Two afternoon wins send R.I. Thunder to warm shelter

By DN WRITING STAFF | October 2, 2022

Sammy Baker did not allow a hit in her two innings of work for the Rhode Island Thunder Gold 14U.

By Rich Bevensee

Sometimes all it takes is leaning on your teammates for that extra push..

That was the message coming from the Rhode Island Thunder Gold softball team, which was trying to rebound from a loss to Finch’s Aces, one of the best travel programs in the Northeast.

“When things don’t go well you need your teammates and it’s good to know they have your back,” the Thunder’s Kelsey Whitman said. “We knew we could play well and that’s what we did.”

The Thunder, aiming to leave soggy Diamond Nation in Flemington and head back to warm and dry hotel rooms with something positive to talk about over dinner, got the job done with a pair of victories in which aggressive base running led to 17 runs in the next two games. 

Fueled by a two-run triple by Kelsey Whitman and a combined one-hit effort from Sammy Baker and Bryce Principe, the Thunder capped its offensive outburst with a 9-1 victory over the Lakeshore Lightning of Pasadena, Md., in the 14U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational under a misty rain on Saturday at ‘The Nation.’

Preceding its game with the Lightning, the Thunder, based in Warwick, R.I., earned an 8-0 decision over Red Storm Fastpitch ‘09 of New York.

“Our 11 o’clock was a tough game,” Thunder coach Jesse Sampson said. “It was raining pretty good and we had to wipe the ball off every pitch. The game didn’t go the way we wanted – we played a good Finch’s Aces (Pink) team, they had some good hits.

“But these last two games the girls really came together. In the field the players were talking to each other, giving each other a pump-up speech like, hey, we want to go back to the hotel with two wins. Credit to them, they got the job done. This is a great venue with great competition out here. We love it here.”

The Lightning closed out their first day at The Nation with two straight losses, having bowed to Finch’s Aces Pink, 6-1. The Lightning opened the tournament with a 5-3 victory over Red Storm. 

For the Thunder, Elodie Cannon had two hits and an RBI, Julia Rumsey and Gabby Fontaine both had RBI singles, and Whitman highlighted her team’s five-run first inning with a tremendous two-run triple which reached the left-center field fence.

Baker pitched two innings and yielded one run on no hits and four walks with one strikeout. Principe came on in relief for an inning and allowed one hit and one walk and struck out two.

“It was difficult pitching today (in the rain) because you have to make sure you have a good grip on the ball,” Baker said. “You can’t do that when it’s wet so you have to dry it off every pitch. It’s frustrating because then you get down, and if I walk people I get even more down on myself. 

I got through it because everyone on my team cheered me on.”

After Baker stranded a runner in scoring position in the top of the first, her teammates backed her with a five-run splurge. Rumsey got aboard with a swift bunt single to drive in Cannon, and Rumsey scored on an infield error, one of three committed that inning by the Lightning. Gabby Fontaine reached on an infield error and scored on a wild pitch for a 3-0 lead.

Then Whitman came up and launched the hardest hit ball of the contest. 

Baker loaded the bases on three straight walks in the top of the second, but escaped major damage when shortstop Fontaine caught a Madison Young infield popup and flipped to Rumsey at second to complete the double play. Natalie Thompson got the Lightning on the board shortly thereafter when she scored on a passed ball.

With even more aggressive base running to take advantage of two Lightning errors, the Thunder enjoyed a four-spot in the second inning to take a 9-1 lead. 

Cannon drove in Caroline Nelson with a single to left, and she later scored on a wild pitch. Fontaine’s RBI single plated Addison Poole, who reached on an error. And Fontaine soon scored from second on an outfield miscue.

The Lightning’s best hit was delivered by leadoff hitter Lauren Latour when she ripped a single down the left field line with one out in the third inning. Julia Quarles followed with a walk, but they both were stranded by Principe thanks to an infield popup and a strikeout.

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