Milford Rallies in Final and Returns to Softball Summit

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Milford softball players get set to celebrate with the Div. 1 state championship trophy after beating Wachusett at Worcester State. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WORCESTER, Mass. – While the Hawks had not trailed at all in their playoff run and rarely trailed over the course of the season, Milford coach Steve DiVitto insisted after each game that his team knew how to bounce back and overcome a deficit to win.

Milford (25-1) waited until the final game of the season to prove him right.

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Despite falling behind by three runs in the second inning of Saturday evening’s Div. 1 state championship game at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field, the Hawks’ confidence never wavered. Senior pitcher Ali Atherton retired 16 of the final 19 batters she faced and the prolific Milford offense found its swing to pull out a 7-3 victory and earn the program’s first state title since winning the second of two straight titles 2013.

“They came out early and threw the first knockout blow,” said DiVitto, “and we responded and that’s what championship teams do. In big spots and big moments, you respond.”

He added, “You’ve got to be able to ride those peaks and valleys as this game goes on and they did just that and we’re back on top.”

Atherton said, “After the second inning, I said that I really didn’t want to lose my last game wearing a Milford uniform, so that’s what pushed me through the last innings. I didn’t want to lose my last game at Milford High.”

Milford had gone 15 innings without allowing a run (since the seventh inning of the South semifinal against Hopkinton) before the Mountaineers came to bat in the top of the second. The Central champions, making their first state title game appearance, seemed to figure out Atherton.

A single and an error put the first two hitters in scoring position and senior catcher Lizzie Miles drove a single to right that scored both runs. Kiana Lloyd followed with a hit to left, but Maggie Farrell fired to the plate and Emily Hartman just hung on to cut down Miles trying to score. Lloyd moved up to second on the throw and then to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Paige Arvidson infield single.

Atherton explained, “In the second inning, they adjusted. They were crowding the plate and hitting my curve ball so hard. That hadn’t happened to me all season, but I realized I needed our catcher to set up more outside and my curveballs were more effective off the plate.”

Milford bounced right back in the bottom half of the inning. Hartman was hit by a pitch to lead-off and Kelley Reichert beat out an infield single. With one out, Shannon Cormier reached on an error to load the bases for Kate Irwin and the energetic centerfielder got the Milford bench going with an infield hit to score one. Hockomock League MVP Emily Piergustavo drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and the lead was down to one.

DiVitto said, “We told the girls, let’s not panic, let’s stay within ourselves and play our game. We know what we’re capable of doing, we’ve done it for 25 straight games, and they’re just a team that competes.”

Atherton allowed only two Wachusett hits over the final five innings, as she started to look more like the pitcher that had thrown back-to-back shutouts to reach the final.

When asked about Atherton’s performance in the final, DiVitto said, “Today? How about Ali for the last six games of the playoffs? She has been outstanding. She has been a rock.”

“Once probably the fourth inning came, I felt like I was in a groove but I had to stay up and stay focused,” Atherton explained. “I knew that the mentally strong pitcher was going to come out on top today, so I had to stay grounded.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Milford took the lead. Cormier worked a one-out walk and two batters later Piergustavo drove a ball that one-hopped the centerfield fence for a game-tying double. Farrell, another of the team’s three seniors, followed with a single that plated Piergustavo with what turned out to be the game-winning run.

“Our mentality was to bounce back,” said Piergustavo of the comeback. “If you get punched, then punch back harder. There’s no better feeling than the way we came back.”

Wachusett tried to put together a rally of its own in the sixth inning. Brigid Griffin singled to left just past the dive of Piergustavo, but was forced out at second on Courtney Lanpher’s grounder. Lanpher then went first-to-third on a grounder back to the pitcher to put the tying run only 60 feet away with two outs.

A fly ball to Cormier in right ended the threat and allowed Milford to breathe a sigh of relief. In the bottom half of the inning, the Hawks broke the game wide open and calmed nerves both on the field and in the bleachers.

Cormier, Irwin, and Piergustavo each singled to start the sixth and load the bases. Farrell drove in her second run with a sac fly to left and junior Jess Tomaso brought in another with a single to right. Senior Kaitlyn DeCapua made it 7-3 with another sac fly and the trophy felt like it was in Milford’s grasp.

