The Apponaug Pride Red softball team had the feeling of winning a state championship two years ago in the U10 division.
Now, thanks to some Hollywood-type drama, the program knows what it feels like to win one in the U12 division as well.
On June 27, Apponaug outlasted seven other teams to capture the Rhode Island ASA State championship, capping its tournament with a 7-6 victory over Darlington in a winner-take-all championship game.
“This is the second one we’ve won with a lot of these girls,” manager Rich Hough said. “We won the 10’s in our second year a couple years ago, and now in our second year with the 12’s we won too.”
The game, which was played at Cranston’s Brayton Field, featured a go-ahead two-run home run in the sixth inning and a game-ending double play, making the whole experience all the more exciting.
“They were screaming, the players were jumping up and down,” Hough said. “The fans, there must have been 200 people. My whole side, they were going crazy.”
Apponaug started the tournament with five consecutive wins to give it a spot in the championship against Darlington. It had to lose twice to be eliminated, while it only had to beat Darlington once.
But Darlington won 9-8 on Tuesday to set up the final game on Wednesday, with the state title on the line.
And it looked like Apponaug might wind up on the short end of the stick when it went into the bottom of the sixth inning – in a seven-inning game – down 6-5.
That stage the stage for the fireworks.
Mackenzie Hough reached first base and stole second, bringing Mackenzie Beyer to the plate. Beyer ripped a shot into the outfield that rolled past everybody, and she rounded the bases for a two-run inside-the-park home run, putting Apponaug up 7-6.
“After the home run, everyone went absolutely nuts,” Rich Hough said.
Apponaug still needed three outs to secure the victory in the seventh. Courtney Iadevaia struck out the first batter she faced, but the next batter singled, putting the tying run on base.
The next batter hit a line drive to right field, where Jordan Weeks was waiting. She made the catch and fired back to first to double off the runner and end the game in dramatic fashion.
“We got a double play to tend the game,” Hough said. “Everyone went bananas.”
That brought an end to a wild tournament in which Apponaug played perhaps its best softball of the summer. It got contributions from just about everybody.
Iadevaia pitched well on the mound, and Morgan Almon also contributed in the circle during the tournament.
Shorstop Keara Pedroso was a big factor, as were left fielder Isabella Broccoli and center fielder Hannah McNulty.
Caitlyn Ong came through with some key hits at the plate, as did Natasha Savage.
Braelyn Casacalenda and Kaelah Casey also had key roles.
“We’re playing softball, we’re having fun and it’s our time of the year right now,” Hough said.
After winning the state championship, Apponaug continued its hot play with a first-place finish in the Smithfield Firecracker Tournament that ended on July 1.
The following weekend, Apponaug lost in the championship game to Somerset at the Coventry Girls’ Softball Scholarship Tournament.
Prior to states, Apponaug played in one other tournament and finished in third. Two firsts, a second and a third isn’t too bad for one summer.
“We’re on a roll,” Hough said. “We’ve got a good team.”
And it could still get better. By virtue of winning states, Apponaug is headed to regionals this weekend in Lowell, Mass. The team will play one game on Friday and then play two on Saturday. Those three games will determine seedings, and elimination games will take place on Sunday.
With how well the team is playing, anything could happen. A win at regionals would send the team to August’s national tournament in Connecticut.
“I think we definitely have a shot to win the regionals,” Hough said. “The way we’ve been playing now, we’re just cooking right now. Hopefully we just take it straight through to regionals and we’ll see what happens.”