In a summer full of comebacks, the Warwick West Side 12-year-old softball all stars needed one more last Wednesday night to keep their season alive.
Portsmouth didn't let it happen.
With her team leading 4-3, Portsmouth pitcher Emma Campbell put an end to a see-saw battle with scoreless frames in the fifth and sixth innings. That was enough to seal the 4-3 victory for Portsmouth and end West Side's state tournament run.
“When the girls came off after holding them in the fifth, I said 'Girls, this is West Side's time. The sixth inning is our inning,'” said manager Billy King. “We had a couple of base-runners there, but you've got to give Portsmouth a lot of credit. They made all the plays. Hits were hard to come by and runs were hard to come by.”
West Side had made a habit of rallying late in games, coming from behind twice in the district tournament and once more at states. After dropping the winners' bracket final to Cumberland National, West Side found itself in the do-or-die game against Portsmouth and was in a hole from the second inning on.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, West Side gave up two runs to Portsmouth in the bottom half and never led again. West Side tied the game in the top of the third, only to see Portsmouth go back ahead in the bottom half. The same thing happened in the fourth inning.
“Both teams played really well,” King said. “It was one of those games – close, no one scored more than one or two runs an inning. It was well-played.”
When pitcher Katrina Kazen held Portsmouth scoreless in the bottom of the fifth, West Side prepared to get back on the comeback trail one more time.
But it was easier said than done.
Kazen led off the inning with an infield hit. When the throw to first got away, Kazen took off for second but was thrown out on a close play.
It was an aggressive attempt, but it fit with what West Side had done all summer. Portsmouth just made the play.
“All year long we've been very aggressive on the bases, putting pressure on people,” King said. “But they made all the plays tonight. They threw out a lot of runners.”
Selin Ciesielski kept hope alive when she hit a line drive that Portsmouth right fielder Lian Bishop couldn't handle. Ciesielski was then forced out at second on a fielder's choice. Karly Evans reached on the play, but West Side was quickly down to its last out.
Taryn Stringfellow worked to a 2-2 count and fouled a pitch to stay alive, but Campbell got her swinging to finish off the victory.
“We just couldn't get that last run in the sixth,” King said.
West Side finished with only four hits, and none of them came in the same inning. Ashley Ferreira had an RBI single in the second, Jeriann Evans delivered an RBI double in the third and Emma Hlavacek knocked in a run with a bunt in the fourth, but West Side couldn't get anything else.
Campbell stranded one runner in each of the last two innings.
“She wasn't overpowering but she threw strikes,” King said. “We put the ball in play but we hit it right at them and they made the plays.”
Portsmouth got two of its runs on bases-loaded walks. Brittany Tavares and Ailish Cafferty added RBI singles. Portsmouth advanced to the championship, where it lost to Cumberland National.
As for West Side, the loss marked the end of a summer to remember.
“It was a lot of fun,” King said. “The girls really competed and they never gave up. They came back twice to win games in districts and once in states. That's a testament to them. It just shows you how hard they worked and what kind of heart they really do have. It's disappointing that we had to end our run now. We would have liked to get to the championship. But they should be proud of winning the districts and making the state tournament because there are a lot of teams home right now who wish they were here.”