The season is young, but Friday’s non-league softball game between Pilgrim and Warwick Vets was a clear snapshot of where the two teams are at this point.
The Pats won 12-0 in five innings, keeping up their hot start as they try to take the next step as a Division II title contender. Vets, meanwhile, struggled in just about every aspect and stayed winless on the year.
The teams are trending in opposite directions.
“We talked before the game about how we lost this game last year and that we needed to come out strong, early, and put a couple runs on the board to kind of establish that we were going to have a pretty good day,” Pilgrim head coach Bill Aquilante said. “They did that.”
The ’Canes got an infield single from leadoff hitter Chelsea Reid to open the game, and as it turned out, that was their sole highlight. Reid was quickly erased on a double play, and Vets didn’t manage another base runner against Pilgrim pitcher Ellen McDonnell. In five innings, Vets sent the minimum 15 batters to the plate.
Vets is also dealing with some key injuries, as three of its top players – Sarah Farrell, Bethany Rhodes and Michelle Spremulli – are all out at the moment.
“Nothing went well,” Vets head coach Paul Kennedy said. “It was sunny, that was the highlight of the day. Right now, we’re just not a good team. We don’t hit well, we don’t field well, we’re struggling in the circle right now. We’re not a good team and we have a lot of work to do.”
The ’Canes fell to 0-6 overall, while remaining at 0-3 in Division I. Pilgrim improved to 5-1 overall, and sits at 3-1 in D-II. The Pats also own a non-league win against Toll Gate.
Against Vets, McDonnell stole the show. As the team’s No. 2 pitcher, she doesn’t get a ton of opportunities on the mound behind Witashnah Ellsworth, but she made the most of her chance on Friday.
The sophomore allowed that single to open the game, but that was the only damage. She didn’t allow a single ball to leave the infield all day, as she struck out three batters en route to a one-hitter.
“I always like when I get the opportunity to pitch,” McDonnell said.
She also set the tone at the plate, where she went 3-for-4 with a three-run, inside-the-park home run in the fourth inning, as well as an RBI double in the first. She finished with four RBI and was a triple shy of the cycle.
Her three hits were indicative of an entire lineup that was swinging well, as Pilgrim racked up 16 hits as a team.
“We hit up and down the lineup, like we’ve been doing all year, which is pleasing,” Aquilante said.
The Pats jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on Vets freshman pitcher Kayla Bourbon, as Katelyn Reph led off the game with a triple and scored on a single by Madison Balutowski. McDonnell followed that with her double to plate Balutowski.
After a scoreless second, the Pats went back to work in the third. McDonnell and Ellsworth singled. Balutowski then blooped a ball over second base, which ended up as a two-run double.
McDonnell made the 4-0 lead look insurmountable, as she recorded a strikeout and two groundouts in the second, then two infield pop outs and a groundout in the third.
“Pilgrim is a very good D-II team, and we made her look like she was Sandy Koufax,” Kennedy said. “That’s not taking anything away from her – she pitched a heck of a game. But the first batter got on base, then there was a double play, she faced the minimum. She pitched a heck of a game.”
In the fourth, the Pats broke the game wide open. Mackenzie Barone, in her first varsity start, doubled to open the frame and scored two batters later on a single by Balutowski. Kelsey Johnston singled after that, and McDonnell followed up with a hard hit shot into the right-center field gap that kept rolling. The end result was a three-run home run, putting Pilgrim up 8-0.
“I just kind of try not to think, and hit the best pitch that I get,” McDonnell said. “I just try to take every opportunity that I can get.”
After another 1-2-3 inning for Vets in the fourth – including a nice catch by Reph at shortstop on a hard hit line drive by Liz Iadevaia – Pilgrim padded its lead in the fifth.
Tayla Ferreira doubled to right to start it off, and she came around on a single by Jane Dwyer, her first varsity hit. Reph then singled and Balutowski knocked in another run with a single of her own to make it 10-0. An RBI single by Johnston and a Vets error brought two more runs across.
“We have a lot of girls right now who are just way too timid,” Kennedy said. “What we’re preaching is just not getting in. I will take the blame for it. We’ll go back to the drawing board, because what we’re doing right now is not working.”
Needing three outs to finish the game, McDonnell got Emily Walason to ground out to second, then struck out Mariana Brawn and Arietta Chevian to end it.
Outside of McDonnell, Pilgrim had plenty of other strong showings. Ten different players had hits, led by Balutowski, who was 3-for-4 with three runs knocked in. Johnston went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Reph was 2-for-4 as well. Ellsworth, Ferreira, Arianna Bordeleau, Barone and Dwyer all added hits.
“I think we’re definitely playing well,” McDonnell said. “We have great team chemistry this year, and I think we’re really motivated to get to RIC at the end of the season.”
The Pats had a non-league game against La Salle postponed on Saturday, but they’ll host 2-2 Johnston on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. On Thursday, they’ll travel to 4-1 Cranston East for a 3:30 start.
The ’Canes were scheduled to take on winless Smithfield on Monday, with the results unavailable at press time. On Wednesday, they’ll host 1-4 Mount St. Charles at 4 p.m.