2014-06-05 / News

North Kingstown softball advances

By Margo Sullivan

The North Kingstown High School softball team put the finishing touches on its perfect regular season on May 23 with a 14-0 drubbing over Barrington at Ryan Park. The Skippers finished with an unblemished 16-0 record.

Since then, they’ve coasted through their first three playoff games: The top-seeded Skippers eliminated Barrington 8-0 in the preliminaries on May 28, and then knocked Tolman to the losers bracket with a 8-0 win on Sunday and forced the same fate on Cumberland Tuesday.

The Skippers are back in action at 3 p.m. on Saturday when they take on Smithfield at Rhode Island College.

Jamestown’s Faith Chadwick is the only islander on the varsity. Although she doesn’t start, she is the first player off the bench. According to coach Adam Laliberte, she’s a valuable pinch hitter.

“She’s had some big hits for us,” he said.

Chadwick came through in the clutch with a pinch-hit RBI double in a game against Tolman earlier this year, said Laliberte. In the regular-season finale, she combined for four hits, three runs scored and four RBIs with fellow 12th-graders Molly O’Keefe and Heather Jackson on senior night. Chadwick was also a factor in the team’s games at Disney World. The Skippers played three exhibition games on their Florida trip, and although the results don’t count, they didn’t lose down south either.

North Kingstown has won every time it’s stepped on the field this season, and few of those games were even close. In their last seven games including playoffs, the Skippers outscored their opponents 72-2. For the regular season, North Kingstown scored 137 runs and allowed just 17. They have eight shutouts in their last 11 games.

“I really love this team,” said Chadwick.

The opening round of the playoffs was single elimination, and the Skippers hosted 16-seeded Barrington, who went 1-15 in the regular season. After the win over the Eagles, the Skippers advanced to the double-elimination format, with all the games being played at Rhode Island College.

The Skippers last season went out in the double-elimination round with two straight losses. Ultimately, Lincoln capped off a perfect season. On May 9, in their only meeting of the season against the two-time defending champions, the Skippers shut out Lincoln, 3-0. The Lions, who finished the regular season 10-6, lost to Smithfield on Tuesday, 9-6, and are now in the losers bracket.

The Skippers last won the state title in 2002 when they defeated Lincoln. But no team has put together a dynasty; for the past 15 years, 13 different schools have won the state title.

The last couple of weeks have been a busy one for the fast-pitch teams, says Laliberte. Because of rain cancellations, a lot of squads were behind schedule and had to play as many as four games a week to catch up.

The title is for all 17 Division-I squads. Unlike other sports, which break the divisions down according to geographical location, softball doesn’t award league titles – there were no bragging rights for north, south and central teams. North Kingstown won the regular season crown, and Smithfield finished in second place, going 12-3, and then three others teams finished 11-5.

Although the Skippers were the only undefeated Division-I team in the state, the bottom two divisions also had perfect teams. North Smithfield went 16-0 in Division II, and Narragansett won all 14 of its games.

Laliberte expected a successful season but said this team has exceeded all expectations. The Skippers lost four starters from last year’s playoff team: Three seniors graduated and one of the starters has been sidelined with an injury.

“I knew they would be good, but not this good,” he said. “We just have the right pieces.”

He credited their achievements to a combination of factors, start- ing with hard work.

They practice almost three hours daily, and the girls genuinely like each other. Laliberte said they are always together. “It’s also a great group of kids,” he said.

In past years, Laliberte said that he has dreaded some practices, but this team has been a pleasure. For instance, the school had been planning the Disney trip for several years and decided this team was the right group to take on the adventure. It was a great experience for the players, he said. The girls played teams from Maine and Virginia due to the coincidence of school vacation schedules.

He’ll be sorry when the season ends, he said.

Last week Laliberte learned that six players have made the state All-Division team. Last year he felt Natalie Wirth had been overlooked, but not this year. She has been named to the first team for 2014. So were senior Heather Jackson and junior Rachel Kantor. Emma Simmons, a junior, and Kiara Oliver, a freshman, were named to the second team, and Amy Augenstein made the third team.

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