Tremendous turnaround

Tremendous turnaround

North Providence catcher Jessica Rizzo gets ready to belt a single to right field in the first inning of last Wednesday afternoon’s game against Cranston East. The Cougars came back from a 3-0 deficit after four innings of play to defeat the Thunderbolts, 5-3, and clinch a berth in the state playoffs. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Once 0-5, Cougars’ softball team nails down five out of six victories to clinch state playoff berth

CRANSTON – After opening its Division I schedule with an 0-5 record that was the program’s worst start in more than a decade, the North Providence High softball team could have easily packed up its gear at that point and called it a season.

But during the past three weeks, the senior-less Cougars have shown what kind of a ballclub they are this season, and not only did they come back to capture five of their next six games, but they also sewed up a return trip to the state playoffs.

And no two victories had their fans on the edges of their seats like the two come-from-behind wins they picked up last week. A day after erasing a 4-0 deficit after 4½ innings of play to beat Toll Gate, 6-5, the Cougars fought back from a 3-0 deficit after four frames to post a 5-3 triumph over Cranston East on Wednesday afternoon at the Thunderbolts’ Aqueduct Field.

The win over the ‘Bolts also allowed the Cougars, who are in their second season back in D-I, to secure a postseason berth.

“Most teams that go 0-5, they can put it in the tank and that’s it, that’s their season,” said NP head coach Mike Tuorto. “But we just went back to practice and talked to the girls, telling them, ‘It’s not over. Just because we’re 0-5 doesn’t mean that we can’t come back and do something.’

“And to win five out of six? I’m very proud of them. That’s a true testament to our kids of not getting down on themselves. And you can hear them. They’re down a few runs, but they’re still yapping and talking and trying to grind out at-bats, and they did that for two consecutive days.”

Down by a 4-0 score to Toll Gate in the friendly confines of Notte Park, the Cougars tied the contest in the home half of the fifth inning, as Kaitlyn Manchester socked a two-run double and came home on a base hit by Lauren Morrissey.

The Titans reclaimed their lead in the top of the sixth, but the Cougars took it right back in the bottom of the inning with a pair of runs, the tying run on Mary-Catherine Fornaro’s second hit of the game and the go-ahead score on a throwing error.

Against the Thunderbolts, Cranston East jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but the Cougars, who were held to two hits through the first four innings by Thunderbolt pitcher Kaitlyn Drowne, came alive offensively.

In the fifth, they scored their first run when Ashley Verduchi led off with a double to right-center and scored on an infield hit by Manchester, and in the sixth, they zipped around their lineup to score three times and take the lead.

Emma Fuscellaro led off with an infield single, but Drowne came back to retire the next two batters. Hannah Doorley, who picked up the win on the mound, then aided her cause with a long double to left-center that drove in Fuscellaro, and after Fornaro and pinch-hitter Braelyn Beffre walked to load the bases, Manchester ripped a ground single to left to plate two runs.

The Cougars’ final run came in the seventh when Fuscellaro led off with a walk and scored on a two-out single by Doorley.

Speaking of Doorley, she shook off the Bolts’ rally in the first inning, as well as a first-and-second, one-out jam in the second, to limit the ‘Bolts to three hits (and no one to advance further than second base) over the final five innings.

“I think right now, they’re just believing in each other and their abilities and having some confidence,” Tuorto said of his players. “They’re playing together and jelling, and the chemistry on this team has been outstanding. We made it our goal to get back to the playoffs, and even though this win gets us there, we’re not done yet. We want to now play for seeding and try to get the best available spot possible in the (state) tournament.”

A day after defeating the Thunderbolts, the Cougars tried to reach the .500 mark by hosting fourth-place Cranston West at Notte Park, but the Falcons broke a 1-1 tie by scoring four times in the top of the fourth inning and rolling to a 6-1 victory. Manchester belted a home run in the third to knot the score.

The Cougars were back in action on Tuesday afternoon with a game against Cumberland at the Clippers’ Tucker Field. On Thursday, they will host East Providence in a 4 p.m. contest.

North Providence pitcher Hannah Doorley shown firing a pitch, also helped her cause at the plate with a run-scoring double in the sixth inning and an RBI single in the seventh.
North Providence third baseman Vanessa Arenas, left, watches shortstop Destiny Gregson get ready to throw the ball to first after fielding a grounder in the hole in the fifth inning of last Wednesday afternoon’s come-from-behind 5-3 triumph over Cranston East. The victory was the fifth in the last six games for the playoff-bound Cougars.