Total Team Effort Lifts Taunton to First State Title

Taunton baseball Evan Melo Josh Lajoie Jack Moynihan
Taunton captains (L-R) Evan Melo, Josh Lajoie, and Jack Moynihan celebrate with the D1 State Championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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LOWELL, Mass. – It was fitting that the final out bounced to sophomore shortstop Ty Cali. He jumped into the lineup in the playoffs after starter Danny MacDougall suffered an injury in the first game of the postseason. Cali had two hits and an RBI in Saturday night’s Div. 1 state championship game at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park and was an example of the way the whole Taunton program came together to send the Tigers on an improbable championship run.

That run came to a climax on Saturday, as Taunton (21-7) got four hits and a pair of RBI from the bottom three in its lineup, got four strong innings from senior Josh Lajoie, who was making his first start of the playoffs, and rallied with a pair of runs in the final two innings after seeing a 3-0 lead slip away.

The Tigers found a way to win, a common thread throughout the tournament, pulling out a 5-3 victory against Shrewsbury to secure the program’s first-ever state championship.

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“We knew it was going to be another tough game,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “That’s a great team over there and they gave us everything we could handle. We were able to put some at-bats together. It’s a team effort.”

Senior pitcher Logan Lawrence, who picked up the win with three innings of relief, said, “It almost feels too good. First time in history winning sectionals, never mind winning states.”

A state championship seemed farfetched in April. The Tigers stumbled out of the gates, going 4-4 in their opening eight games, but they stayed the course and eventually things turned around. Taunton finished the season by going 17-3 over its final 20 games. Its only losses in that span were to Super 8 participants Mansfield (twice) and Franklin.

“At the beginning of the year we all talked about it in the weight room about how nice it would be, but we also knew how difficult it would be and all the hard work it would take, and how much better we’d have to get throughout the year,” said senior Jack Moynihan.
“We knew we’d have to keep fighting and everyone in the program has busted their butts.”

Bourque said, “This season we had a lot of adversity early and I think that helped us down the road. Obviously, the Mansfields and the Franklins are the teams we want to compete with. This is a step in the right direction.”

On Saturday, the Tigers faced Shrewsbury ace John West. The 6-foot-8 junior has already committed to Boston College and he lived up to the billing the first time through the Taunton order. He struck out five, held the Tigers hitless, and allowed only one base runner over the first three innings.

West may have drawn the headlines prior to the game, but he was matched over the first three innings by Lajoie. The St. John’s University-commit got the ball for the final and allowed only two hits through four innings. An error and a walk gave Shrewsbury its only rally in that stretch, but Lajoie responded with a strikeout and induced a pop up to get out of the jam.

Taunton grabbed the lead in the fourth. Colby Lariviere drew a one-out walk and would come all the way around to score when Lawrence’s line drive skipped past the centerfielder and turned into a triple. Nolan Melo came in to run at third base and he would score on a perfectly placed safety squeeze by Jared Roderick.

The Tigers tacked on another run in the fifth. Evan Melo led off the inning by drilling a double into the corner in right and he was quickly brought home by a Cali single. Gavin Leahy drew a walk and Lucas Martins had an infield single to load the bases with one out but a double play ended the inning.

“It’s great because as a pitcher you look at the bottom of the order and you think just breeze through them,” said Lawrence about Taunton getting production from its full lineup. “When you know for a fact that other teams aren’t going to be able to breeze through the bottom of your lineup, that helps you a lot mentally. A lot of confidence comes from that.”

Shrewsbury did not go quietly. In the bottom of the fifth, the Colonials had three straight singles, including a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Lajoie was pulled for Lawrence, who gave up an RBI-single on his first pitch.

The next batter hit a shot down the first base line but Lariviere made a diving stop and got the lead runner at home. The batter had slipped so a return throw to first turned into a double play. With a chance to get out of the inning with the lead, Lawrence gave up a single to West, which scored a pair and tied the game.

Rather than letting their heads drop, the Tigers got right back to the plate and promptly grabbed back the lead. Roderick reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then took third on an error that allowed Andrew Gomes to reach. For the second time in the game, Bourque called for a squeeze and this time it was Evan Melo who dropped it down, pushing it up the first base line for a single and an RBI.

