Ven­turini shuts down North­men

Woonsocket Call - - SPORTS - By BRAN­DEN MELLO bmello@woonsock­et­

NORTH SMITH­FIELD — The North Smith­field soft­ball team knew what was at stake this week.

With games against John­ston and Sc­i­t­u­ate, the North­men had an op­por­tu­nity to se­cure a home Divi­sion II quar­ter­fi­nal and avoid play­ing in a per­ilous sin­gle-elim­i­na­tion con­test.

After com­mit­ting a num­ber of er­rors that led to six un­earned runs in Mon­day’s road loss to John­ston, the North­men had their best pitch­ing and de­fense per­for­mance of the sea­son. Se­nior pitcher Vanessa Venkatara­man al­lowed five hits and struck out 10 Spar­tans, while the North­men didn’t com­mit an er­ror.

The prob­lem was Sc­i­t­u­ate fresh­man fire­baller Ha­ley Ven­turini was just a little bit better. The Spar­tan al­lowed four hits and struck out 14 bat­ters in a com­plete-game shutout to lead her team to a 1-0 Divi­sion II vic­tory at Dowl­ing Field.

“You know what? The girls fought hard. They went up their hack­ing and we ended the game with a girl on third base,” North Smith­field coach Paul Mercier said. “There were no missed signs to­day. This was prob­a­bly the fastest pitcher since we faced [Bar­ring­ton’s] Paige [Con­can­non] a few weeks ago. She throws hard and we tried to put more scrappy stuff against her. We’ll prob­a­bly have a different ap­proach if we see them again in the play­offs.”

North Smith­field (9-6 Divi­sion II) has taken ad­van­tage of the friendly con­fines of Dowl­ing Field nu­mer­ous times over the last few sea­sons, but the home side was ac­tu­ally hurt by the lack of a fence in foul ter­ri­tory down the left-field line in the third in­ning.

Fresh­man Tessa LaBarre reached base on a two-out bunt sin­gle and she was on her way to scor­ing the game’s open­ing run when Venkatara­man laced a ball down the left-field line. Both run­ners were forced to stop in scor­ing po­si­tion be­cause the ball went out of play. Ven­turini set down Hope Trow­bridge to end the in­ning.

“Vanessa hooked it and hit it well,” said Mercier, who is the team’s third­base coach. “When I saw it go­ing down that line, I knew it wasn’t go­ing to hit the fence and it was go­ing to be a ground-rule dou­ble. Tessa would’ve scored be­cause she was al­ready at third base.”

North Smith­field’s only other scor­ing chance came in the sev­enth in­ning when ju­nior Alyssa Mur­ray hit a one­out sin­gle to right field. Sopho­more Gianna Capra­cotta pinch ran for Mur­ray and stole two bases to get to third with two outs. Ven­turini, as she did five times on the af­ter­noon, struck out a North­man to end an in­ning.

Sc­i­t­u­ate (10-4 Divi­sion II) also had two big op­por­tu­ni­ties to score, but the road side took ad­van­tage of one of them. Three in­nings after Venkatara­man stranded a pair of run­ners when Ven­turini lined out to Mur­ray, the fresh­man hit a one-out dou­ble in the sixth and scored on a fielder’s choice by catcher Bai­ley Lo­mas­tro to first base­man Han­nah Good­ier.

“We had ev­ery one back in their spots to­day and we had a very good prac­tice on Tues­day where each girls saw about 60-80 balls,” Mercier said. “We just hit tons of fly balls to the out­field and ground balls to the in­field. I think the girls are get­ting the mes­sage that we need to play good de­fense. Vanessa was fan­tas­tic and hit her spots all game.”

The North­men fin­ish the reg­u­lar sea­son next week against a pair of teams who aren’t go­ing to make the play­offs. Mon­day, the North­men travel to Mid­dle­town, which earned its first win of the sea­son ear­lier this week against Mount St. Charles. Mt. Hope comes to North Smith­field Wed­nes­day.

“We want to play good soft­ball next week, prac­tice hard through Memo­rial Day week­end and then lock and load for the play­offs,” Mercier said. Sc­i­t­u­ate 000 001 0–150

North Smith­field 000 000 0–040

Ha­ley Ven­turini and Bai­ley Lo­mas­tro; Vanessa Venkatara­man and Alex Ledger. 2B – S, Ven­turini; NS, Venkatara­man.

File photo by Jerry Sil­ber­man / risport­

North Smith­field’s Vanessa Venkatara­man struck out 10 bat­ters and hit a dou­ble in a 1-0 loss to Sc­i­t­u­ate.

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