TAUNTON, Mass. – The players seemed unfazed by the lightning in the distance, but at the end of the fifth inning and the Div. 1 state championship game still scoreless, the athletic directors and MIAA officials gathered the umpires and coaches to deliver the news that the game would have to be halted.
Ominous clouds turned into a torrential downpour and the rain delay stretched into another day, then another, eventually forcing a five-day wait before the game could be resumed at Jack Tripp Field on Monday night. After a grueling tournament of games every other day (and a back-to-back) played in mostly sweltering heat, the teams suddenly had nothing to do but wait.
When the game restarted, Taunton (20-0) put together a two-out rally in the sixth and senior McKenzie McAloon delivered an RBI single that put the Tigers in front. Kelsey White shut the door in the seventh, striking out the final two batters (finishing with 13 in the game) to beat Wachusett 1-0 and deliver the second state title in three seasons and the sixth overall for the Tigers.
“It’s the team who’s mentally stronger that’s going to pull this out at the end of the day and it ended up being us thank goodness,” said first-year Taunton coach Carrie Consalvi. “With our big three (seniors White, McAloon, and Hanna Aldrich), we talked about it, they’ve got the better of you the last couple go arounds, it can’t keep happening. We went back and we prepared. I said just mentally be tough and ready to go and it will happen.”
She continued, “They were overdo and I’m happy for them because I know they wanted it and they’ve worked at it and the last couple of games haven’t sat well with them. So, you know they’re going back and they’re working. You just need to get in the mindset that you’re ready to go and they did.”
Asked about how the five-day break impacted the team, White replied, “We obviously had an off day on Wednesday, so it gave us a chance to regroup and work on what we needed to, like laying off the rise ball and taking time to find our pitches and hunt down our pitches. Those five days really helped me relax and stay focused.”
In the sixth, Wachusett had pinch hitter Mia Cassella start things off and she bounced one to third. Tayah DaCosta bobbled it but then calmly collected herself and threw a strike to first for the out. After White struck out the next hitter, she went to 0-2 on Hannah White, but the next pitch hit the Mountaineers’ two-hole batter. White made sure there would be no more drama, as Ella Pender couldn’t catch up to the rise for the third out.
Taunton had the top of the order due up in the sixth. Riley Quirk, who struck out nine and allowed only three hits through the first five innings, quickly retired Angie Lynch on a pop up to the first baseman and Kaysie DeMoura on a strikeout.
The middle of the order had been struggling to make solid contact all game, but Aldrich battled to a full count before crushing a two-out double that one-hopped the fence in right center. McAloon wasted no time, going after the first pitch and knocking a grounder right back up the middle and into center to plate the game’s only run.
“She comes with a lot of first pitch strikes,” McAloon explained. “I like to go after that first pitch and I like to attack it because it’s usually the best pitch I’m going to get. So, as soon as I saw it come over the plate, I knew I was going to go for it.”
Aldrich added, “Going in I was more nervous than I thought I was going to be, but finally not swinging and missing felt great and then for Kenzie to send it all the way and to get home was awesome too.”
White drew a walk and DaCosta hit a deep fly ball to right, but it stayed in the yard and Quirk was out of the jam with the heart of the order due up in the seventh. Wachusett had one last chance to be the first team in 18 games to score a run against the Tigers.
Quirk, whose ringing double in the second was one of only two hits allowed by White, popped up to Lynch in right center for the first out. White did the rest herself, striking out the next two batters to seal the title.
“In her beast mode, take no prisoners tonight,” Consalvi said of White. “You could tell there was a little extra pop on that ball tonight. She was ready to go.”
Coming into the final, Taunton had been taking advantage of early runs to ease some of the pressure in games, but Quirk had the Tigers off-balance. She struck out the side in the first and allowed only two balls out of the infield through the first five innings.
She also gave the Mountaineers a big lift at the plate with a lead-off double in the second, but the courtesy runner was cut down at third on a nice play by Aldrich at short. White was then able to snare a comebacker and get the lead runner at second.
White got Taunton’s first hit with a line drive single in the bottom half of the inning but courtesy runner Katelyn Bizarro got not further than first. Lynch had a two-out infield single on a swinging bunt in the third, but Quirk struck out the side around that hit. White came right back by striking out the side in the Wachusett half of the fourth, but the middle of the Taunton lineup was again held quiet in the bottom half.
Wachusett got a leadoff single in the fifth, but White got a strikeout, a good play by McAloon on a bunt, and another strikeout to end the threat. Olyvia Mendonca had a one-out single in the fifth, moved to second on Hayley Krockta’s bunt, and then reached third on a wild pitch, but Quirk got her ninth strikeout of the game to end the inning.
Little did everyone know at the time that it would be five days later before the next pitches were thrown, and that they would be the last ones of the 2020-21 season.
Aldrich noted, “Every day we’d get ready thinking we had a game then get the text that it was postponed to the next day. We have our superstitions so we’d do the exact same things every day before our games, so actually being able to play today was a big reset and the joy and enthusiasm from everyone, they were just pumped for today.”
“It’s awesome,” said McAloon. “To come out here and just come out and win, this is what we wanted all season. We worked hard for this, every practice, every pitch, we all worked hard for this and it’s just a dream to finish on a state championship.”
White added, “Definitely leaving high school this was our one goal, just to win the state championship and leave high school with that title. We really wanted this. We’re so excited that it finally happened.
“It’s great that it’s our last season and we end on a great note with great memories as well as great people.”