A comebacker to Atherton and a leaping grab on a line drive by Cormier put the Hawks on the brink and fittingly it was DeCapua who would record the final out, pulling in a foul pop fly to seal the championship that she and the other seniors had been dreaming about for four years.

“I knew one day we’d make it here,” DeCapua said. “I remember being a seventh and eighth grader watching the state championship and I just knew one day I’d be here. It’s amazing; words can’t describe it.”

Piergustavo, whose sister Allie was a starter on the 2013 championship team, added, “It’s amazing. We had wristbands that said ‘Rise Together’ and we rose together to win this championship. There’s no better feeling right now. Words can’t describe how proud I am of this team.”

The seniors were not the only newcomers to the team four years ago. DiVitto also took over as the new head coach that spring and immediately had to answer questions about how to replace a class that won three state titles. He had his answer on Saturday.

“Four years ago, this journey started with these four seniors,” DiVitto remarked, “and four years ago it was the question of where is this program going to go because of the great graduating class in 2013 and how are you going to replace all of them?

“Take a look at the scoreboard and that’s how you replace them; by a team that sticks together, by a team that believes in each other and that’s what it’s all about.”

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Milford Beats Newton North to Advance to State Final

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Milford’s Ali Atherton tosses a pitch in the first inning against Newton North. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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TAUNTON, Mass. – On Saturday afternoon, Milford played a near perfect game to hand Silver Lake its first loss of the season and win the Div. 1 South title. On Tuesday night in the state semifinal, back at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field, the Hawks showed that even when not at their best, they have enough grit to come out on top.

Despite Newton North putting runners in scoring position in five of the seven innings, Milford escaped unscathed each time and scored a pair of unearned runs to grind out a 3-0 victory and advance to the state championship game for the first time since winning the Div. 1 title four years ago.

“It’s great to know that maybe the bats aren’t at their best and our defense at times wasn’t at its best and Ali [Atherton] in a couple of innings maybe wasn’t at her best, but when push came to shove, man did they step up,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto, who joined the program along with this senior class and will be making his first state final appearance this weekend.

Atherton, the senior pitcher, tossed a one-hitter in the South final against the Lakers, but the Tigers beat that total in the top of the first. With runners at second and third and two outs, Atherton struck out her opposite number Madison Schaefer to get out of the jam.

The Hawks took the lead in their first at-bats. Emily Piergustavo drew a one-out walk, followed by a Maggie Farrell single to right. Jess Tomaso lined a single to right that brought in the opening run and moved Farrell to third. Schaefer avoided a big inning by getting a bouncing ball right back to her and a strikeout to end the threat.

The Tigers put the lead-off runner on in the second on a rare Milford error. After a strikeout and a sliding catch by centerfielder Kate Irwin on a sinking line drive, the Tigers loaded the bases with back-to-back singles. Again, Atherton was able to bear down and get a fly ball to end the inning.

Milford doubled its lead in the bottom of the second. Maddy Bonvino drew a one-out walk and, after a fly ball out, stole second to get into scoring position for Irwin. The junior lead-off hitter singled to center and the ball bounced by the fielder to allow Bonvino to score easily.

“It’s nice to be in the lead,” DiVitto said. “It’s better than the other way around because the nerves settled in a little bit and it was big for our girls to get those runs early. But, we’ve been behind a couple times this year and been able to battle back, so ahead, behind, they just have a great mindset.”

Atherton settled down with the lead and allowed only one hit over the next three innings. The Hawks added a crucial insurance run in the fifth. Irwin reached on an error and stole second. Piergustavo popped it up in foul territory near the Tigers bench and, after making the grab, the first baseman attempted to pick off Irwin at second, but the throw got away.

Irwin flew home with the third run and her energy fired up both her teammates and the traveling Milford support in the bleachers.

“She was huge for us tonight,” said DiVitto of Irwin. “That play at second base, we work on that all year. Take a couple jab steps and force a throw and she forced a throw and that’s a huge insurance run going into the seventh inning; 3-0 is a big change from two.”

Holding a three-run lead in the seventh, Milford had one foot in the state final, but the Tigers would not go quietly.

