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