Panthers get back on track

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By ALEX SPONSELLER

After falling to 0-2 to start the season, the Johnston softball team would rebound and collect back to back wins over Mount St. Charles to even things out at 2-2.

The Lady Panthers fell behind early in each matchup, but would have late-inning surges to pull them back into it and get the comeback victories. 

Janitza Bonilla drove in two RBI in the first game while Victoria Butler hit the game-winner. Pitcher Taina Lopez earned the win in the circle for the Panthers. Late in Game 2, Emily Iannuccilli and Lexi DiLorenzo would get consecutive doubles to spark the late rally. Lopez would also add an RBI in the inning and pick up the win.

Johnston coach David Iannuccilli returns to the dugout for the first time since 2014. He coached the Lady Panthers from 2003-2011. During that span, the Panthers qualified for the postseason seven times and were the 2004 Division II runner up. He was named the 2009 Northern Coach of the Year by the R.I. High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association.

Coach Iannuccilli was proud of his team's resilience and how fast it has adjusted to having a new system in place.

“It’s a learning curve. This is my first year back so they’re learning my system and I’m learning the girls that I have. They’re getting used to my style and you started seeing it in our games against Mount St. Charles. It’s a testament to their hard work, both games we fell behind but they never gave up. It’s easy for a team to get down in itself, but they just kept fighting and clawing,” said Coach Iannuccilli.

Coach Iannuccilli added: “Pulling six runs out in the sixth inning against a team like that is great, I have nothing bad to say. They are coming to work and practicing really hard. They’re working hard on the fundamentals and have embraced the system. They don’t surprise themselves. In each game, the seniors kept saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got this, we’ll put up some runs,’ and before we know it we’re up 6-4. It’s been fun watching them progress.”

Johnston features a young roster this spring but does have a solid core of seniors which includes Taina Lopez, Abby Clesas, Tori Viau and Janitza Bonilla. 

“It’s been very important (to have them) because they have taken the leadership role very seriously. We have mostly freshmen and sophomores on the field, so they’re stepping up as leaders in practice and in games. They wanted this to be a special season and they’re making it happen,” said Coach Iannuccilli. “I’ve been away for six years so the game has changed a little bit. I’m a big fundamentals person and fortunately those don’t change. We have been working together since March which gave us some time to prepare for these games.”

Sure enough, the Panthers will continue to lean on those upperclassmen moving forward and hope to make a playoff push in the next month.

“We’re going to go as far as the senior leadership takes us,” said Coach Iannuccilli. “If the younger girls see them get down when we’re behind, then we’re not going to get very far, if they see them stay up, then we’re going to do well. A lot of it is going to fall on the seniors. We have as much talent as anyone, but we have a young team, so it’s going to come down to the leadership.”



The Pilgrim boys volleyball team is back in action for the first time since 2019 and have gotten off to a solid 2-1 start. The Patriots beat Westerly and West Warwick in three sets but fell to the visiting Cranston West Falcons last week. The team squared off against city rival Toll Gate on Wednesday evening, but the results were not available at press time. Pictured is Azael Alvarez. For more photos of the action, see page 28. (Photos by Leo van Dijk/rhodyphoto.zenfolio.com)

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