Click here for a Photo Gallery from Foxboro vs. Bromfield girls lacrosse at Sam Berns Community Field, 6-8-23.
Author: Josh Perry
Foxboro Shakes Off Rust and Avenges Playoff Defeat
FOXBORO, Mass. – Hours before Foxboro was supposed to open the Div. 3 playoffs, the Warriors found out that Pope Francis was opting out and that the game was a forfeit. Going into Thursday night’s visit from No. 13 Bromfield to the Sam Berns Community Field, Foxboro had not played a competitive game since May 22, a span of 17 days.
Facing the team that knocked them out of last year’s tournament, in a one-goal quarterfinal thriller, on nearly three weeks of rest was not ideal. When the game started, Foxboro jumped out to an early lead but was clearly not playing with its typical pace or crispness.
That all turned around in the second half. Foxboro started winning draws (11-of-15 in the second half) and closed the game on an 11-2 run, turning a two-goal game into an 18-7 blowout that sends the Warriors back to the final eight.
Foxboro coach Kathleen McCullough said, “Inside I was thinking, I don’t want this to hurt us. At practice, we try to make it game-like and competitive just to prepare their minds and they’ve been really focused, so I have to hand it to them. It did take us a little bit to adjust but definitely second half was more our style of play.”
“The first half we were definitely felt a little stagnant,” senior Paige Curran admitted. “We were saying that we have really good competition in our practices, so we’re really lucky to have the team we have, but it does get mentally fatiguing because you just get in the same rhythm. I think we did a really good job of coming out of that and locking in.”
The Warriors weren’t shying away from the revenge factor. They readily admitted that last year’s loss was front and center during the layoff and a motivating factor to help stay ready.
Curran explained, “For the three weeks, we needed something to keep us motivated for whenever this game would come. After the forfeit, we were a little deflated but we were able to get right back into it.”
Despite the rust, the Warriors got off to a decent start. Audrey Campbell (five saves) stopped Bromfield’s first shot and Foxboro scored three times to look in control. Val Beigel (five goals) fed Mary Collins (two goals and two assists) for the opening score 100 seconds into the game, Mya Waryas (three goals and an assist) scored from an eight-meter, and Curran (six goals and three assists) got on the board with a nice sidearm finish cutting across the crease.
Things seemed comfortable but there were signs that the game was far from over. Campbell was forced into nice saves to deny Savanna Kuliesis and Hannah Wicks and Kuliesis put the visitors on board with a run right down the middle of the Foxboro defense. With Bromfield winning draws (7-of-12 in the first half), the Trojans continued to press and Julia Kimball set up Kristin Podgorni to cut the lead to one.
Curran teed up Beigel on a cut down the middle, but Podgorni took the draw and raced straight at goal to make it 4-3. Hannah Higgins answered back on a free position, going five-hole to restore the two-goal lead. Waryas hustled to scoop a ground ball and keep a possession alive for Curran to dodge from behind the cage and score.
With 51.7 left in the half, Collins assisted on Curran’s third goal to put Foxboro up by four, but a procedure whistle gave Bromfield the ball back with only 10 second left and Podgorni made it count with a physical drive to the goal.
Foxboro was missing Cate Noone, who was out for family reasons, which put Curran in charge of taking the draws. After the struggles of the first half, the team came together, adjusted, and things improved after the break.
“Cate wasn’t here today, so we kind of had to compensate,” Curran said. “We knew that they pushed on the draw and I’m a lefty, so I pull, and in the halftime talk we were talking about how to better maneuver our sticks and where to put people on the draw and where best we would fit.”
Bromfield still got the first goal of the second half, a brilliant behind-the back finish by Clover Logan. That cut the lead to 7-5 and the hosts were starting to get a little nervous.
A minute later, the Trojans picked up a yellow card. Foxboro took advantage of the extra player, scoring three times to wrest control of the game. Beigel scored on a free position, Addison Riley hit Grace Riley on a nice cut, and Curran fed Beigel for a lefty finish to extend the lead to 10-5.