With one out, Holly Chin singled and an error brought the tying run to the plate. Atherton reached back for a little extra to get a strikeout, but then walked the next hitter to load the bases and bring a potential go-ahead run up to bat. With the Tigers faithful as loud as they had been all night, Atherton induced a comebacker to put an end to the rally.

When asked what he was thinking as the Tigers loaded the bases, DiVitto responded, “Ali was going to find a way to get three outs. I have a lot of confidence in her. Four years of her in the circle, she is a warrior and she has been for four years.”

He added, “That’s what a winner does. That’s what a girl who’s got guts does. [Ali] was great on Saturday, no girls on base, she was cruising. Tonight she ran into a little trouble but the same demeanor on the mound. She was locked in.”

The Hawks have had a target on their backs since the beginning of the season, as they entered as heavy favorites in the Davenport division and as one of the favorites in Div. 1 South. DiVitto tried to explain what carried the Hawks to this point.

He said, “These girls play for each other and they’re excited for each other. Whenever anything happens with their teammates, they’re excited for them. A girl could go 0-for-4 but still be excited we won and that’s big.”

Milford (24-1), riding a 24-game win streak, will face Central champion Wachusett on Saturday at Worcester State University (time to be determined).

Atherton Tosses Gem, Milford Wins South Title

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Milford celebrates with the Div. 1 South championship trophy following a 4-0 win over top seed Silver Lake at Taunton’s Jack Tripp Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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TAUNTON, Mass. – In each of the past two seasons, Milford and Silver Lake have met in the Div. 1 South quarterfinal and each time the Lakers had come out on top. On Saturday afternoon, the two teams met again, but this time the sectional’s top two seeds faced off at Taunton High’s sun-drenched Jack Tripp Field with the South title on the line.

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For the Milford seniors, whose careers began just a year after the program won the second of back-to-back state titles, this was not just a chance to get revenge on the Lakers, but also an opportunity to add to the program’s legacy of success.

It was an opportunity that those seniors would not let slip away.

Ali Atherton tossed a one-hitter against the potent Silver Lake lineup, which had put up 18 runs in two other games against Hock opponents in the tournament; Maggie Farrell went 3-for-4 and drove in what turned out to be the game winning runs with a third inning double; and Kaitlyn DeCapua went 2-for-4 with an RBI, as the Hawks beat previously unbeaten Silver Lake 4-0 to clinch their second South title.

“That’s what seniors do,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “They were just outstanding today. On the bus it was crickets on the way here, that was the focus and that’s how they’ve been all year.”

He added, “Ever since we lost here in early April (in the season-opener against Taunton), they’ve been on a mission and they’re not going to let anything get in their way.”

Atherton, the Southern New Hampshire-bound pitcher, stepped into the circle as a freshman with the unenviable task of following arguably the best pitcher in state history, Shannon Smith. Four years later and facing the biggest game of her career, Atherton rose to the occasion and matched one of Smith’s achievements by tossing a shutout in the South final.

“Obviously not her greatest outing the other night (against Hopkinton),” said DiVitto, “and she comes out here today and [has] probably one of her better outings she’s had in her four years. What a great job by her today.”

Atherton held the Lakers hitless through 4-1/3 innings, allowed only one infield single, one walk, and just two balls out of the infield. Considering the stage and the lineup that she was facing, it could could be argues this was the best pitching performance of her career.

“On the bus, I was thinking about how I was going to pitch these girls,” Atherton explained. “I’ve faced them so many times, I know how they’re going to hit. I know what they want to do with the ball, so I know where I want to put my pitches.”

She continued, “The outside low corner was crucial for me today, especially against the top of the order. They want to pull the ball, they want the ball inside, so I didn’t throw much inside. My catcher (Emily Hartman) and I were working all game and I knew I wanted to stay low today.”

The Hawks also needed to flash the leather behind Atherton, who remarkably finished her one-hitter with no strikeouts. Maddy Bonvino got it started with a leaping grab of a liner in the second inning to rob Anna Battista of a hit and in the fourth Farrell came charging in to make a shoestring grab on a sinking line drive off the bat of Kelly Danahy.

