CUMBERLAND â€” Cumberland and Lincoln have hooked up in some interesting late-season matchups over the years, and on Tuesday afternoon, they continued this tradition with an extra-inning barnburner at Tucker Field.
After watching Lincoln score an unearned run in the top of the eighth inning, Cumberland came back to snag a dramatic 8-7 victory in its half of the frame on a clutch two-out, two-run single to right field by ace pitcher Juliet Nelson.
Unlike their meetings from the past few seasons, which were dominated by strong pitching and superb defense, this contest featured plenty of offense, with the teams combining for 23 hits, a dozen by the visiting Lions.
Each team also staged a big rally. The Clippers erupted for five runs in the first, and after they added to their lead in the second on a leadoff, inside-the-park home run to left by Taylor Fay, the Lions responded with a six-run uprising in the top of the fourth to knot the game.
The score remained deadlocked until the top of the eighth and the international tiebreaker rule came into play. Kellyn Dyer started the Lionsâ€™ half of the inning on second base, and after she took third on a line single to left by Cianna Dumas, she scored on an infield error.
In the Clippersâ€™ half of the eighth, Haley Bouley began the inning on second, and after pinch-hitter Rachel Gillardi led off with a walk, Katie Calabro moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
The next batter, Fay, grounded out sharply to shortstop Casie Beauchemin for the second out, but Nelson stepped to the plate and dropped her game-winning base hit between right fielder Abby Majeau and the right-field line.
â€śNellie just did what sheâ€™s done for four years here,â€ť said Cumberland coach Marty Crowley. â€śShe came through big for us.â€ť
The Clippers, who three days earlier, dropped a tough-to-swallow, nine-inning affair to East Providence, raised their record to 10-5 (marking their ninth straight season with double digits in victories), with just Fridayâ€™s finale back at Tucker against winless Woonsocket left on their schedule. They are expected to fetch the No. 5 seed in the upcoming playoffs that are expected to begin next Thursday.
As for the Lions, they fell to 9-6 with their third loss in their last five contests and will visit third-place La Salle (11-4) in their regular-season finale. Depending on how they fare against the Rams, Lincoln is expected to draw either the sixth, seventh, or eighth seed.
Offensively, the Clippers received three-hit games from Madison Leite and Fay and multiple hits from Nelson, who was also the winning pitcher. Sydney Provencal, Emily Anderson, and Miranda Veliu also drove in runs to help the Clippers stage their first-inning outburst.
â€śWhen you fall behind by six runs, itâ€™s tough, but we came back,â€ť said Lincoln coach Dick Ryan. â€śThis was a good game between two good teams, and I think weâ€™ll see each other in the playoffs again. But today, I tip my hat to (Cumberland). They won the game and they did a good job.â€ť
Collecting multiple hits for the two-time defending champion Lions were Dyer, who unleashed a double to deep left in the second, losing pitcher Lauren Hervieux, Dumais, and Beauchemin. Base hits by Hervieux, Dumas, and Majeau drove in runs in the Lionsâ€™ fourth, and Meredith Walsh made it a 6-6 game by bringing in Majeau with a perfectly-placed, suicide squeeze bunt.
â€śWe had that one bad inning, and we kind of kicked it around a little bit,â€ť said Crowley, â€śbut our kids battled all day long and we made plays when we had to defensively.â€ť
Before the game went into extras, the Clippers had a pair of opportunities to snap the tie, but they left the bases loaded in the fourth and runners in scoring position in the sixth.
The Lions also had a chance to add to their lead in the seventh after Dyer scored the go-ahead run. The Lions loaded the bases with two gone on a fielderâ€™s choice grounder by Beauchemin and a bunt single by Walsh, but Nelson wiggled off to hook by retiring the dangerous Adriana Toro on a groundout.
â€śWe got out cheap with only one run in that inning,â€ť said Crowley. â€ś(Lincoln) could have scored one or two more runs, but Nellie pitched us out of that jam. She did a great job today.â€ť
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24