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PAWTUCKET --- Limited to five hits in each of its last two games, Cumberland broke out of its offensive slumber in a big way in the top of the first inning of its Division I contest against Tolman on Wednesday afternoon.
The Clippers scored six times on seven hits in that inning, and then watched ace pitcher Juliet Nelson and their defense contain the hard-hitting Tigers the rest of the way before busing out of Slater Park with a 10-1 triumph.
The Clippers (7-4) finished the game with a dozen hits, and Sam Jalbert (one of six freshmen in the visitorsâ starting lineup) led the assault by going 3-for-3 with a pair of opposite-field doubles down the left-field line and three runs scored.
âWe havenât hit the ball the last couple of games,â added Cumberland coach Marty Crowley, whose crew was a day removed from a 4-1 loss to Mount St. Charles. âBut we changed the lineup a little bit, we made some adjustments, and we worked on shooting the ball up the middle.â
The early lead was more than enough support for Nelson, who gave up hits to two of the first three batters she faced, but settled down nicely to throw a four-hitter that saw her not walk anyone and retire 17 of the final 18 batters she faced.
Nelson also didnât strike out any batters, but she was backed up nicely in the field by her teammates, who played errorless ball.
â(Nelson) probably deserved a better fate the last couple of games,â Crowley said. âWe had three unearned runs yesterday and a couple against Smithfield the game before, but today, we played clean defensively. Besides hitting the ball, that was the key for us.â
Taylor Fay, who played a solid game at shortstop, got the Clippersâ attack off to a quick start when she grounded Tolman starter Megan Salzilloâs first pitch of the game up the middle for a base hit.
After she dashed to second on a wild pitch in the dirt, she scored on a hustle double to shallow left-center field by Nelson.
The next batter flew out to center, but the next four followed with base hits. The first one was a line single to right by Emily Anderson that knocked in Nelson, and after Sydney Provencal and Jalbert singled to load the bases, Haley Bouley blooped a hit to left-center to plate Anderson.
âWe came out swinging,â said Crowley. âIt started with Fay and we were off and we were running. Hittingâs contagious. We say that all the time.â
After a groundout by Miranda Veliu drove in Provencal with the fourth run, No. 9 batter Katie Calabro ripped a single to center that allowed Jalbert and Bouley to cross the plate.
âCumberlandâs a great hitting team,â offered Tolman coach Craig Giarrusso, who fielded five freshmen in his lineup. âWe just couldnât get the job done in the first inning and they outhit us. They outhit us the whole game.â
In the bottom of the inning, Tolman (6-5) struck for its run when Leiandra Wilson (who made two great plays at second base) clocked a long triple to right that reached the fence on two bounces and scored on a single to center by Cristin Chiaverini.
But the Tigers were unable to advance a runner past first base after that, as Nelson and the Clippersâ âDâ got the job done. Ten of Tolmanâs final 16 outs came on the ground.
The Clippers added another run in the third on a run-scoring infield single by Veliu, and after Bouley socked a two-run double down the right-field line in the fifth, Kendra Walker came off the bench in the final inning to drive in the Clippersâ final run with a groundout.
Both teams have five games left in their regular seasons before the playoffs begin, and included in those games are true tests against teams who (like the Clippers and the Tigers) range from 3-5 losses and are looking for a big win or two down the stretch that will improve their postseason seeding.
âEvery game means something,â added Crowley. âAfter [undefeated] North Kingstown, from [places] 2-11, everyoneâs in that same bunch and trying to play for a higher seed.â
âThere are so many of us that are grouped together,â said Giarusso. âIt will be interesting to see what the final seedings are going to look like and who might break free a little bit and who might not.
âWe still have a tough schedule ahead of us, and itâs not going to be easy. We just need to put this one behind us and regroup and get back to the way we played the other day when we beat La Salle.â
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