Foxboro had the momentum and wasn’t about to let it go. Waryas saw Curran wide open in the heart of the defense for a quick-release finish. Podgorni responded with an eight-meter goal, but Waryas sliced through the middle to make it 12-6 with 14:34 to play.
After Beigel and Collins each hit the bar, Higgins had a free position from a tough angle, so she passed it back to Collins, who saw Curran cutting from behind the cage. Podgorni was trying to keep Bromfield in it, scoring her fifth goal of the night, but Waryas came right back down to extend the lead back to seven.
“We’ve been playing together since we were six, seven years old, so I think that really helps with our chemistry,” Curran said about the connection between Foxboro’s experienced attackers. “We know what each other are going to do before we even do it. I think it helps our offense flow.”
McCullough added, “They know each other’s strengths and they like to set each other up. It’s fun to watch. They surprise me too.”
The Warriors tacked on at the end. Curran to Beigel, Collins unassisted, Curran with a lefty shot, and Beigel going low-angle to finish off the scoring inside the final minute. What started as a nervous night for Foxboro turned out to be a comfortable win.
“You don’t forget those losses in the playoffs,” McCullough said about getting a rematch with Bromfield and the team’s desire to go even further this season. “I think it’s still very fresh in the mind. I think that fuels them and I think they still have that pit in their stomach, I know I do, so I think it’s part of sports and you want to play them again and test yourself again.”
Foxboro (18-2) will host No. 5 Pentucket in the D3 quarterfinal at a date and time to be determined.
Baseball Photos: Foxboro vs. Archbishop Williams
Baseball Photos: King Philip vs. North Attleboro
King Philip Squeezes Out Extra Innings Win Over North
WRENTHAM, Mass. – When the game started, there was some concern about smoke and rain, but three hours and 11 innings later, light was starting to become an issue at Lombard Field. Wednesday afternoon’s Div. 2 Sweet Sixteen matchup between league rivals North Attleboro and King Philip turned into a marathon.
In the bottom of the 11th, KP was at the plate with its fifth chance to walk off with the win. For the third time in those five innings, KP had the bases loaded and the winning run just 90 feet away. KP coach Jeff Plympton, Jr. decided it was the perfect opportunity to try something different.
With one out, Rudy Gately surprised the North defense by squaring around and pushing a bunt towards the second baseman. The safety squeeze made it just past the mound, North had no play at the plate, and the Warriors celebrated a 4-3 victory and a return to the D2 quarterfinal.
Plympton, Jr. said, “I thought we had a few too many mental errors to win that game and, you know, our pitching kept us in it and gave us that opportunity to finish it off. Rudy is an excellent bunter and I knew that he’d get it down and that he’d get it down far enough that he’d get in.”
Asked what he was looking for in that at-bat, Gately replied, “Just bunting there, a little safety squeeze, just get it in play so we can score. That’s all I needed to do. Struggling at the plate, I think half my hits are bunts right now, so stick with it.”
North Attleboro (8-14) came into the playoffs as the No. 19 seed and went on the road to upset No. 14 Duxbury in the first round. Head coach Mike Hart was proud of the way his team battled one of the favorites for the state title and a team had already beaten the Rocketeers twice this season.
“The last two weeks of practice have been phenomenal,” Hart explained. “KP’s a great team, we knew they were going to fight, and we were ready for it. This caliber of kids is fantastic. Seeing it all come together over the last two games, over the last two weeks of practice, it’s been a fun time.”
Way back in the top of the first, it was North that jumped in front. With two outs, Derek Maceda drew a walk. He stole second and then stole third as well, with the throw getting away into left field to allow him to come home and make it 1-0.
The lead was short-lived. In the bottom half, Matthew Kelley beat out a two-out, infield single to short. Drew Herlin singled to center and the ball was misplayed, allowing Kelley to come all the way around from first and tie things up. Jordan Paradis would make a nice grab on a long fly by Aiden Astorino to end the inning.
In the third, Paradis led off with a single and, with one out, Maceda lined a single to center. He would steal second to put two in scoring position. Cam Hasenfus threw a nasty fastball on the corner to strike out fellow sophomore Gio Martello and then got a high chopper to Brendan Sencaj at third to escape the jam.