“Our defense has been rock solid all year long,” said DiVitto, “and today was just an example of that and Ali having the confidence in the girls behind her to be able to throw strikes.”

Milford had a base hit in each of its first two at-bats but Silver Lake pitcher Jillian Richards also looked sharp, using her off-speed pitches to keep the Hawks guessing. That changed in the third.

Shannon Cormier started the inning with a single to second and moved up a base on a wild pitch. Kate Irwin followed by beating out an infield single. A grounder to first moved both runners up into scoring position for Farrell, who got the pitch she was waiting for and drilled a double into the gap in left center.

“It was just like the perfect pitch, right where I wanted it and I knew I had to go for that one,” Farrell said. “As long as we just kept our head on it then she was right down the middle.”

With two outs, DeCapua singled up the middle to bring Farrell around with the third run and the Hawks had momentum and budding confidence.

Farrell said, “We knew we had to jump on them early and keep going throughout the game. Once we got those three runs, we weren’t done. We had to keep pushing and keep trying to get more runs.”

Milford had the chance to tack on runs in the fifth when Farrell singled with two outs and Jess Tomaso reached on an error, but Richards got a ground out to end the inning. In the bottom half, Battista reached on a grounder that was knocked down by Bonvino for the Lakers first hit, but Atherton got back-to-back grounders to end any threat.

In the sixth, the Hawks added an insurance run. Kelley Reichert and Bonvino each singled with one out and Cormier drew a walk to load the bases. Irwin blooped a ball in between the left field and shortstop to make it 4-0.

DiVitto said, “We’re a complete, total team effort and you could see that one through nine in our lineup today, girls making it happen in the lower part of the lineup getting things going for us. It’s a team effort…and it’s a great team win.”

Milford could not break the game open, as Richards got out of the jam without allowing another run. A two-out walk to Danahy in the bottom of the sixth put a little pressure on Atherton, but she got Caroline Videtto to ground out to second leaving power hitter Emily Critch waiting in the on-deck circle.

The Lakers put on their rally caps for the bottom of the seventh and the Silver Lake bench was as loud as it had been all game, but Atherton made short work of the final inning before leaping into her teammates’ arms as South champion.

“This is an amazing feeling,” said Atherton. “This is what me, Kaitlyn and Maggie wanted to do all four years. We’ve been working towards this point. My team did amazing today and they’re really the reason that we won.”

When asked about the reasons for the team’s success, DiVitto added, “Terrific kids that show up every day with a positive attitude that support each other. It makes our life that much easier to come to the field every single day with a group of girls that want to be here [and] that want to be with each other.”

He also noted, “It’s great to get the win here today, but we’re not done, we’re not satisfied. We need to be ready to go on Tuesday against a really good team from the North.”

Milford (23-1) will put its 23-game win streak on the line against the North champion (either Newton North or Billerica) on Tuesday at Jack Tripp Field at 7:00.

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Rocketeers Battle But Fall to Top Seed in Semis

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North Attleboro’s Sam Courtemanche lays down a bunt against Silver Lake. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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TAUNTON, Mass. – North Attleboro came into Thursday night’s Div. 1 South semifinal against top seed and unbeaten Silver Lake at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field as the heavy underdog. The Rocketeers were the No. 12 seed, had three freshmen in the starting lineup, including a freshman starting pitcher, and were playing their fourth game in seven days.

When the Lakers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning, the game seemed like nothing more than a formality on Silver Lake’s path to the sectional final, but North did not go quietly and continued to battle all the way to the final out, making the top seed work for the win.

In the end, Silver Lake had too much for North Attleboro, pulling out a 12-5 victory and setting up a match-up with No. 2 seed Milford in Saturday afternoon’s South final. Despite the defeat, North coach Bill Wallace was proud of how far his young team had come this season.

“I like how they didn’t give up…and it’s hard,” said Wallace. “Even when it was 11-3, we’re still banging hits and, you know, we had the bases loaded…I’m thrilled with the way the kids played this year.”

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The Lakers looked every bit the top seed with six runs in the first two innings. A two-out single by senior pitcher Jill Richards scored an unearned run in the first and in the second inning the Lakers sent 10 batters to the plate and brought home five runs, including a two-out, two-run single by senior catcher Emily Critch.

