Cumberland snags another district title

Cumberland snags another district title

The members of the Cumberland Major Division (ages 11-12) all-star softball team, which repeated as District IV champions and won its ninth title in the last 10 years last Friday night by posting a 12-2 victory over Johnston/Scituate, are, in front from left, Isabella Iannuccilli, Jillian Clapprood, Campbell Feather, Julia Raymond, and Lindsay Molis; in back, coach Karen Kuncz, Allison Casavant, Jillian Ryone, Juliana Jenkins, manager Jeremy Jenkins, Hailey Kuncz, Caroline Lanzi, Rose Tuomisto, and coach Brian Ryone. Megan Bradley is also a player on the team. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Mercy-rule victory over Johnston/Scituate sews up ninth Major Division championship in 10 years

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland Major Division (ages 11 and 12) all-star softball team repeated as R.I. District IV champions, and won its ninth district title in the last 10 years, last Friday night with a 12-2 win over Johnston/Scituate, but you’d never have guessed it if you saw the post-game celebration.

After Cumberland pitcher Caroline “C.C.” Lanzi recorded the final out of the mercy-rule victory with her ninth strikeout of the game, she and her teammates hustled back to the dugout – probably expecting to play a fifth inning – instead of celebrating and pigpiling on top of each other near the pitcher’s mound.

And not only did the field announcer at Johnston’s Wood Lake Park not congratulate Cumberland for its victory, but the players didn’t take the traditional lap around the field with their championship banner – only because there was no banner (or pins) to give them at the field.

But despite it all, the players and coaches shared plenty of smiles after the game, as well as a couple of jokes as they posed for a team picture for the parents and the media behind home plate.

“They’re fantastic,” offered second-year head coach Jeremy Jenkins. “They’re a great group of girls that work hard. A lot of times, you can build a team around just pitching, but the girls can hit and they’re also smart on the basepaths. (They are) by far, the best team I’ve ever coached.”

Cumberland’s reward for repeating as district champions is a return trip to the state tournament, which began on Monday in Portsmouth. The all-stars won their tourney opener with ease, defeating District I champion Cranston Western, 10-1, but in the following night’s winners’ bracket final against District III champion East Greenwich, Cumberland suffered an 11-6 loss.

Cumberland was back in Portsmouth on Wednesday night, taking on Cranston Western in the losers’ bracket final – Cranston Western posted a 4-2 win over District II champion Middletown in their losers’ bracket game on Tuesday night.

The winner of Wednesday’s game will face East Greenwich in Thursday’s 5:45 p.m. championship game in Portsmouth and need to beat E.G. twice in order to capture the state title. If a winner-take-all game is needed, it will take place the following night.

“We’re just going to play,” Jenkins said last Friday when asked about the R.I. tournament. “I think it will be an eventful week. I’d put this team against anybody.”

Cumberland kicked off its run to the District IV title on July 1 by posting a 5-3 win over Johnston/Scituate at Diamond Hill Park and continued it the following night by picking up a closer-than-it-looks 7-3 victory over Lincoln at the Saylesville Elementary School complex.

When Cumberland drove down Route 295 for last Friday’s rematch with Johnston/Scituate, Jenkins and his players expected another tough test.

But after one half inning of play, Cumberland surprisingly found itself armed with a 9-0 lead that saw the locals march 13 batters to the plate, collect just three hits, and take advantage of five walks, three wild pitches, and a hit batsman.

Jillian Ryone, Cumberland’s number three batter, belted two of the hits – a two-run single to right after Julia Raymond and Allie Casavant led off the contest with walks, and a run-scoring single to center that made it a 9-0 game.

Casavant also singled in a run, and Megan Bradley and Jillian Clapprood drew bases-loaded walks.

“I was not expecting that first inning at all,” Jenkins admitted. “I was kind of nervous coming into today because (Johnston/Scituate) does have a good team. But that first inning was a surprise.”

Johnston/Scituate plated runs in the first two innings and picked up its lone hit of the day in the second on a ground single down the first-base line by Eliza Angelotti. But that was all the damage the host team could muster off Lanzi, who struck out the side in order in the fourth and only allowed one batted ball to reach the outfield grass.

“I’ve seen her (pitch) for four or five years and she’s been fantastic,” Jenkins said. “And her demeanor doesn’t change at all. If she throws a bad pitch, she goes right on to the next one.”

Casavant, who along with Lindsay Molis, Juliana Jenkins, Ryone, Lanzi, and Raymond, are back from last year’s team, made it a 12-2 game in the third by socking a two-run double to left.

In Monday’s victory over Cranston Western, Ryone took the mound and tossed a two-hitter that saw her strike out nine batters, and her teammates backed her offensively by taking a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Several players enjoyed big games offensively, starting with Isabella Iannuccilli, who delivered three hits and drove in three runs, and Campbell Feather, who singled, doubled, tripled, and scored three times. Hailey Kuncz, Juliana Jenkins, and Molis also joined the multiple-hit club.

Tuesday’s loss to East Greenwich was certainly a heartbreaking one for Cumberland, which saw E.G. break open a close game by erupting for six runs in the top of the sixth. Cumberland did its best to battle back in its half of the inning, but only managed to score twice.

Casavant drove in Cumberland’s first two runs of the game with a base hit in the second inning. Also driving in runs were Molis, Bradley, Ryone, and Feather.

Cumberland catcher Allie Casavant, left, gets ready to tag Johnston/Scituate runner Julia DiRaimo at the plate during the bottom of the second inning of last Friday’s District IV championship game in Johnston. DiRaimo was safe on a close play, but her run merely cut Cumberland’s lead to 9-2.