CUMBERLAND â€” The names have changed, but the results have stayed the same.
A year after cruising through the District IV ranks, as well as the best teams the rest of Rhode Island had to offer, en route to its second straight Major Division state championship, Cumberlandâ€™s formidable â€˜Aâ€™ team picked up where it left off by earning its third mercy-rule victory in as many games before a large gathering at Diamond Hill Park.
But Wednesday nightâ€™s 13-3 triumph over North Smithfield was not a rout many people were expecting to see. N.S., like Cumberland, came into the duel fresh off back-to-back mercy-rule routs that saw the team outscore its opponents, 36-4. But five miscues in the field, a six-run, third-inning rally by Cumberland, and an offense by the winners that made the most out of seven hits and five walks doomed N.S.â€™s chances at a victory.
Cumberland, which went 12-2 a season ago and were two wins away from capturing the Eastern Regional tournament in Bristol, Conn. and advancing to the World Series, only have one player -- southpaw pitcher/first baseman Jocelyn Bodington -- back from that team. But several of the standouts from Cumberlandâ€™s Minor Division state championship team from a season ago have filled in the blanks nicely.
One of them, starting pitcher Alex Pina, overcame five illegal pitches and four walks to contain N.S.â€™s explosive offense. She struck out nine batters (and four of the final five she faced) and allowed just three hits and two batted balls to reach the outfield grass.
Before Pina took the mound for the bottom of the first inning, Cumberland armed her with a quick 3-0 lead in its opening swings off N.S. pitcher Vanessa Venkataraman. Kaitlyn Dâ€™Abrosca led off with a four-pitch walk, and after Renae Lacroix followed with a bloop single to center, Bodington laced a ground single to left that was misplayed in the outfield and allowed Dâ€™Abrosca and Lacroix to score with ease.
Bodington sped to third on the error, but she didnâ€™t last long there. Venkataramanâ€™s next pitch to Pina was a wild one that went to the backstop, and Bodington was able to score with ease.
N.S. broke on the scoreboard in the second when Alexandra Ledger led off with a walk and toured the bases when Pina got called for three illegal pitches in a five-pitch span.
But Cumberland zapped a lot of drama out of the game with its six-run rally. Pina made it a 5-1 contest with a two-run single up the middle, and Cumberland was able to add to its lead by taking advantage of a pair of throwing errors, a wild pitch, and a groundout.
North Smithfield scored its final two runs in the fourth, with one of them coming home on a single to center by Liana Antonelli, but Cumberland upped its lead into double digits with a four-run rally in the fifth and enforced the mercy rule in the bottom of that inning when Bodington came on to pitch and retire the side in order.
Hailey Ballou, Lacroix, and Pina each collected two hits for Cumberland, and Dâ€™Abrosca, Lacroix, Bodington, Pina, and Ballou each scored twice.
Both teams will continue pool play on Friday at 6 p.m. with home games. Cumberland is back at Diamond Hill Park for a showdown against the Cumberland â€˜Bâ€™ team, which also entered the day with a 2-0 mark, and N.S. will host East Woonsocket.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24