La Salle's plan comes to fruition so how it won the softball state title wasn't a surprise

Eric Rueb
Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — The La Salle softball team came into the spring as defending state champs, with its young roster one year older and even better than it was last season.

The Rams were heavy favorites, demolished the competition all season and had to try to find any narrative they could to help motivate them throughout the year. It really was La Salle against the world and in 2024, the world lost big.

Friday’s RIIL softball state championship game wasn’t a game so much as it was a coronation. The Rams started with a bang and the offense continued to produce. A comfortable win got uncomfortable in a hurry in the seventh as Cranston West came back with two outs, but La Salle was able to hold on for a 7-5 win that made it the first undefeated state champ since North Kingstown in 2016.

“It’s just awesome,” La Salle’s Giuliana Ialongo said. “This team is resilient and we can get through anything, especially with our pitcher. … It’s a great win.”

“We talked about it before the game to be unapologetically here,” La Salle’s Phoenyx Silva said. “We’re going to show up, we’re going to do our thing and nobody is going to stop us.

“We planned on being undefeated and winning this championship. That was our main goal and the goal we just achieved.”

Phoenyx Silva and her La Salle teammates walk back to the dugout after Silva's home run — which followed a leadoff shot by Giuliana Ialongo — put the Rams ahead in the first inning and jump-started their eventual 7-5 win over Cranston West in the RIIL softball state championship game.

La Salle started the year as the favorites to win the title and handled the pressure like any great champion does.

“We always stay up, no matter if we’re losing or anything,” Ialongo said. “We’re always up and we’re always loud. We’re unapologetically loud. We don’t care. We just want to win.”

The senior shortstop helped set the tone on Friday night, depositing the third pitch of the game over the left-field fence.

By the time La Salle’s crowd quieted down, it was back on its feet. Three pitches after Ialongo’s nuke, Silva — who was named Gatorade Rhode Island Player of the Year earlier in the day — took a pitch on the outside half of the plate and blasted it off the scoreboard in right field for a 2-0 lead.

“We have to be on top and we knew our job had to be done in the first inning and put pressure on them and always keep pressure on them,” Silva said. “We silenced them really quick.”

“I pictured maybe hitting one, but I didn’t think it would happen,” said Ialongo, who will play for the University of Rhode Island next spring. “It went over, so I was happy.

“I love going back-to-back with her — it’s awesome.”

“You now it’s going to happen,” Cranston West’s Samantha Healy said. “They’re a great hitting team.”

La Salle's Kayleigh Ventura shouts in excitement after her fourth-inning double that became the spark of a four-run inning for the Rams. It helped build a lead they held on to in a 7-5 win over Cranston West on Friday.

The offense didn’t stop there.

Cranston West cut the deficit in half with a Healy home run to lead off the fourth, but La Salle’s bats wasted no time in adding to the lead.

The Rams put up four runs in the bottom half of the inning. Kayleigh Ventura started the parade with a leadoff double, which was followed by an RBI single from Alivia Ring and later an RBI single by Silva and two-run single by Lily Roumelis that made it 6-1.

“As 1-9, we can all hit,” Ialongo said. “We just keep going and going. Everyone can get a good piece on this team, so it’s great.”

“We just keep going back to back and performing and showing up supporting each other,” Silva said. “Communication is all throughout the game — what the pitcher is pitching and that sort of stuff.”

The Cranston West softball team waits at home plate for Sam Healy, who homered run in the fourth inning on Friday.

Ring hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth that made it 7-1 and after Hailey Vigneau induced infield popups to start the seventh, La Salle’s impending celebration seemed to be a couple of pitches away.

Cranston West had other ideas. The Falcons had to grind out wins the previous nights just to earn a chance to play in the title game and they weren’t going to go away without a fight.

Mia Santomassimo kept the season going with a singe and Siena Nardelli hit another. Gianna DiSpirito brought in two runs with a double, and after a single by Healy and an intentional walk to Sofia Marella, Nicole Silvestri stepped to the plate as the tying run.

The sophomore came through with a two-run single that brought home DiSpirito and Healy.

“Guess we saved all our hitting for the last inning because we came back,” Healy said. “We never gave up.”

La Salle's Hailey Vigneau, left, jumps into the arms of catcher Samantha Sell after striking out the final batter of the game, clinching the game and the Rams' undefeated state championship.

With the tying run on first and the winning run at the plate, Vigneau extinguished the rally with a strikeout that clinched the Rams’ title.

“That’s the first time the entire season I’ve been a little amped up, but that’s expected,” Silva said. “It’s a championship game, best two teams in the state and honestly I said, hats off to them.

“Our pitcher just came up clutch.”

“Two outs, seventh inning, 7-1, that was a lot,” Healy said. “All you have to do is hit in the gap, hit in the grass and then you run. It was a great feeling, even though we lost.

“That was a hard one. I’m really upset, but I think we played really, really good and our whole season, even when we had our downs, we got here and no one expected us to.”

The La Salle softball team poses with the championship banner after its win on Friday.

La Salle was expected to win and not just Friday. The Rams dealt with the pressure of being the big dog and did what they planned all season, sending retiring coach Maurice Jackson out with his ninth career title.

“He’s an amazing coach – I’ve learned a lot from him honestly,” Silva said. “He’s just like an old grandpa. He’s another family member and I can’t wait to keep winning for him.”

“Me and Mo started from the beginning,” Ialongo said. “Freshman year, we had a really tight connection and I’m just happy we won it for him today.”