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Sports editor emeritus
PAWTUCKET â€” Hayley Microulis, the lone senior on St. Raphael Academyâ€™s roster, took charge on Thursday when the Saints opened the Division II playoffs against Burrillville in the single-elimination portion of the tournament.
â€śI wanted to make a statement about how much I love playing softball for St. Raphael Academy,â€ť Microulis said after knocking in three runs and scoring another in a 4-0 victory that sent the Saints into the double-elimination phase of the playoffs, probably on Saturday against the Moses Brown-Cranston East survivor.
â€śWe would like to play that game on Saturday at 1 p.m. on our field,â€ť Saints coach Ron LaBree said after the game on Thursday at Hank Soar Park. The Interscholastic League likely will not firm up final details until this morning.
The Saints scored two runs in the first inning before Burrillville pitcher Mikayla Fernandez settled down. Winning pitcher Kaylee Sylvestre led off with a single. Haley Howarth followed with a walk and then Kam LaBree singled to load the bases.
Up to the plate stepped Microulis, who took a .560-plus batting average into this game. The future Mount Ida College student-athlete laced a single into the outfield to score two runs. Fernandez then retired the side with no more damage occurring.
With two outs in the third inning, LaBree singled and Microulis tripled her home for a 3-0 lead.
Burrillville recorded its first hit of the game in the top of the fourth when Emily Bussell led off with a single. Sylvestre got a fly ball, a strikeout and an infield pop fly to retire the side. The junior right-hander would allow just three hits in the game while striking out five. Kasey Desrosiers singled leading off the fifth before Sylvestre retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts.
Bussell singled with one out in the sixth and that was the final threat for the Broncos.
Microulis, who played an outstanding defensive game at shortstop, led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. She aggressively took second base on a wild pitch, and then took third base after Lauren Taylor grounded to third. Burrillvilleâ€™s Sarah Blanchard looked Microulis back and threw to first for the out but the Saintsâ€™ senior leader took off for third as soon as the ball left Blanchardâ€™s hand and made it to the bag with ease.
Thatâ€™s the kind of aggressive base-running Ron LaBree has been looking for from his players all season. It is a style of play he believes is crucial to winning a state title in a tournament featuring at least four quality teams.
Sylvestre retired Burrillville 1-2-3 in the seventh to end the game quietly.
â€śThis was the first time Kaylee has pitched in nine days, since she hurt her knee,â€ť Ron LaBree said. â€śI thought she looked pretty good today but weâ€™ll see how she feels tomorrow.â€ť
The Saints canâ€™t wait to get back into action on Saturday.
â€śItâ€™s the playoffs,â€ť Microulis said. â€śEvery game is going to be a tough one. I just do what I can to help the team. I feed off my teammatesâ€™ (emotion).â€ť
LaBree felt the Saints got a good test from Burrillville in the playoff opener.
â€śBurrillville used a defensive shift in the first inning, moving their fielders around,â€ť the coach said. â€śThatâ€™s something we havenâ€™t seen all season. They caught us by surprise. I thought Burrillville played a good game against us.â€ť