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NORTH PROVIDENCE â€” North Providence made quick work of St. Raphael in their showdown for first place in the Division II-West standings on Monday afternoon at Governor Notte Park.
The Cougars used a four-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning and the steady five-hit pitching of senior Lindsay Cabral to help produce their third shutout victory in as many games, a 5-0 win that took just 70 minutes to complete.
Both the Saints (2-1) and Cougars were coming off an impressive opening week of play that saw SRA defeat Classical and Tiverton by a combined score of 34-2 and N.P. blank Division II newcomers Central and Davies by identical 12-0 scores.
Those wins helped set the stage for Mondayâ€™s early-season showdown, which lived up to expectations until the Cougars, holding a 1-0 lead after 4 1/2 innings, rallied in the fifth by collecting five of their 10 hits off Saints reliever Kaylee Sylvestre. She started the game in left field, but was called to the mound after the Saintsâ€™ starting pitcher, Quinci Eacueo, was called for four illegal pitches that led to a walk to the only batter she faced.
Sylvestre kept the Cougars off the board until they scored the only run they needed in the fourth. Kelsey Burgess led off by belting the first pitch she saw into the gap in left-center for a double, and after she stole third on a delayed theft, Mia Scampoli blooped an opposite-field, two-run single near the left-field line to make it a 1-0 game.
The Saints, who stranded five of their six runners in the game in scoring position, had their best chance to break on the board in the fourth, when with one gone, line singles to left by Eacueo and Haley Mitsmenn, followed by a fielderâ€™s choice grounder by Alexis Vieira, loaded the bases.
The next batter, Arianna Haddock, lined out to center fielder Kelsey Vargas, but Sabrina Verrechia, who was used as a pinch-runner for Eacueo, wandered too far off third and was unable to get back to the base in time to tag up and score. Cabral then bore down and got the next batter to pop out to her catcher, Tateana Marulanda, to end the threat.
In the fifth, the Cougars went to work. Infield hits by Racheal Ramos and Vargas kicked off the rally, and one out later, they each advanced a base on a double steal and scored on a line single to left by Cabral. Burgess then belted her second double of the game -- a long drive to the warning track in left-center -- to score Cabral all the way from first and give the Cougars plenty of breathing room.
The Saints, who played errorless defense in the field, also received a nice play from center fielder Kamryn Labree, who threw out Vargas at the plate to end the bottom of the sixth. Vargas tried to score from second on a base hit up the middle, but she was cut down on Labreeâ€™s strong throw.
Cabral, meanwhile, only struck out four batters in her fine performance, but she also walked none and set down 11 of the final 12 batters she faced. Sylvestre also finished with four strikeouts and no free passes.
The Saints will return to their Hank Soar Complex home on Wednesday for a 3:30 p.m. affair against neighboring Davies.