Trailing 6-0 and with no hits through two innings, the Rocketeers could have rolled over and called it a spring, but instead North showed signs of life in the third and cut the lead in half.

Freshman Ashley Cangiano (4-for-4) and junior Andrea Miceli started the inning with singles and freshman Abby Gallagher reached on an error to load the bases. The Lakers got the first out at the plate but senior Megan Barlow drew a walk to get North on the board. Senior Liz Morehouse followed with a two-run single off the glove of Silver Lake shortstop Caroline Videtto.

The Lakers responded in the bottom half of the inning with another five runs to break the game open again. After freshman Bella Erti got a comebacker for the first out, the Lakers had five straight hits, including a two-run single by Videtto to make it 11-3 heading to the fourth.

Wallace said of Silver Lake, “That team can rake. They get the barrel on the ball quite a bit.”

Gallagher got one back for North in the fourth with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Cangiano, who had somehow gotten to third on the play before with an unorthodox slide to avoid the tag.

In the fifth, the Rocketeers got a fifth run with a two-out rally. Pinch hitter Amelia Murphy, who has battled injuries all season, reached on an infield single, took second on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single to center by Kristina Murphy.

After a rough start, Erti settled into her start and, despite having pitched a complete game against Marshfield just a day early, seemed to get stronger as the game went on. She retired eight Lakers in a row between the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

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“Bella is a freshman and she just kept gutting it and gutting it and I couldn’t be any prouder of her,” said Wallace. “She’s a tough nut and when you’re a freshman you have the weight of the seniors on your shoulder and all the upperclassmen and she’s handled it great. She’s very coachable and she’s just going to get better.”

In the top of the sixth, North had the chance to make things interesting when Cangiano and Miceli started the inning with singles, but Richards struck out Gallagher, Anna Battista chased down an Olivia Capobianco fly ball in foul territory, and Barlow lined out to second to end the inning.

“The kids just kept battling, but when you’re chasing you can’t do the things that get you there,” Wallace said. “We’re a little bit of a different team when we’re ahead than when we’re chasing runs, but we’ve got more dimensions.”

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Alexandra Ruprecht reached on an error. Two batters later, Hannah Mitchell singled to right center for an unearned insurance run.

In the seventh, North continued to put pressure on the Lakers. Morehouse and Murphy each singled to get things started. Morehouse was forced out at third and Sam Courtemanche lined out to short before Cangiano got her fourth hit of the day to load the bases. Richards closed out the hard-fought win with a strikeout.

While the night ended in defeat for North Attleboro (14-7), there is plenty for the Rocketeers to be optimistic about. Six of the nine starters will be back next season, including Erti in the circle.

“If you could’ve told me at the beginning of the year that we’d be standing here in the semifinal, I’d say that’s great, but not only did they get it but they got to live through the four games to get here.”

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Late Franklin Rally Falls Short Against Xaverian

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Franklin midfielder Nitin Chaudhury scored the opening goal in the the playoff loss to Xaverian. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – For the third year in a row, Franklin and Xaverian met in the Div. 1 South tournament but for the first time in this budding rivalry the Panthers entered Sunday evening’s game at Pisini Field as the favorite against the perennial power.

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Despite the Hawks entering the playoffs with an 8-10 record, Franklin was not taking the Catholic Conference runner-up lightly knowing the pedigree of its opponent and the fact many of the players are also neighbors.. In fact, Franklin coach Lou Verrochi thought that his team may have been too fired up before the playoff opener.

“I think that they just ratcheted up,” Verrochi said, “and I think they left a lot in the locker room before they even got on the field. Adrenaline-wise, I think it was just flowing so fast and so hard that they sort of had to dial it down.”

Franklin struggled offensively against the Hawks, going scoreless for more than 16 minutes between the second and fourth quarters, and saw a furious fourth quarter rally run out of time in an 8-7 loss. Junior Eric Civetti led the way for Franklin with four goals, all of them in the fourth, but for large portions of the game he struggled to find space against senior Connor Sullivan.

“They had a clamp-down defender on Eric and their goalie came up with some great saves early and we just couldn’t solve that,” Verrochi explained. “I’ve said it before, when Eric gets going the rest of our offense feeds off that and he had a hard time getting going.”

