McCourt girls win showdown

McCourt girls win showdown

Racheal Khimatian, of the McCourt Middle School softball team, rips a base hit on this pitch during her team's game last week against North Smithfield. McCourt won and earned a second-place finish and home field advantage in the state playoffs. (Valley Breeze photo by Paul R. Dubois)

The winner would take second place in the Northern Division and home field advantage in the state tournament, which begins this week.

"The girls know what it means," said McCourt Middle School softball coach Bob Crozier. "They're ready."

They certainly were as they invaded North Smithfield's Pacheco Park and rode the bus back to Cumberland with a 15-11 win.

The win allowed McCourt to finish the regular season at 9-3, second only to neighboring North Cumberland, which ended at 11-1. North Smithfield fell to third place at 7-5.

Playing in a steady drizzle that made controlling the ball difficult for pitchers, the hitters took over the game, with McCourt pounding out 17 base knocks and the Lady Northmen, 11.

McCourt got on the board in its first visit to the plate when Alex Pina ripped a line drive double to the fence in left center and came around on a walk, a base hit by Rachel Khimatian and a walk to Morgan Poli.

North Smithfield tied it in the bottom of the frame on a walk, stolen base, wild pitch and a ground out.

The McCourt girls started unloading in the second inning, scoring three times on hits by Gretchen Gilbert, Eve Kelly, a pair of walks and base knocks by Hailey Ballou and Khimatian.

The winners added four more in the third, with two key plays, one a two-run base knock by Pina and the other a dropped popup that let a pair scamper across.

The Lady Northmen would not quit in this, their final regular season game at home, and plated three runs in the third and five in the fourth to get within a pair at 12-10, but the McCourt girls kept slugging, led by Pina and Kelly. Pina ripped a shot out of the park for a two-run homer and Kelly had her best game of the year from the leadoff spot, collecting four hits, including three doubles. Ballou added a pair of hits, as did Gilbert.

McCourt set up the showdown game by blasting Lincoln 16-8 earlier in the week.

McCourt broke out on top by scoring six first-inning runs, but LMS made a run, scoring five times in the fourth to make it a 7-6 game before the McCourt bats went wild again, scoring six times in the fifth and three more in the sixth to put the game away.

McCourt was led by captains Ballou and Pina. Ballou had four hits, including a homer that sailed out of the High Street field, two doubles and a triple.

Pina also went yard, blasting a shot out of the park, and added a pair of doubles. Khimatian, Allie Mowry and Kelly had two hits apiece.

North Smithfield, which started the season at 1-3 before going on a winning streak, beat Lincoln, 11-5, and ripped Gallagher, 20-3, to force the showdown with McCourt.

Coach Fran Clark said his team broke out on top against Gallagher, which was out-matched. Vanessa Venkataraman pitched a strong game and also helped her own cause by belting a pair of hits. Elizabeth Jalette also pounded a pair of hits.

In the Lincoln contest, the Lady Northmen jumped out to a six-run lead in the first as Jalette provided the big hit, a bases-loaded triple. Malibu Champagne came through with a big hit with two outs to score two runs. With the score 6-4, in the fifth inning the Lady Northmen opened up again scoring five runs. Venkataraman started off the inning with a single, Hannah Gaboriault had a big double to score the first run, then it was a string of hits by Gabriella Deluca, Jalette, Alyssa Murry and Alex Ledger to keep things rolling.

The Lady Northmen played shut down defense in the last three innings, retiring all nine batters.

Division champion North Cumberland tuned up for the playoffs by beating Gallagher, 6-5, in a game where coach John McDonald, assured that his team had taken the division, had every player see action.

Mackenzie Vallely was on the mound, going four innings and allowing two runs on two hits while walking three and setting down five on strikes.

Brooke Turnbull closed the game out and allowed three runs on three hits.

Christina Doucette was the offensive star, belting a pair of hits.

McCourt Middle School's Eve Kelly, left, could not beat the throw to first and was out on this play during her team's game last week against North Smithfield at Pacheco Park. McCourt won the game and secured a second-place finish in the Northern Divison in the process. (Valley Breeze photo by Paul R. Dubois)