“We have confidence in ourselves and our ability to generate a couple of runs here and there,” Bourque explained. “There was no panic, we’ve been down before. Last game, we were down twice, so we had the confidence in our ability to generate some offense.

Taunton loaded the bases with one out for the second straight inning but both times failed to score a run. Lawrence made sure that it wouldn’t hurt too much by throwing a perfect sixth inning.

In the seventh, Taunton added an important insurance run. Nic Notarangelo, who’s inclusion in the starting lineup coincided with the Tigers’ improvement, started the inning by drilling a triple to the wall in right. Two batters later, Lariviere made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to left.

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As it turned out, the Tigers didn’t need the extra run. Lawrence got back to the mound for the seventh inning and threw another clean inning. He got a grounder to second, a strikeout, and then a grounder to short to seal the win and the championship.

“Nothing, just strictly adrenaline,” said Lawrence about what was going through his mind in the seventh. “When it was a 3-2 [count] and everyone was screaming, oh my god…” Lawrence shook his head, chuckled, and smiled.

Lajoie added, “It’s a dream come true. You dream of this at the beginning of the season and then you go through the season with your team, battling, and you see the pieces falling together…It’s unbelievable; I’m speechless.”

First Half Run Puts End to Foxboro Season in Semifinal

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Foxboro junior Julia Kelley (27) scored three times and had an assist, but the Warriors couldn’t get past South champ Cohasset in the state semifinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WELLESLEY, Mass. – With back-to-back goals, Foxboro rallied to tie South champion Cohasset in Tuesday night’s Div. 2 state semifinal at Babson College’s MacDowell Field. The Skippers, who won the state title in 2017, took a timeout to regroup and proceeded to break the game wide open.

Cohasset scored five goals in the final 4:04 of the first half, propelling the Skippers on a game-closing 12-3 run and a 17-8 victory that ended the most successful season in the Foxboro program’s history.

“That four, five-goal lead they got going into half was killer,” said Foxboro coach Brittany Sherry. “It’s too hard to dig yourself out of those. We’ve had games where we’ve been in positions where we’ve had to do it but we’ve never had the result that we needed. We’ve dug ourselves out but not enough.”

The Skippers had the first good look of the game but the shot caromed off the far post, after a loose ball was scooped up by the Warriors an outlet pass sent Molly Murphy on a break. She picked out Julia Kelley at the ‘X,’ who hesitated to draw a defender and open space for a pass to sophomore Lilly Vey for a close-range finish.

Northwestern University-bound Jane Hansen (five goals and two assists) cut through the Foxboro defense to tie the game, but the Warriors answered back. This time Vey played provider, setting up Sophia DiCenso as she cut across the front of goal and the University of Richmond-commit unleashed a side-arm shot under the bar to make it 2-2.

After three straight goals by the South champions, DiCenso scored her second goal of the night, this time with a lefty shot from a tight angle to bring the Warriors back within one.

Hansen assisted on Cohasset’s fifth of the night to restore the two goal lead, but Foxboro scored two in rapid fire to tie the game. Sara Addeche (four saves) made a big stop on a free position on one end and the Warriors again broke quickly with Meghan Curran getting the ball up the near sideline to Murphy, who bounced a shot through the five-hole to make it 5-4.

Right off the ensuing draw, DiCenso was inches away from tying it, but her shot came off the post. Kelley (three goals and one assist) was in the right spot to snag the rebound and finish.

It was the high point for the Warriors, as the favorites took control. Kate Cunning scored to break the deadlock and 12 seconds later assisted on a goal by fellow sophomore Gennie Littlejohn. Hansen scored back-to-back goals only 30 seconds apart to extend the lead to four and with just 22.9 left in the half Cunning got another assist on a Madie Donovan goal.

“Going into half, it was just about putting pressure on the ball and not letting them have a relaxed thought,” Sherry said about the frame of mind of the Warriors at the break. “I think we kind of did that but they had too much time to find their feet and hit their cutters. They got space and they got open, so that was an adjustment that we needed to make and we didn’t make it enough.”

