NCMS girls win state title, again!
NCMS girls win state title, again!
PROVIDENCE - Tears streamed from her bright blue eyes, a release of emotion, and she could barely speak.
"This is our last time together," Julieanne Ross said. "We wanted to make the most of it."
That's exactly what Ross and her North Cumberland Middle School softball mates did on Monday night, winning their third consecutive state championship by downing previously undefeated Feinstein of Coventry, 9-6, at Rhode Island College.
It marked the first time that an NCMS softball team has won three consecutive titles, and most of the 8th-graders on this year's team were part of all three.
"They just about all started crying about the third inning," said volunteer coach Mike Calabro. "They know it's all coming to an end."
All nine starters are 8th-graders and most of them have played together on travel teams since they were 8 years old. They have won all-star championships, state titles, made it to Bristol, Conn., for regional competition twice, and culminated their unbelievable list of accolades with Monday night's championship.
"And the best thing? The best thing is that they are all honor students and great kids in addition to being very talented players," said head coach John McDonald. "They made it easy to coach because you only have to tell them something once and they get it."
In Monday's game, neither team could produce much offense and there was no score after two innings when the skies opened up, causing a 40-minute delay. When play resumed, a double rainbow filled the skies over Providence and it must have had an effect on the North Cumberland bats as they exploded for three runs.
Ross started things off, getting hit by a pitch. She ended up reaching base all five times she batted. Sydney Provencal's grounder to shortstop was thrown away, leaving runners on second and third for Emily D'Abrosca.
Her first time at the plate, D'Abrosca bombed a long fly ball to deep left field, but it was tracked down for an out. This time, she hit it a little harder and it found the gap in right center for a two-run trip. She scored on a groundout by Maddi Leite.
Feinstein got one back in their half of the inning on a double by Jessica DaBreo and single by Carly Furtado.
North Cumberland essentially put the game away in its next at-bat, ripping out five runs to take a commanding 8-1 lead.
Samantha Jalbert got things started as she put down a bunt and beat it out for a single. Katie Calabro moved the runner up a base with a sacrifice bunt, and Brianna Frankina lined a sharp single to left as Jalbert raced to third. Ross drew a walk to juice the bases. Provencal hit a grounder in the hole between third and short that the shortstop fielded, but had no play to make as Jalbert scored.
D'Abrosca was up next and she bombed another long, high drive to the fence that resulted in a bases-clearing triple, giving her five RBI in the contest. She scored when Leite put down a bunt.
With Provencal uncharacteristically having problems with her pitching location, the Coventry girls battled back and made it a game by scoring five times in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut the lead to 8-6.
Coach John McDonald brought in fireballing lefty Jocelyn Bodington to relieve and she turned in the performance of her season. She induced a ground-out for the second out of the inning and fanned the next batter, ending the rally.
In the next inning, with one out, Bodington walked a pair, causing McDonald to visit her on the mound.
"I just told her to be herself," said McDonald. "We all have a lot of confidence in her."
Bodington responded by striking out Feinstein's cleanup and number-five batters to end the frame.
North Cumberland's final run, an insurance marker, came the next inning when Kailey Brodeur doubled for her third hit of the game, and she came around on a single by Emily Anderson.
In the final inning, Bodington allowed a harmless single and nothing more as NCMS brought home the title.
"I wouldn't trade this feeling for anything," said D'Abrosca, the offensive hero. "I love this. It's great!"
Ross said the team realized coming into the season that as two-time defending champs and with most of their players back, the team felt a burden all season because every team wanted to knock them off their pedestal.
"Everyone was after us because we won the last two years, so we had to work harder this year than ever," Ross said.
Bodington acknowledged that she was really nervous when she entered the game, knowing the state title was on the line.
"When coach came out to talk to me after I walked those two hitters, it really helped me a lot," she said. "I was throwing a drop curve and it was my best pitch."
After winning the state title in each of his three years as coach, McDonald is already looking ahead to next season.
Scanning his bench players, he smiled.
"Let's put it this way, I like our chances," he said. "We're really fortunate in Cumberland because we have a tremendous town program that serves as a feeder system. Most of the girls are ready to play by the time they get to this level."