KP grabbed the lead in the bottom of the inning. Sencaj drew a one-out walk and Kelley crushed a ball that one-hopped the right field fence for a run-scoring triple. Herlin came through with his second hit of the day to bring in Kelley. Dillon Harding gave up a double to Tommy Martorano but Martello made an excellent play on a ball that tipped off Harding’s glove and then the pitcher got a comebacker to end the threat.
It stayed 3-1 until the fifth inning. Paradis led off with a walk and stole second. Hasenfus got a strikeout for the first out, but Maceda smashed a ball over the fence in right for a game-tying homer that sent the North bench (and Hart in the third-base coach’s box) leaping towards the plate in jubilation.
After Martello singled and stole second, sophomore Nate Pennini came in for KP and got a grounder to second and a strikeout to keep the game tied.
The home team’s first chance to win it came in the seventh. Sencaj singled and Kelley followed with a grounder, but North couldn’t get the force at second. After a grounder moved the runners up, Martorano was intentionally walked to load the bases. Martello had another nice play, cutting down the potential winning run at the plate and a bouncer to short ended the inning.
KP had another golden opportunity to win it in the eighth. With two outs, Max Robison hustled to beat out an infield hit. Sencaj lined a double just inside the line in right, putting two in scoring position. Again North intentionally loaded the bases, this time giving Kelley the free pass, and Maceda came in to relieve Harding (7-2/3 innings, two earned runs).
Maceda got Herlin to fly out to left and the game continued on.
“Dillon and Derek have been our horses on the mound,” said Hart. “It was getting close, Dillon’s pitch count was getting up, but there was nobody we were going to put there in that spot. He puts the team on his back, he’s so mentally tough, the situation is never too big for him.”
Both teams had base runners in the ninth, but Leo Dowling threw out Chris Hanewich trying to steal second and Maceda got a strikeout after Gately’s infield single.
North’s best chance to go in front came in the 10th. Pennini walked Harding and Maceda to start the inning, but Sencaj handled a tough grounder and got the lead runner at third for the first out. Pennini (5-2/3 innings, no runs, seven strikeouts) then bore down, striking out the next two hitters to get out of the inning without any damage.
Maceda allowed a leadoff walk in the bottom half, but Nate Kelly threw out Tommy McLeish stealing second. It was the second runner Kelly threw out in extra innings. Martorano came in to pitch the top of the 11th and set North down in order, with a little help from Dowling who made a couple of excellent plays on popped up bunts around the plate.
“Two sophomores, Hasenfus and Pennini, got us the majority of the innings and having Martorano back being able to come in and chuck, he throws hard and got us that last inning that we needed,” said Plympton, Jr.
As the light was starting to dim and there was concern creeping in about how much more baseball could be played on Wednesday, Kelley sparked the Warriors with another infield single. Hanewich made a great running grab on a Herlin ball in the gap, hanging onto it despite a nasty collision with Paradis. Martorano added another infield hit and Astorino was intentionally walked to load the bases.
That brought up Gately with the chance to be a hero. It wasn’t a blast to the gap that would decide the game, but a well-executed bunt, put in just the right spot.
“It’s always hard playing a rivalry team three times in a year,” Gately said. “No matter what the records are, it can always go both ways.” He continued, “It was definitely a long game. We haven’t played a game that long all year. It’s difficult to stay in it, especially all the ups and downs, but we stayed focused in at the end to get the win.”
“We’ve been in tight games, but there’s nothing like this throughout the season,” Plympton, Jr. said. “It’s good to show to the team that we can win these type of games and it’s only going to get harder down the stretch trying to make a good run.”
King Philip (15-7) will host No. 6 Westwood on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 with a spot in the D2 Final Four on the line.
Softball Photos: King Philip vs. Needham
Walsh and Defense Carry KP into Sweet Sixteen
PLAINVILLE, Mass. – King Philip was in a groove at the end of the regular season. Although the final game was an extra innings loss to Bridgewater-Raynham, the Warriors had won the previous 10, including a title-clinching victory over Taunton, with eight shutouts.