The Warriors came out of the break with the right attitude and gave themselves hope of a comeback with the first goal of the second half. DiCenso was unlucky again, as another shot came off the post, but Curran chased down the ground ball to keep possession and seconds later Vey (two goals and two assists) combined with Kelley to bring the score to 10-6.

Foxboro had two opportunities to cut into the lead further, but the Cohasset defense forced a turnover and Hansen made it 11-6 with 19:30 to play. The Skippers added two straight, including a nice give-and-go between Hansen and Molly Greer, to push the lead up to seven.

Vey got a goal on a free position but another three-goal run by the Skippers eliminated any momentum that may have been gained by Foxboro. Jaime Notarangelo added the eighth and final goal for the Warriors from a free position with two minutes left.

Experience was a benefit for the Warriors in the East final against Medway and Foxboro (16-8) brought home its first-ever sectional title. It was the main goal of the season, Sherry explained, and she thinks it will help the returning players to have gotten a taste of the state semifinal atmosphere.

“They have so much exposure in this environment,” Sherry said about Cohasset. “I think we played really well. I think this was the best competition they’re going to see (outside the South). I think we gave them a fight and we hung in with them and it just wasn’t enough.”

Warriors Use Experience to Bring Home Sectional Title

Foxboro Girls Lacrosse
Foxboro captains Molly Murphy (9) and Sophia DiCenso (1) lift the Div. 2 East trophy, the first sectional title in the program’s history. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WALPOLE, Mass. – With seven minutes to go in Friday night’s Div. 2 East final at Walpole High, Medway scored its second straight goal and grabbed its first lead since midway through the first half. Having managed to pull out close wins in each of the first two rounds, Foxboro needed to keep its composure and find a way to make it three in a row.

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The Warriors could call on the experience of 14 seniors who were part of the program’s first sectional final appearance two years ago, a disappointing loss in the East quarterfinal last season, and a regular season that featured many of the state’s best teams. All of that came into play on Friday.

Of course, it also helps having a player like senior midfielder Sophia DiCenso. The University of Richmond-commit, and recently announced member of the U.S. U-19 national team, split the defense to tie the game and then scored her sixth goal of the night with three minutes to play to put Foxboro ahead for good. Julia Kelley tacked on another goal with 1:05 left and the Warriors celebrated an 11-9 win and the program’s first East title.

“She’s on cloud nine,” Foxboro coach Brittany Sherry said of DiCenso. “She puts the weight of the world on her shoulders. She carries this team and we really look to her to get it done and she got it done.”

DiCenso said, “I feel like everyone’s just been wanting it since we lost to Walpole our sophomore year and every day at practice we talk about this is our year, we’re going to win a trophy, and we did it. Everyone’s literally on top of the world right now.”

Similar to the semifinal against top seed Wayland, it took a while for someone to get on the scoreboard. Sophomore Lilly Vey cut though the defense and put Foxboro ahead 10 minutes into the game. Medway scored twice over the next five minutes to grab the lead, while Foxboro was struggling to finish off the chances that it was creating.

Senior Meghan Curran hit the post twice on free positions and Molly Murphy smacked the post with a shot on a fast break. Curran also had a chance in the final second of the half that bounced up off the turf and kissed the bar.

“If we’re hitting the post then it means we’re placing the ball, we’re not throwing it randomly, but they needed to drop eventually,” said Sherry. “Wayland [in the East semifinal] really helped us knowing that we could make mistakes offensively and still prevail.”

DiCenso finally got a chance with three minutes left in the half and she made it look easy from a free position. A little more than a minute later, DiCenso added her second of the night, again from a free position, to make it 3-2 at the break.

Abby Hassman had an early free position opportunity saved and Medway raced down field to tie the game at 3-3 just two minutes into the second half. DiCenso completed her hat trick from a free position but then had one miss the net and Medway took advantage to tie the game again at 4-4.

Curran came through with her next direct opportunity, picking the top corner with an unstoppable shot. Ninety seconds later, DiCenso cut across the defense from the left and went side-arm to rip a shot under the bar for a two-goal lead, the largest lead of the game for either team.

Medway bounced back with two straight goals to tie it again. Foxboro once again had the response to avoid allowing the Mustangs to grab the lead. Curran scored her second of the night, going side-arm after spinning back to her left.

