took her out. They just got a bleeder and I decided to go with Sam and Sam came in and did awesome,” he said of Bergantino.
Ricci held the Chargers scoreless through the first four innings of play, but ran into trouble in the fifth with the Oakers leading 3-0 at the time. After surrendering a leadoff walk to Annaliese Kenney and a single to left off the bat of Jacqualyn Altieri, Bergantino took over pitching responsibilities in the circle, looking to keep the home team out in front.
A Lucie Willett RBI double got the visitors on the board, making it 3-1, but that would be all they could muster against the Oaker freshman who recorded two of her four strikeouts for the game in the fifth inning before turning in two more scoreless frames to seal the win.
Chariho threatened with runners on first and second in the sixth, but Bergantino got Altieri to ground out to third baseman Aly Woods to end the frame before retiring the side in order in the seventh.
While the victory, the most important component of Wednesday’s game was secured, Daigneault was slightly discouraged by the lack of run production on his team’s behalf, going back to their 4-1 loss the day before against the Rams.
“We just didn’t hit. Even like today, we only pushed three runs across,” he said.
Dwyer accounted for three of Coventry’s nine base hits, while Hawley had two, but for the most part, opportunities were squandered with runners left on base.
“We probably left seven, eight, nine people on base,” said Daigneault. “Runners on base with less than two out, a runner on third, we’ve got to push more runs across. We really had chances to do it and we didn’t. We should have opened that game up,” he added.
Part of that was due to Powers’ performance, which Charger head coach Dave Petrocelli was more than content with. The problem for them, was that Coventry was just as good.
“Pitchers dominated today, obviously. Give them credit too. Both pitchers for them held us off-balance,” he said.
The Chargers entered the day coming off a 9-0 loss to Pilgrim at RIC in the winners’ bracket and needed a win themselves on Wednesday to keep their season alive. They produced six hits in total, but were unable to put together any substantial offense in the low scoring affair.
“We didn’t get that timely hit,” Petrocelli said, crediting the Oakers’ defense for making life difficult on his team. “They made some great players though, I’ve got to give them credit. Their outfield played really well, made some outstanding catches on us when we had runners on base, so you gotta give your hats off to them.”
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick