Five games into the season, the Pilgrim softball team had a 2-3 record. That wasn’t where the Pats wanted – or expected – to be.
This is more like it.
Pilgrim beat Moses Brown 9-5 on Monday and topped St. Raphael 10-4 on Tuesday for its fifth and sixth consecutive league wins. Now 11 games in, the Pats are 8-3 and sitting in third place in Division II-Central, just two games out of first. They haven’t lost since April 19.
“It started with the Toll Gate game actually,” said Pilgrim head coach Bill Aquilante. “It was a non-league game, but it kind of got us going. The girls were excited to win that game. And then we just hit the ground running from there.”
Pilgrim beat Division I Toll Gate 4-3 on April 21. Since then, they’ve caught fire, winning their next six by a combined score of 59-19.
“Everything’s been good,” Aquilante said. “We’ve been playing some pretty clean, errorless games, and (pitcher) Carly Cabral is always on. We’ve been scoring a lot of runs, and we’ve been earning a lot of runs. Teams haven’t given us much.”
In Monday’s game against Moses Brown, the Pats found themselves in a tough spot right off the bat. The Quakers, who came in with a 4-5 record, put two runners on in the top of the first inning thanks to a walk and an infield hit. Cabral, Pilgrim’s starter, got two outs without Moses Brown doing any damage, but the Quakers followed with three straight RBI singles that made it a 3-0 game.
The Pats weren’t worried.
“It felt like we were behind more, but knowing the offense we have, I knew we’d be able to get the runs back,” Aquilante said. “We took a collective breath and realized we were okay.”
And then the Pats went to work.
Kelsey Johnston tripled with two outs in the bottom of the first and came home on a base hit by Ellen McDonnell, who was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
In the second inning, the Pats grabbed a lead they would never lose. Caitlin Blanchard reached when a pitch got away on a strikeout. Lauren Peladeau followed with a single, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. After a popout, Tiffany Legare bunted and Moses Brown catcher Lydia DeAngelo tried to throw behind pinch-runner Kelli-Lynne Palmer-Brown at third base. The throw got away, and Palmer-Brown scored to make it 3-2. Katelyn Reph then brought home two runs with a base hit up the middle, giving the Pats a 4-3 lead.
From there, they never looked back, scoring in every inning and pulling away for the four-run victory.
Johnston was hit by a pitch to start the third, took third base on a single by McDonnell and scored on a wild pitch. In the fourth, Legare reached on an error and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Peledeau walked with two outs in the fifth and came home on a Stefanie Quaine double. And in the sixth, Reph doubled before Johnston and Palmer-Brown delivered RBI singles.
“Earlier in the season, we were getting chunks of runs – four or five in one innings,” Aquilante said. “The last four or five games, we’ve been getting one or two every inning and really kind of stretching it out. That’s been encouraging.”
Cabral had no problem maintaining the cushion. The senior scattered five hits after the first inning and allowed just two more runs.
“We’ve asked a lot more of her this year, asking her to throw a lot more innings, and she’s been great,” Aquilante said.
Offensively, the Pats were led by Johnston, who went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and an RBI. Reph also went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and McDonnell went 2-for-4. Peladeau, Quaine and Palmer-Brown had one hit each, while Legare reached base all three times she came to the plate and scored two runs.
On Tuesday, the Pats kept things going with another strong performance against St. Raphael. McDonnell got the start in the circle and limited the Saints to four runs in six innings. On the other side, the Pats had their bats going again. Stephanie Johnson went 3-for-3 with three RBI and Reph also had three RBI.
The Pats now have the fifth-best record in all of Division II, but in a tightly-packed D-II-Central, they’re taking nothing for granted as they head into their final five games. All the games are against II-Central teams, and clubs like Cranston East and Exeter/West Greenwich, who are just off the pace, will be gunning for the Pats
“Our division is really tough, with Cranston East being so much improved and Exeter/West Greenwich doing well,” Aquilante said. “Right now, .500 wouldn’t make the playoffs so we know we have to beat the teams we’re battling with.”
Pilgrim will visit first-place East Greenwich today at 3:30 p.m. The Avengers, the defending D-II champs, beat Pilgrim 5-3 in the second game of the season.