Warwick West Side edged Cranston National Budlong, 9-7, in the winners’ bracket of the 9/10-year-old softball state tournament on Sunday afternoon at J.T. Owens Field in Providence.
Behind a complete-game effort from starting pitcher Kelsey Burr, West Side jumped out to an early lead and was able to hold off a surging CNB squad to punch its ticket to the state final.
The win was West Side’s second in as many days at states, as it won the first game of the tournament 15-0 against Tiverton on Saturday.
The championship game is scheduled for today at 6 p.m. West Side needs to win only once more for its second straight state championship, while it would have to be beaten twice in order to be eliminated.
On Sunday, it didn’t take long for West Side to get on the board in the top of the first. After a leadoff single by Bryanna Rastella and walks to Ameila Murphy and Maddy D’Amato, Burr came up and laced a ball in the gap that cleared the bases, giving West Side an early 3-0 lead. A pair of errors then allowed Burr and Ashleigh Kidd to score, before Rastella singled home another run to cap off a six-run inning for the visitors.
It looked like it could potentially be a lopsided finish, but CNB had other ideas. It came up determined to chip away, and it did just that. A triple by Ava Brandow brought home Elizabeth Lewandowski and Sophia Ferry, before Brandow scored on an errant throw, making it a 6-3 game.
CNB continued to chip away at its deficit in the second inning, adding two more runs on an RBI hit by Emily Durigan and an RBI groundout from Josie Ditroia, trimming the West Side lead to 6-5.
“We didn’t give up,” CNB manager Tom Lewandowski said. “We knew it was a six-inning game and had to forget about whatever happened in the first inning. We battled back and scored some runs, but came up just a little bit short in the end.”
Brandow came on to pitch for CNB in the top of the second and looked to have turned the game around at that point. She struck out the side in the second and third innings and compiled 14 strikeouts over five innings of work in relief.
“That’s a lot of pressure to ask of a pitcher after allowing six runs in the first inning,” Lewandowski said. “She shut them down for the most part. We had a few errors in the game that cost us, but my hat’s off to her. She did an unbelievable job, she can handle the pressure.”
With no more breathing room left, Rastella came through in the top of the fourth for West Side. She ended a strikeout streak of six in a row for Brandow with a laser over the centerfielder’s head for a triple, before coming around to score on an errant throw to give West Side a 7-5 lead. Rastella went 4-for-4 in the win and drove in two runs.
“She’s the smallest, most powerful player I’ve ever seen, and she’s a gamer,” West Side manager Kevin Burr said. “She comes to play every day and she picks up the other girls. She’s excellent.”
West Side added another run in the fourth inning, when Murphy scored on a groundout by Kidd, increasing West Side’s lead to 8-5.
Burr settled in for West Side after the first two innings, coming back and pitching three scoreless innings in the middle of the game, allowing for her teammates to add some more offense.
“She pitched yesterday and I asked her today if she was ready to go,” Kevin Burr said. “She said ‘Dad, it’s Cranston, I want the ball.’ So all I said was ‘Go get em’ kid.’”
West Side added another insurance run in the top of the sixth, when D’Amato came around to score on a passed ball, making it a 9-5 game.
CNB put forth a strong effort in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs on RBI hits by Delaney Doidge and Durigan, before Burr erased CNB’s hopes of a comeback by escaping the jam.
CNB will now drop to the losers’ bracket, where it was set to play Cumberland on Monday for a spot in the state championship.
West Side will await the winner of CNB/Cumberland for the state championship.