He added, “It was a tough seed and I knew it was going to be a competitive game. They’re a legit program.”

The Panthers jumped out to an early lead three minutes in. Sullivan knocked the stick and ball out of Civetti’s hands but Nitin Chaudhury reacted first, scooped the loose ball, and dodged from the ‘X’ before finishing with a wrap around shot just under the bar.

Xaverian scored the next two goals to take its first lead of the night, but Franklin answered with 5:04 left in the first to tie the game at 2-2. Kyle McEniry fired a pass from behind the goal to a cutting Sam Arsenault and he fired a low angle shot from behind his marker that found the corner.

Sophomore FOGO Jacob Alexander was struggling in the first, being called for two false starts, and Xaverian took advantage to regain the lead at 3-2 on a left-handed finish by Jared Grier. Alexander would win 4-of-7 face-offs in the first quarter, but went on to lose only one more for the rest of the game (the only lost face-off on a disputed false start in the fourth).

The Panthers created chances in the second quarter, but were frequently stymied by freshman goalie Alexander Teagan, who made eight saves on the game, most of them on point-blank chances. Franklin goalie Connor O’Rourke was equally impressive with 10 saves on the night to keep the Panthers in it while the offense tried to find a rhythm.

“I thought their goalie kept them in it too,” said Verrochi. “It could’ve gone either way. He’s only a freshman; we though we could get some early goals against him but he wasn’t rattled at all…Connor is just the real deal.”

Sam Jean scored the first of three goals on the night for the Hawks to build a 5-2 lead, but Chase Tanner unleashed a laser into the top corner six minutes later to cut the Xaverian lead to 5-3. Alexander won the ensuing face-off and raced straight down the middle only for Teagan to stuff him at the end and then O’Rourke came through with a big save to rob Andrew Lee right before halftime.

At the break, Franklin assistant coach Fran Bositis tried to stir the Panthers, who had allowed Xaverian to control the tempo in the first half, but the halftime team talk did not seem to have much effect in the third quarter. The Panthers went scoreless for the full 12 minutes and Grier and Jean (with just one second on the clock) pushed the Hawks lead to 7-3.

Trailing by four goals, Franklin turned to Civetti to try and bring the Panthers back into the game. He finally found the breakthrough two minutes into the fourth, ending Franklin’s barren run, with a long-angle release after bullying Sullivan into a shooting position.

O’Rourke robbed Lee again two minutes later and Civetti made it count with a ridiculous finish. The Rutgers-commit backed into his marker on the left side of the goal and rather than turn to his stronger right side he fired a backhanded, practically underhand shot into the top corner.

“[Sullivan] was bigger, faster, stronger than Eric and they slid to him early,” Verrochi explained. “Sometimes [Eric] has a tendency to hold the ball too long…we don’t move like we should off the ball to give him a look at an open stick, but once he gets his mind set to go to goal there’s no stopping him.”

The Franklin bench was fired up and momentum seemed to be with the hosts. Civetti took that energy up another notch 20 seconds later when he dodged from the ‘X’ to the left and fired a backhanded shot around the shoulder of his marker on the run and again picked the corner.

The finish had the Franklin bench going crazy, but Xaverian got possession back and set out to run the clock. Jean scored a crucial goal with 1:40 remaining to regain the two-goal lead and Franklin could not take advantage of a man-up opportunity in the final minute.

Verrochi said, “Fourth quarter we came to life and made a ballgame out of it. That eighth goal was a bit of a killer. That took the wind out of our sails.”

Civetti tacked on a consolation goal in the final second (another impressive behind the back finish), but it was the visiting bench that was able to storm the field and celebrate the win.

It was the fifth one-goal loss of the season for Franklin (16-5), all of them to teams that are currently alive in the tournament and three of them to teams that earned top seeds in their respective brackets (BC High, Dover-Sherborn, and Walpole).

