The Toll Gate softball team didn’t feel great about the way it started the game on Monday, falling behind early in its season opener with Cranston West.
The finish, however, left the Titans with no complaints about the way their season began.
West took a 1-0 lead on a home run from Gianna Hathaway in the top of the first, and Toll Gate then stranded two runners in the home half of the inning against Falcons’ pitcher Kelly McDonough.
But, after falling behind 2-0, the Titans settled down, and found a way to get it done. Courtney Conklin’s walk-off single to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Pattie Turner from third base to lift Toll Gate to a dramatic 3-2 victory.
Behind 12 total hits, including at least one from eight of the nine hitters in the lineup, a steady performance from Katie McCaughey on the mound and solid defense in windy conditions, the Titans had enough in the tank to open the season 1-0.
“It was a great way to start the season,” Toll Gate head coach Shana O’Connor said. “It was definitely a team effort today. We made some really nice plays in the field. It was a tough wind, but it was tough for both sides. Offensively, we definitely had a good day throughout the entire lineup. Everyone through the lineup, one through nine, hit today, which is nice.”
After weathering the early storm and battling back from that 2-0 deficit to tie the game at two in the fourth inning, Toll Gate got some help in the final inning when Turner reached on an infield error with one out. A walk to Adriana DiGiuseppe and a single by Jessica Brosnahan loaded the bases for Conklin, who came through.
On a 2-2 count, Conklin sent McDonough’s offering over third base, and it managed to stay fair while dropping in for the game-winning hit.
“It was a good at-bat,” O’Connor said. “It was a very good at-bat. She stayed calm and hit the ball.”
McDonough was the tough-luck loser, as she allowed those 12 hits, but had three strikeouts and walked just two batters while pitching the entire game.
McCaughey, on the other hand, was even more impressive. She pitched seven innings and surrendered just seven hits, to go along with four strikeouts and two walks.
“Katie did a great job pitching,” O’Connor said. “She did a really nice job moving the ball around and changing speeds.”
But West got to McCaughey early, and it looked like the Falcons might make it a long day for the right-hander.
Hathaway, the third batter of the game, took McCaughey out of the park to center field on a 3-1 count to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead, and they made it 2-0 in the second inning thanks to an RBI single from Kristen Traficante.
McCaughey, though, settled down, allowing just three hits and walking one the rest of the way.
Toll Gate’s offense, meanwhile, got the Titans back in the game.
In the bottom of the second, Toll Gate got an RBI single from Ingrid Freeman, plating Conklin to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Then, in the fourth inning, McDonough retired the first two Titans’ hitters before Molly Turner reached on a slow roller between first and second that West first baseman Gianna Procaccini fielded, but had no play because nobody covered the bag.
Toll Gate took advantage. Tori Porter walked, and Freeman singled to load the bases with two outs. Kaylyn Dion followed that up with a single to center field, plating Turner to tie the game at two.
“There was one tweener, it was like an ‘excuse me’ – who’s going to cover first, who’s going to get the ball,” Cranston West head coach Jeff Smith said. “That came back to bite us.”
West threatened in the sixth, getting two runners on before McCaughey induced a groundout from Traficante to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Courtney Salisbury reached for West to open the frame, but was doubled off two batters later on a line drive off the bat of McDonough. Molly Turner caught the ball running in from left field before throwing to first base behind Salisbury for the double play.
“That was a big play,” O’Connor said. “She got a nice jump on that ball and it was a good heads up play going to first base on that.”
That kept the game tied, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
Sarah Nacci led the way for West offensively, going 2-for-3 at the plate. Hathaway, Traficante, Salisbury, Bethanie Davis and Laura Isacco had the Falcons’ other hits.
Pattie Turner was 2-for-4 for Toll Gate, DiGiuseppe was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk, Conklin was 2-for-4 and Freeman went 3-for-3. The Titans had at least one hit in every inning.
West, which is now 0-1 on the season, was scheduled to play its second game of the year on Wednesday at home against Chariho. The results of that game were unavailable at press time.
The Titans were also scheduled to be in action on Wednesday, against Barrington. After that, Toll Gate will host rival Warwick Vets on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Winslow Park.