Last summer, Warwick West Side softball’s 9/10-year-old all-star team won district and state titles and its 11/12-year-old team won the district championship. Several players from both those teams are on the same 11/12-year-old club this summer, and they took the first steps to more success last week.
West Side opened the District 3 tournament last Wednesday with a 10-0 victory over East Greenwich. On Friday, the team beat South Kingstown 15-4 in the winner’s bracket final, putting itself one win away from another district championship.
West Side was scheduled to play for the title on Monday, with results unavailable at press time.
Getting to another championship game was just what West Side wanted from the opening week of all-star season.
“We’re getting there,” said manager Rick Bigelli. “We’re just looking to improve every game, and we have so far. These girls have high expectations. Like I said to them, ‘You look like you just lost. Smile, be happy. You’ve got to take these steps before you take the next ones.’”
West Side cruised past East Greenwich in its opener, winning by mercy rule after four innings. On Friday, South Kingstown gave them a battle, staying close early and twice avoiding the mercy rule late. But ultimately, the game was never in doubt once West Side put together a nine-run third inning. The team finished with 18 hits. Emily Carter and Kaylyn Ciesielski combined on a solid pitching performance.
Based on the last few years, West Side expects to have that kind of success in the district tournament. When last year’s 9/10’s made the regional tournament, it raised the bar even further.
“Some of the 12-year-olds actually came to Pennsylvania and watched us in the regional,” Bigelli said. “So they’re hungry for it. They saw how it goes, how fun it is, the competition, and that’s what they want.”
West Side started Friday’s game on the right foot, with three runs in the top of the first inning. Lexi Brown, Sydni Bigelli and Dyonna Rodas led off with base hits. An error brought the first run home and two more scored on wild pitches.
South Kingstown served notice that it wouldn’t go quietly when it scored a run in the bottom of the first and held West Side scoreless in the second.
But West Side took control in the third, sending 12 batters to the plate and pounding nine hits. When it was over, West Side led 12-1.
“We thrive off the spark,” Rick Bigelli said. “Once we get that spark, it’s just infectious through that dugout.”
Rodas started the big inning with a single, which began a run of five consecutive hits. Danaja Alpaio delivered the biggest blow on a base hit that got past the left-fielder and rolled all the way to the fence. Alpaio came around to score.
Brown, Rodas and Gianna Altieri added RBI singles.
“Once we start making contact, we’re going to hit,” Bigelli said. “That’s what makes a game exciting. They know that and they love it.”
South Kingstown followed West Side’s big inning with two runs in the third on a two-run single by Claire Lidsky. West Side added a run in the fifth when Rodas singled and stole second, third and home, but South Kingstown avoided the 10-run rule by scoring one in the bottom of the fifth. West Side tacked on two more runs in the sixth on a two-run single by Brown.
Ciesielski worked around an error and a single in the bottom of the sixth, striking out two in the final inning, to seal the win. Ciesielski allowed an unearned run on two hits in two innings of work. Carter, the starting pitcher, scattered seven hits and gave up three runs, all of which were unearned. She struck out two.
Carter made big contributions at the plate, as well, where she went 4-for-4. Rodas also went 4-for-4 to pace the offense, and she scored every time she reached base.
Brown added three hits, three RBI and two runs scored. Altieri and Alpaio each had two hits and an RBI. Sydni Bigelli, Taylor Suffoletto and Sophia Detroia had one hit each.
South Kingstown dropped to the loser’s bracket with the loss but stayed alive with a 6-3 victory over Narragansett on Saturday, setting up a rematch for the title. South Kingstown would have to beat West Side twice to capture the district championship.
“South Kingstown, through the years, has always been tough,” Rick Bigelli said. “They’re going to come here and not hand us anything. We’re going to have to earn it.”