It is hard to carry momentum into the playoffs when you’ve been waiting 10 days between games.
On Tuesday afternoon at the PAL Fields, KP showed more than a little rust at the plate, but got another stellar pitching performance from freshman McCoy Walsh, allowing two hits and one run while striking out 15, and a couple of solid plays in the field to put away No. 31 Needham and advance to the Div. 1 Sweet Sixteen.
“We do some live pitching obviously at practice for BP and stuff and we do soft toss but there is that game situation piece that you are kind of missing,” KP coach Kate Fallon-Comeau admitted. “We did do postseason scrimmages but you don’t know when you’re going to play and you don’t want to schedule too many and it turned out we sat for quite a while.”
While the KP bats may need a game to warm up, Walsh looked ready to go right from the start. She struck out 10 of the first 11 batters that she faced. Needham hit a fly ball to left to start the second and then got its first hit with two outs in the fourth on a single by Kelsey Pittman. Walsh got Maddie Baker to ground out to second to end the inning.
“It was a little frustrating not to be able to get those insurance runs and you’re used to having that little cushion, but I thought McCoy did great in the circle,” Fallon-Comeau said. “She really stepped up for us.”
The Warriors wasted no time getting in front but wasted a chance to break the game open. Sarah Cullen led off with a single to right and stole second. With one out, Cullen came in to score on a base hit to right by Libby Walsh. Charlotte Raymond followed with a single and the two advanced on a pitch in the dirt.
Ava Kelley reached on a fielder’s choice to the third baseman, who tried to draw Walsh off the bag before throwing across the diamond. Amanda Ferreira got a strikeout and a comebacker to get herself out of the jam.
In the second, Taylor Regan’s long fly to right center found the grass and ended up as a leadoff triple. Again, Ferreira was able to bear down with a runner in scoring position, getting a grounder to second and a hard hit liner right at the shortstop. Freshman Ali Gill came through with two outs, singling to left to make sure KP got the run home for a 2-0 lead.
KP continued to get base runners without looking particularly comfortable or dangerous at the plate. Kelley beat out an infield single in the third but was caught stealing. The following inning, Jordan Bennett was aggressive with two outs, turning a hit in shallow left into a double, but a grounder to second ended the inning.
Fallon-Comeau said, “We were just missing it, hitting it right at people. Kudos to the Needham pitcher, she pitched herself a great game today.”
With two outs in the fifth, KP put together a little two-out rally. Raymond dropped a single into right and then Kelley hustled to get an infield hit, but again Ferreira escaped as Liv Petrillo made solid contact but her deep fly to center stayed in the park.
The Warriors weren’t helping out Walsh offensively, but they were flashing the leather. Raymond made a nice running grab in left center to end the fifth, Walsh helped herself with a diving snag of a popped up bunt in front of home plate with a runner on in the sixth, and Gill tracked a long fly ball to just in front of the warning track to end that inning.
KP added an important insurance run in the sixth. Maddie Paschke ripped one past the shortstop for a leadoff hit. With Ava Lanza in as a courtesy runner for the catcher, she moved to second on a bouncer back to the mound. Bennett stung a liner right at the third baseman, whose attempt to double off Lanza ended up in right field.
With a runner at third, Cullen hit a roller up the first base line that wasn’t fielded cleanly and allowed the run to score.
As the rain rolled in and the temperature dropped, Gill made another great grab to start the seventh, snaring a sinking liner to right. The next batter, Baker, turned on a Walsh pitch and crushed it over the fence in left to cut the lead to two.
Fallon-Comeau explained, “I knew that kid could rake, and I thought whatever, 3-0 lead, seventh inning, throw to her because [McCoy’s] going to have to face good hitters like that a lot, and I think she kind of grooved one there for her and she put it well over the foul pole.”
There was no need to be too concerned about Walsh or the lead, as the rookie struck out the next two Needham hitters to close out the win and send KP to the next round.
