CNB making its mark at softball regional
With pool play already in the rearview mirror at the 9/10 Little League Softball Eastern Regional in Old Forge, Penn., no team has been more impressive than Cranston National Budlong.
The Rhode Island state champions won all three of their pool play games, making it the only undefeated team in New England and earning it a spot in the regional semifinals on Thursday.
CNB has outscored its opponents 30-5 in the three victories, two of which have come by mercy rule.
âThe race was so tight going into the states with West Side,â said CNB manager Tom Lewandowski. âWe knew we had a great team, but we didnât expect to mercy rule the first two teams that we faced.â
While its offensive output has been impressive, dominant pitching has been the key for CNB thus far. Ava Brandow, Sophia Ferry, Sophia DiPippo and Josie DiTroia have all contributed on the mound.
Brandow was the teamâs primary pitcher during the district and state tournaments, but on the bigger stage, Lewandowski has shown no hesitance in using all his arms.
âWe didnât know we were actually going to go out and play at the level that weâve been playing at,â Lewandowski said. âI wanted every girl to experience a starting role at regionals. Itâs paid its dividends.â
First it was Brandow, who pitched a no-hitter in the teamâs opening game, a 10-0, four-inning victory over Maine on Saturday. Brandow had nine strikeouts in that game.
The next day, Ferry and DiPippo combined on a second consecutive no-hitter in a 15-3, four-inning win over Vermont. Ferry struck out seven batters, while DiPippo struck out a pair.
Finally, on Monday, CNB got a test from North Branford, Conn., but came away with a 5-2 win on the strength of a complete-game effort from DiTroia. She allowed only four hits and struck out 11.
In three games, CNBâs four pitchers have given up just four total hits.
âAll our pitchers pitched, and each girl really had a dominating performance, which was great,â Lewandowksi said.
There have been stars with the bats too, up and down the lineup. In game one, Emily Durigan and Delaney Doidge each had two hits, including a triple each, while Sydney Casale broke out in a big way in the next two games.
Casale hit a home run and a double in the win over Vermont, while knocking in three runs. The next day, she hit two triples and a double, scored two runs and drove in three.
âI had her leadoff yesterday because sheâs been hitting so well,â Lewandowski said. âShe can kind of get everything started.â
Casaleâs performance â and the whole teamâs effort â in the win over Connecticut was key, as it was easily the teamâs most difficult game, yet CNB rose to the occasion.
Connecticut went up 2-0 in the top of the first inning, and the score was tied 2-2 after the home half, but DiTroia didnât allow another run the rest of the way. CNB, meanwhile, broke the deadlock in the fourth inning with a run, and then plated two more in the fifth to give itself a little breathing room before it finished off the victory.
âWe kind of looked at it each other and said, âOh this going to be a tight game,ââ Lewandowski said. âI kind of expected our bats to be a little more fluid, but we had key hits in key moments that made the difference.â
Other standout performances at the plate so far at the regional came from Ferry and Durigan against Vermont, as they each had a double and a single. In the field, Liz Lewandowski stood out against Connecticut, making five plays in the field from second base.
Essentially, CNB has played near perfect softball.
âWe couldnât ask for anything better, itâs been awesome,â Tom Lewandowski said.
Now, CNB is two wins away from a regional title. As the top New England seed, it will square off against the No. 2 seed from the Mid-Atlantic â which was yet to be determined as of press time, but will likely be Pennsylvania or New York â on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. The winner of that game will play Friday at 7 p.m. for the championship. The loser will play in a consolation game on Friday.
Itâs hard not to be excited, as CNB can see the finish line and the potential to raise a trophy as the best team on the East Coast.
âEvery team coming out of the Mid-Atlantic are very tough teams,â Lewandowski said. âWeâre going have to bring our âAâ game if we want to continue on to Friday.â