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KP Advances With Extra Innings Win at Feehan

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KP catcher Bri Lacy pounces on a foul pop up to get the Warriors out of a bases laded jam in the bottom of the fifth inning against Bishop Feehan. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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When the pitch hit Bri Lacy’s glove, the King Philip players and fans leapt to their feet in celebration only for it to be called a check swing. The game continued, but unlike in the seventh when Bishop Feehan rallied for a tying run that forced extra innings, Elise Pereira reached back for a little extra on the next pitch and this time there was no doubt.

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The strikeout, only the third of the game for KP pitchers and first of the game for Pereira, sealed an 8-7, eight-inning, two-hour and 15-minute marathon win for the Warriors in a Div. 1 South first round contest that had enough twists, turns, comebacks, and game-winning plays for an entire playoff run.

“This was two teams refusing to lose,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin. “Fortunately, we didn’t let what happened in the seventh inning bother us in the eighth inning. The kids didn’t give up; they didn’t let it get them down and they came back. “

Pereira added, “You’ve just got to forget. If it’s a bad call, let it go and you’ve just got to get the next one. We battled so hard. I’m so proud of my team right now.”

KP needed plenty of resiliency to pull out the win and avoid a three-game sweep against the Shamrocks (who won 10-5 and 7-5 in the regular season).

The Warriors led 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but a bad bounce put a Feehan runner on with an infield single. The pinch runner stole second but Pereira appeared to end the game with a nasty changeup only to have the umpire keep his arm fixed to his side. A couple pitches later, Jess Levesque lined a single to center to tie it.

Feehan’s comeback was short-lived, as the bottom of the KP order sparked a rally in the top of the eighth.

With one out, Lacy was hit by a pitch, Sydney Phillips dropped down a perfect bunt single and Meg Gorman was hit by Feehan pitcher Sarah Magro. Hailey McCasland chopped a bouncing ball to short with the bases loaded that was not fielded cleanly and gave the Warriors a one-run edge.

In order to beat the Shamrocks, KP needed everyone in the lineup to contribute at one point or another. It started in the first with Gorman beating out a double to open the game. Nicole Carter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to plate the first run and Brooke Taute brought in two more with a single to center.

Jenn Hutnyan threw a clean first inning and then helped her own cause with an RBI single to bring in Gorman in the second for a 4-0 lead.

Feehan fought back with two homers in the next two innings, including a solo shot by Julia DaCosta that tied the game at 4-4. In the fourth, KP regained the lead when Gorman singled and then stole second. With McCasland at the plate, the Feehan defense was aligned so that the centerfielder was forced to cover the steal. The ball got through and Gorman raced all the way home.

Again, Feehan battled right back. A pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt put two in scoring position with two outs for DaCosta and Beauchemin made the decision to intentionally walk the Shamrocks power hitter. Magro followed with an unintentional walk to tie it and then a wild pitch gave the Shamrocks their only lead of the game at 6-5. Pereira took over and got a line drive to Phillips in center to end the inning.

“She’s got a lot of grit,” said Beauchemin of Pereira. “That whole junior class has got a lot of grit. This is a team that when they were freshmen could have made the playoffs…they were that good.”

There was no quit in the Warriors. KP rallied for two more in the next frame. Pereira battled for a lead off walk and Jess Bonner dropped a bloop down the right-field line. Carter picked up her second RBI with a base hit to right and Lacy drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI-groundout.

“I think they’re just mentally tough,” said Beauchemin. “Last year we had three seniors who were really, really tough and they fed it to everyone else. These guys are mentally prepared…they’re more focused. They know it’s crunch time.”

The drama continued in the bottom of the fifth when Feehan loaded the bases for DaCosta with two outs. She swung at the first pitch and popped it up off the end of the bat and Lacy was quickly out from behind the plate to make a sliding catch that got the Warriors out of the jam.

“Everybody has to be in the game because the ball always finds the person who’s not. It’s huge and everyone was hitting,” said Pereira.

When the final out was finally recorded, gloves and arms flew into the air. It felt like a game that could have been played in the sectional final rather than the first round and the players, many of whom were important contributors on a state title team last spring, reacted like it was a final.

“I’m pumped,” said Pereira with a wide smile. When asked about taking on top seed Silver Lake in the next round, Pereira responded, “We’re going to go get them.”

King Philip (18-6) will have a quick turnaround, traveling to Kingston to take on the Lakers on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.