Saints stun Northmen

Saints stun Northmen

St. Raphael Academy right fielder Lexi Sargo battles the tough sun to catch a fly ball for the first out of the second inning of last Wednesday afternoon’s Division II playoff game against North Smithfield High. Sargo also singled home a run in the top of the inning to help the Saints defeat the top-seeded Northmen, 4-3. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Close win over top-seeded ballclub highlights softball team’s Div. II playoff run

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Getting on the board early gave the 10th-seeded St. Raphael Academy softball team the edge it needed to eliminate top-seeded North Smithfield, 4-3, last Wednesday in a Division II losers’ bracket game at the Northmen’s complex.

Unfortunately for the Saints, who traveled to Johnston the following afternoon for another losers’ bracket game (with the winner advancing to Rhode Island College), they saw their playoff march come to an end when they suffered a 3-1 loss to the 6th-seeded Panthers.

Nevertheless, the Saints were the talk around the state after knocking off the Northmen, who had posted 16 straight victories and scored a league-high 185 runs to win the regular-season title.

“They played great,” SRA head coach Ron LaBree said of his players, who wrap up their season with a 12-10 record that includes a 2-3 mark in the playoffs. “They came in with the right attitude, played good ‘D’, and hit the ball, and we had great pitching. We just beat a very good team, and I’m proud of them.”

The Saints had scored three runs before the Northmen got a hit. The Saints went 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning, but got it going in the second against N.S. ace pitcher Vanessa Venkataraman.

SRA catcher Saylor Costa led off with a walk and was replaced on the bases by courtesy runner Liz Fera. After seeing a strike, Taylor Moreau belted a hard double to center that bounced off the fence, and Fera raced home on Cassandra Yany’s base hit past the shortstop.

Lexi Sargo then knocked in Moreau on a single that landed just fair in left field, and she hustled home with the third run on a grounder up the middle that was knocked down by Venkataraman, but she had no play on it.

The Saints then scored what would be the winning run in the third. Howarth led off with a walk and after Costa got another hit, Moreau singled to right to score Howarth for the 4-0 advantage. Despite reaching base in the last four innings, the Saints could not tack on another run.

“We were trying,” LaBree said. “We left a lot of people on base. We left the bases loaded twice. And you can’t do that with this team. We’re getting out of here while we can.”

The Northmen have usually took advantage of their home field and short fence, hitting multiple home runs a game, but ace pitcher Sydney Charette and the Saints shut them down through the first four innings.

The Northmen scored their first two runs in the fifth on two hits, an error, and a sacrifice fly, but the Saints were able to minimize the damage. LaBree said their game plan coming in was to keep the ball away from North Smithfield’s one through four hitters.

North Smithfield’s final run came in the sixth on a home run by freshman catcher Alex Ledger, but Charette, who finished with a five-hitter, set down the Northmen in order in the seventh.

“Sydney did a fantastic job,” LaBree said. “She really did. Every pitch we called was outside and she hit her spots. I don’t know how (Ledger) hit that over the fence, because I asked my catcher, ‘Where was she standing?’ (Ledger) was back in the box, the pitch was outside, and she still hit it over the fence.”

Offensively, the Saints were led by Moreau, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles.

Unfortunately for the Saints, they lost to the Panthers the next day in a game that saw Johnston benefit from a two-run single by Jordan Moretti early in the contest and the Saints put the tying run on base in the fifth and sixth innings, but fail to score each time. Ashley Bullen drove in the Saints’ run.