Four games into the regular season, it looked like a similar story for the Warwick Vets softball team. The ’Canes lost them all, and looked poised for a fourth straight tough year.
Two games later, there’s plenty of optimism – and with good reason.
On Friday, Vets hung tough with undefeated, first-place Smithfield in an eventual 3-2 loss. That was a sign that things were turning around, and then on Tuesday the ’Canes kept it going with a 6-2 win over Mount St. Charles.
At 1-5, Vets might not have the prettiest record, but if two games are any indication, things are trending upwards in a big way.
“That was the message after the game Thursday and then before the game yesterday – ‘If you can do that with a 6-0 team in first place, you can stay with everyone,’” said Vets head coach Paul Kennedy.
The ’Canes opened the season with a non-league win over Mt. Hope before a losing streak took hold. They lost to Cumberland, Pilgrim, Westerly and Tolman, and also lost 23-2 to La Salle.
Facing a Smithfield team that had already knocked off two-time defending state champion Lincoln and is one of only two unbeaten teams in Division I, Vets was suddenly able to turn the page and flash its potential.
“We’ve been struggling and Thursday we played our best game in a couple of years,” Kenney said. “Smithfield is undefeated and in first place. We played them tough.”
The ’Canes took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first and held it all the way until the fifth, when Smithfield grabbed three runs. Vets scored one in the home half of the inning but came up just a little bit short.
Freshman Kayla Morin was strong on the mound, though, and the defense behind her was decent as well. It carried over into Tuesday’s game with Mount.
The Mounties racked up 11 hits and had 16 total base runners, but Morin limited the big inning by buckling down when it mattered most.
“Kayla Morin in the circle pitched a real nice game,” Kennedy said. “She didn’t have her best stuff. We were stretched but we never broke. We kept them from getting the big hit.”
The defense – which had led to many of the team’s early struggles – committed only two errors, and sophomore third baseman Arietta Chevian was given the game ball for her efforts in the field.
She began a crucial double play by fielding a grounder, stepping on third and throwing across the diamond for the out at first, charged on a bunt attempt and caught the ball in the air and also fielded a bunt attempt and threw a runner out at second.
Plays like that made the difference in the game. She also went 2-for-4 at the plate.
“Her defense was excellent,” Kennedy said.
The ’Canes also got off to a good start offensively, grabbing three runs in the top of the first to take an uncharacteristic early lead. When Mount tightened things to 3-2, Vets scored three more times in the top of the sixth to put the game away.
Vets finished with 12 hits on the day. Michelle Spremulli had three hits, including two doubles, drove in three runs and scored twice. Emily Walason also stood out, going 3-for-4 with three singles and knocking in two.
“It was nice to play well in back-to-back games,” Kennedy said. “It’s nice to see the work that we do pay off.”
And overall, it was a gratifying feeling to finally earn a win.
“To finally get one in the win column in the league is a relief,” Kennedy said. “It’s a good feeling. Lots of smiles all around. You can definitely feel a little bit of relief.”
Vets is also out of the basement in Division I now, as its one win puts it ahead of three winless teams. Bay View also has one win.
The challenge now is to keep it going. Vets hosts 3-3 Chariho today at 3 p.m., then travels to 2-3 Lincoln on Monday at 3:45 p.m.
“If Smithfield can (beat Lincoln) and you can stay with Smithfield, we can build on that,” Kennedy said. “Understand that when you play your best you can stay with some of the big teams in the league.”