WESTERLY — Stonington High sophomore Elaina Previty pitched her first career shutout and the Bears got the only run they would need in the first inning en route to a 6-0 softball victory over cross-state rival Westerly High on Saturday afternoon at Cimalore Field.
The Bulldogs (6-2) only managed four hits against Previty in the nonleague matchup between the teams, although the game counts for state tournament-qualification purposes for the Bears (4-5). Two Bulldogs hits came in the final inning, with the Bears already holding a six-run lead, and it was the only time Westerly advanced a runner to second base.
Stonington coach Ann-Marie Houle said Previty has worked hard on her control, and mixing up her pitches, after being elevated to the team's No. 1 starter.
“This is her third game, going the whole game, and she works so hard and we're so happy for her,” Houle said. “Its her first shutout and she's only in 10th grade, but she did a good job keeping them off balance.
"I think she's a confusing pitcher for people, because she's unorthodox with different pitches and different speeds, but she hits those spots, and we really focus a lot and practice a lot on defense.”
Previty struck out only five, but Westerly struggled to make solid contact all game. Previty elicited four soft pop-outs to the catcher, along with another four pop-outs to the right side of the infield. Unlike previous starts, when she put runners on base with walks, she finished with just two on Saturday in an economical 76 pitches.
“I've been struggling mechanically the past couple of games, so I was just trying to put everything together,” she said. “It feels especially good because this is such a big rivalry, Stonington and Westerly. I've been trying to work on hitting my spots consistently, and that was big today. My curveball was really working today.”
Westerly coach Chris Luppe noted that while he worked in some different players into his lineup, because it was a nonleague game, that was no excuse for the lack of offense.
“The people we were playing have the ability to perform, and they just have to perform better than they did,” he said. “Part of the credit has to go to [Previty]. She really mixed the ball and moved the ball around quite a bit. She kept us off balance and we weren't squaring the ball up, and we made some mistakes in the field.”
The trouble started for Westerly from the first batter — Stonington senior Miranda Arruda bunted the first pitch she saw from Westerly's Ally Northup. Arruda beat the throw for a single, and moved to second because of a miscommunication about who was covering first base.
Arruda, who finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Maddie Mendez, and she scored on a clean single to right field by Tori LoPresto, who also went 2 for 4.
The Bears broke out for another four runs in the fourth inning, thanks to a pair of Westerly errors. LoPresto started the inning with a double to right field that fell between two Westerly outfielders. She moved to third, and Maggie Constantine reached second safely after a throwing error by Westerly.
With runners on second and third, Previty hit a grounder to third that couldn't be fielded cleanly, for another Westerly error. With the bases loaded and no outs, LoPresto scored on a sharp single to left field by freshman Maddy Stepski.
Westerly got their first out on a fielder's choice at the plate, but the second run — Previty — scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Shea O'Connor. Arruda then plated two more runs — Stepski and fellow senior Colette Dreher — with a liner to right field, just past the second baseman.
Houle said that Arruda and Dreher provide the leadership for the Bears, both in practice and in games.
“We always say, how Miranda goes, the rest of the team goes, and it's not a surprise, because we're playing mostly freshmen and sophomores,” she said. “This is all new to this team. We have three returning people, two seniors and a junior, in their spots. What people don't see from the outside is Miranda and Colette's leadership.”
The Bears scored their final run in the seventh inning, with Constantine reaching on a double to right field, again between two Westerly outfielders. She scored on a single up the middle by Previty.
Westerly attempted to mount a seventh-inning rally. Northup led off the inning with a sharp single to left field and moved to second on a flare to left field for a single by Maggie Stahl.
Northup moved up to third, after a grounder by Caroline Burton resulted in a force-out of Stahl at second. But Previty induced a pop-out to the catcher and a strikeout to end the game, and preserve her shutout.
Luppe said his team needed to do a better job of changing its approach to account for how Previty was pitching.
“You have to make adjustments based on certain spots, and certain pitchers, and we didn't adjust well today,” he said. “Her ball definitely moves, and we've got to get up in the box and hit it where it's pitched. We didn't do a good job of staying back, we were a little jumpy, and credit goes to her for that.”
Phoebe Werling added three hits and an RBI for the Bears.