The lead was short-lived and the Mustangs scored back-to-back goals to put Foxboro on its heels and take its first lead since the score was 2-1. No surprise to anyone, but the Warriors again turned to DiCenso. She showed good patience as she worked her way across goal, making the goalie commit before firing in the tying goal.

With the clock winding down on three minutes to play, Medway was inches from tying the game, but a shot came flying back off the post and ricocheted out towards midfield. Senior Molly Murphy reacted first and chased the ground ball down at the near sideline and got possession for the Warriors.

DiCenso drove towards the back of the cage but then spun back on her marker, tried to split two defenders, and earned a free position and a yellow card for her opponent. She made no mistake on the big opportunity and put the Warriors ahead 10-9 with 2:58 to play.

Foxboro got the ball back and tried to run out the clock. With a minute to play, Kelley drove to the cage and finished from close-range to make it a two-goal game. The Warriors won the next draw and proceeded to run the clock down, smiles stretching across their faces as they realized that the dream that started two years ago, the chance to make history for the program, was coming to fruition.

“It feels amazing,” said Sherry, who may have had the biggest smile on the field at the final whistle. “Even in the semifinals when they started picking away at leads, I think that exposure of playing top D1 teams, we do it because we learn from it every single time.” She added, “We’ve battled and we’ve gotten tested and we prevailed because of it.”

When asked about playing a schedule with perennial D1 powers like Notre Dame Academy, Longmeadow, Walpole, Franklin, and others, DiCenso joked, “At first we saw it and were like what is she doing but honestly now I can say it was so worth it.”

She added, “I think there were moments when we were like, wow we’re getting beat pretty bad by these teams and going into tournament we need to step our game up, but I feel like those losses were more motivators. Our schedule prepares us for 30 seconds left and we’re up by one or two and we’re so composed on the field because of the competition that we face.”

Foxboro (16-7) will play South champion Cohasset in the state semifinal on Tuesday night at Babson College.

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Patriots Deal Franklin Second Straight Semis Heartbreak

Franklin girls lacrosse
Franklin senior Annie Walsh was held to two goals in the Div. 1 East semifinal against Concord-Carlisle, which beat the Panthers at the same stage for the second straight season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WALPOLE, Mass. – It was a game that could have gone either way. Neither team led by more than two goals at any point in the game. There were four lead changes (all in the second half) and eight ties. In games that are that close, every play gets magnified and the smallest margins can be decisive.

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Concord-Carlisle took its largest lead of the game, 11-9, with 4:39 remaining in Tuesday night’s Div. 1 East semifinal at Walpole High’s Turco Field, but with 1:15 to play a turnover gave the Panthers a chance to get back within one. Stella Regan scored her second goal of the game to give Franklin (20-3) hope.

Despite losing the ensuing draw, an issue all night, and being down a player after a yellow card to senior Annie Walsh, the Panthers managed to force another turnover and regain possession inside the final minute. A foul stopped play right in front of the Franklin bench. As the players prepared to restart, one of the officials ran up and brandished a yellow card to the bench, which not only forced Franklin to remove another player, but also give up the ball.

The Patriots managed to keep the ball moving for the final 30 seconds, as the Panthers continued to chase, eventually running out the clock on an 11-10 victory and their second straight semifinal win against Franklin.

“Emotions were running high, intense game and I told them some things you can’t control and unfortunately we lost the ball again,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino. “They battled to the end and we all on the sidelines thought that we were going to tie this and win the draw and win the game.”

Franklin got off to the perfect start, as Walsh cut in from the right and scored with a low, lefty shot just 44 seconds into the game. That started the back-and-forth battle, as Concord-Carlisle answered two minutes later only for Kelsey MacCallum to fake out her marker, spinning back through the middle where she was found by Jackie O’Neil to make it 2-1.

Concord-Carlisle was consistently winning back and maintaining possession and putting the Franklin defense under pressure. After the Patriots scored to tie it again, they held the ball for several minutes with the Panthers holding on but failing to secure any of the ground balls that the defense was forcing.

“Its hard to win a game when you don’t have the ball,” Igoe Guarino said. “Draw controls definitely hurt us and when we did make stops or got it on the ground we couldn’t clear or made unforced errors. I think we hurt ourselves a little too much.”

