EAST GREENWICH — Tuesday afternoon brought the softball equivalent of a lightning strike behind the high school at East Greenwich.
Margaret Neville has hit home runs before. But she couldn’t remember hitting two in the same game. And she definitely couldn’t recall a time going deep in the same inning as her twin sister.
Catherine Neville joined the party for the Avengers in what was supposed to be a Division II showdown against West Warwick. East Greenwich seemed covered in a bit of magic dust while taking out the Wizards, 10-0, in just six innings.
The bottom of the third confirmed this would be a different kind of day. Margaret Neville blasted a three-run shot to center, breaking open a 2-0 game. Catherine Neville followed one out later with a solo drive to the same part of the yard, and East Greenwich’s dugout emptied with a touch extra juice than just minutes before.
“My mentality was hit it to the gaps,” Margaret said. “Hit a line drive. It just ended up going.”
“Usually I’m not very much of a power hitter,” Catherine said. “I like to bring people around and score them.”
Margaret and Catherine are identical except for different jersey numbers and a couple of accessories. One wears a black sleeve around her left ankle, the other a Fitbit around her right wrist. They’re both junior multi-sport athletes with the Avengers who excel across different seasons.
They spent last spring apart. Catherine opted for a year of lacrosse while Margaret continued with softball. Margaret confessed to a daily recruiting pitch attempting to bring her sister back. Catherine was also lightly persuaded by coach Rob Petrucci, who had her in a social studies class during the first semester.
“Margaret and all my friends play on this team,” Catherine said. “Softball — I’ve always loved it. Taking a break was good, but coming back even stronger and better than before was something that was really rewarding.”
“It was really special to have her back on the team,” Margaret said. “This was definitely a special moment for us. We’ve been playing together our whole lives.”
East Greenwich improved to 10-1 with this victory, and that’s largely attributed to a strong spine. Ava Fairbanks and Brooke Fairbanks make up the battery while Margaret plays shortstop and Catherine works in center field. Margaret added a second three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth as the Avengers forced the mercy rule to be invoked.
“The energy was high from the second we stepped in here,” Margaret said. “We knew this was a very important game against an amazing team.”
Those defensive positions sorted themselves out partly thanks to a decision Catherine made long before high school. She throws and bats left-handed, but that’s not her natural side. Catherine writes, shoots free throws, swings a golf club — anything else remotely athletic or coordinated — right-handed.
Conventional thinking in the game being what it is, that basically ensured the two would never compete for the same spot on the field. Left-handers generally pitch, play first base or roam the outfield. Right-handers like Margaret could land just about anywhere — in this case, shortstop. And she made a couple of defensive plays on Tuesday that would suggest that’s the perfect home for her.
“She picked a right-handed glove,” Catherine said. “I said, ‘Dad, I want this one.’ And I taught myself how to be a lefty. I don’t do anything else besides softball left-handed.”
“If she does something, I don’t look at it as a negative for me,” Margaret said. “I always see it as a positive and I’m there for support for her rather than taking it upon myself like, ‘Why can’t I do that?’
“It’s a friendly competition. We’re supportive of each other the whole way.”
How might you celebrate a rare occasion like this one? If you happened to spot the twins at an area Chipotle late Tuesday night, you’d have the answer. Margaret played a strong game the last time she worked the international chain into her routine, and it just might become a staple heading into the playoffs in June.
“She was at shortstop after she hit her home run and she was like, ‘You know what this means,’ ” Catherine said. “I was like, ‘Are we going to Chipotle?’
“That might be what we’re doing after.”
West Warwick 000 000 — 0 2 2
East Greenwich 024 004 — 10 12 0
Jaymi Duarte, Kristina Sarlo (4) and Maddie Walsh. Ava Fairbanks and Brooke Fairbanks. HR — Margaret Neville 2, Catherine Neville (EG).
On Twitter: @BillKoch25