Two days after its first loss of the season, the Pilgrim softball team found itself in the same kind of game on Thursday at Winslow Park. The Pats took a 2-0 lead on South Kingstown, but the Rebels were hanging around, just like East Greenwich did last Tuesday. The two-time defending Division II champion Avengers rallied from an early deficit to beat the Pats in eight innings.
This time, the Pats made sure there was no rally.
The offense broke the game open with a sixth-run fourth inning, and Witashnah Ellsworth retired the last eight batters she faced as Pilgrim coasted to an 8-0 victory.
“Against East Greenwich, we had a 3-1 lead and we never really added on to it,” said head coach Bill Aquilante. “We could never get the extra runs. I told them it kind of felt like that same scenario was happening. Once we got to four, five, we were a little more comfortable. Then we kind of broke it open.”
The win moved the Pats to 2-1 in league play. They also posted a non-league victory over cross-town rival Toll Gate on Saturday.
All in all, it’s been a solid start. Aside from the East Greenwich game, Pilgrim has out-scored its league opponents 21-3.
“So far, so good,” Aquilante said. “I’ll take 2-1 after three.”
The Pats raced out of the gates in Thursday’s game, just as they’ve done in every game this year. After Ellsworth worked around a single in the top of the first, Pilgrim scored two runs in the bottom half.
Katelyn Reph – whose leadoff home run set the tone in a season-opening win over Prout – continued her hot start with a base hit. Madison Balutowski then legged out a bunt single, though Reph was thrown out trying to take third.
But the rally was still on. Kelsey Johnston reached on a fielder’s choice, and Ellen McDonnell smashed a hard-hit grounder to third that the Rebels couldn’t handle. Ellsworth followed with a ground ball to shortstop, and the Rebels tried to get McDonnell at second. She slid in safely, and the bases were loaded.
Then, Stephanie Johnson jumped ahead 3-1, got under the next pitch but watched it turn into a big hit anyway. Her pop-up fell between four Rebels in shallow center field, allowing Johnston and McDonnell to score.
“They gave us a break early when they couldn’t catch the pop-up,” Aquilante said. “We’ll take it.”
The Pats put a runner on in each of the next two innings but couldn’t push another run across. In the meantime, Ellsworth got into trouble in the third when she walked the bases loaded, but she got out of it when Reph caught a line drive to shortstop off the bat of Maggie Buell.
Then came the big inning.
Tayla Ferreira, the eighth-place hitter, started it with a single up the middle. Arianna Bordeleau then bunted her to second for her fourth sacrifice of the young season.
“She’s done a great job,” Aquilante said.
Reph followed with the day’s biggest hit, a bomb to right-center field that nearly hit the fence. Ferreira scored easily while Reph pulled up to third with a triple.
Balutowski then bunted again and the Rebels couldn’t make the play, which allowed Reph to score for the 4-0 lead. Johnston followed with a single, and McDonnell knocked two runs home with a base hit to center field.
A single by Caitlin Blanchard brought pinch runner Mackenzie Barone home, and a base hit by Bordeleau plated Ellsworth.
Just like that, it was an 8-0 game.
And that was more than enough for Ellsworth. She gave up a one-out single in the fifth but got two quick outs to end the inning and then surged. She struck out the side in the sixth and posted two more strikeouts in a one-two-three seventh.
Ellsworth ended up allowing just three hits while striking out nine in the complete game shutout.
“Witashnah really shut things down,” Ellsworth said. “She had the one inning where she walked a few people, but she finished strong. Three-hitter, nine strikeouts.”
The defense was also strong, which has been a welcome trend thus far. Pilgrim has made only one error in three league games.
“That’s a big difference for us,” Aquilante said.
Reph led the offense against the Rebels, going 3-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. Everybody in the lineup reached base, with Balutowski, Johnston, Johnson and Blanchard all notching two hits.
The only bad thing the Pats have dealt with so far is the loss to the Avengers. They led 3-1 but lost 5-4 in extras.
“We didn’t cash in on opportunities,” Aquilante said. “It was one of those things. We got three runs early and then (East Greenwich pitcher) Lauren Duvall settled down. She kept us off balance and we never got that fourth or fifth run. It was disappointing, but we know we can play with them, and that’s kind of the point. We’ve got to beat them in June, as opposed to April.”
The Pats were scheduled to be back in action on Monday against Exeter/West Greenwich, with results unavailable at press time. They’ll play non-league games against Warwick Vets and La Salle later in the week.