“Hopefully we’ve dusted the cobwebs off a little bit and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow,” Fallon-Comeau said. “Not much time in between after sitting for so long, but it is what it is. It’s the playoffs, we’re just happy to be here and hopefully we can take care of business.”
King Philip (21-2) will have a quick turnaround, as the Warriors host No. 15 Chelmsford at the PAL Fields on Wednesday.
Softball Photos: North Attleboro vs. Norwood
First Inning Rally Enough for North to Reach Sweet 16
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Norwood knew what to expect when it traveled to North Attleboro for Monday afternoon’s Div. 2 Round of 32 matchup at Kelly Field.
Runs were going to be at a premium against Hockomock League MVP Kelly Colleran, so the Mustangs were going to need to take advantage of any opportunity to get runners on base and put pressure on the Rocketeers by keeping them off the board for as long as possible.
The game plan went out the window in North’s first plate appearance. The Rocketeers batted around in the first, scoring four runs to take control of the game and then rode yet another stellar performance from Colleran in the circle (one hit allowed and 18 strikeouts) for a 5-0 victory and a return to the Sweet Sixteen.
“We hadn’t played in a week and a half and that first inning was huge and the way we did it too, we were hitting, running,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “Then we sort of went dry for a while.”
He added, “I think the challenge for Kelly today was that two weeks ago she pitched four games in five days and then she had nine days off, but the kid’s played so much ball, she’s so smart, that a minor adjustment here, a tweak there and she’s back in form.”
Norwood got a runner on against Colleran in the first. A one-out error gave the Mustangs a little life and a little hope, but Maryellen Charette fired a strike to catch Liz Helmar trying to steal third and ended the inning.
The Mustangs planned on pitching around Colleran but with two strikes she got a good pitch to hit and started the bottom of the first with a line drive double over the centerfielder’s head. Arianna McDavitt followed with a single to right that brought home the first run.
McDavitt stole second to get into scoring position and would scamper home with the second run on a single by Molly Willey. Charette was hit by a pitch to put two on (and Mary Rogers came in as a courtesy runner). A groundout moved the runners up and Lucy Palmer drew a walk to load the bases.
Grace Simmons would pick up an RBI when Norwood attempted to get the lead runner at the plate but the throw was late. Grace Forman ripped a line drive to left that was hauled in for the second out, but was deep enough to score the fourth run. Maddie Bailey nearly dropped a hit into right but a nice running grab ended the inning.
Colleran settled into her start, striking out the side in the second and the fifth and striking out a pair in the third and the fourth. The only contact from Norwood was a bunt that Willey handled cleanly and a grounder to Palmer at first.
In the sixth inning, Colleran struck out the first three batters but the third one got past Charette to allow Norwood only its second base runner. Colleran made sure it didn’t matter by recording her fourth K of the inning.
North added a run in the fourth. Colleran was intentionally walked for second time in the game and moved to second on a fielder’s choice from McDavitt. Willey’s grounder to the right side moved both runners into scoring position and Charette followed by dropping a single into right. Colleran scored easily but a perfect relay cut down McDavitt at the plate.
“They’re kind of used to it,” Wallace said about how his lineup reacted to Norwood’s strategy of putting Colleran on. “She was intentionally walked 11 times this year. She was walked with the bases loaded one game. She’s got to stay inside herself, she’s chomping at the bit to try and do something but when you’re awarded first base there’s only so much you can do.”
The insurance run kept things comfortable even as Norwood put together a small rally in the seventh. Helmar reached for the second time on a controversial call at first. Willey made a nice backhand play down the third-base line but the ump said that Palmer had come off the bag at first.
Colleran kept firing, blowing away the next batter and then pulled the string on a 3-2 changeup for the second out. After hitting a batter to put two on, Colleran finished off the win with her 18th strikeout of the game.
“One of our strategies, we have Molly play so close [at third], she’s 30 feet from the plate, and it discourages teams from bunting,” Wallace explained. “The few times that they do she usually shuts it down and once you’re swinging away against Kelly it’s usually not successful.”
North Attleboro (16-5) will face No. 12 Nashoba on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30.