While Franklin was under pressure, it held out and then took its largest lead of the night. First Erin Walsh dodged from the left side and her overhand shot had enough backspin that it bounced back over the line even after being saved. Then MacCallum went right down the middle for a lefty finish to make it 4-2.

After the Patriots got one back, Walsh smacked the bar with a free position chance and Ali Socci put in a timely stick check to deny a free position on the other end. MacCallum set up a cutting Regan in front but Natalie Slade stuck with it and made the save.

The Patriots tied the game with 3:56 left in the half but Erin Walsh was given a free position opportunity two minutes later. The junior went nearly underhand to fire an unstoppable shot just under the bar to put Franklin in front. Gianna Cameron made the lead last to halftime with a big stop in the final 30 seconds.

Concord-Carlisle came right back after the break, winning the opening two draws and scoring on both. Fallon Vaughn scored the first and assisted on the second. Vaughn nearly made it three in row but Cameron made a huge stop, getting a piece of a free position shot.

MacCallum completed her hat trick seven minutes into the half to tie the game at 6-6 and Franklin got the lead back when Regan showed great patience cutting across the front of the crease finally getting Slade to commit before firing her shot just under the bar.

A minute later and the game was tied again, but Franklin answered back with Kate O’Rourke using an Annie Walsh screen to get space down the middle and went high-to-low on her shot. The Panthers got the ball back to try and extend the lead to two, but an unforced error gave the ball back to the Patriots, who promptly scored.

“We didn’t have the ball a lot, so we couldn’t establish a rhythm on offense and our dodgers could never get going and couldn’t find space,” igoe Guarino explained. “They played excellent man-to-man, seven-on-seven ‘D’ and were very packed in and we just couldn’t find our space and finish our opportunities.”

That was the start of a run for Concord-Carlisle, which scored three times in a row to build the lead out to 11-9. Franklin had chances to cut into the deficit but Slade (six saves) came through with a series of stops, once each from Walsh and O’Rourke and twice from MacCallum.

“We felt like we didn’t have the ball a lot so when we did get it it was like, let’s go,” Igoe Guarino said about the uncharacteristic issues finishing. “We didn’t take all our best shots or we had an unforced error and that makes you feel like I have the ball so I have to shoot again as soon as you get it. I don’t think we were fully ourselves on the offensive end.”

Franklin continued to push, never giving in until the final whistle, but for the second straight season it will be the Patriots that advance to take on top seed Walpole in the sectional final.

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Taunton Starts Title Defense with Shutout of KP

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Taunton senior Jaime Brown makes a play on a KP bunt in the opening round of the state tournament. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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TAUNTON, Mass. – Defending state champion Taunton kicked off its title defense on Monday night at Jack Tripp Field against a familiar foe. It is never easy to play a team three times in a season, especially when it is a league rival and annual competitor for the league title.

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The Tigers made it a clean sweep against King Philip and earned their third shutout of the Warriors this season, earning a 4-0 victory and getting started on the road to a potential repeat.

“First game of the tournament is always tough,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry about facing an atypical No. 15 seed in the opening round. “We’ve been there before but all the kids were saying they had the butterflies and were a little nervous early on, so get this out of the way and we can move onto tomorrow.”

Senior outfielder Alexa White added, “It’s definitely a relief to have the first one in the books. We have a young team, so we made sure to talk to them yesterday at practice to be prepared that the atmosphere is different, everything’s different, so you need to keep the energy up and you need to relax, at the plate or in the field.”

King Philip (13-9) had been outscored 19-0 in two regular season meetings with Taunton, but the Warriors came into Monday confident that they could pull the upset and had an early chance to get on the board. Raegan Simeone bunted for a hit with one out in the first and then stole second. After a strikeout, Liliana Rolfe walked to put two on base, but Taunton starter Kelsey White snagged a comebacker by her opposite number, Faith Turinese, to end the inning.

The Warriors wouldn’t have another base runner until a one-out single by Rolfe in the fourth. Rolfe was controversially called out on a steal attempt and a pop up to first baseman Tayah DaCosta ended the threat.

“It’s been a struggle against most quality pitchers,” Beauchemin said about the lack of offense. “You’ve got to get that key hit, but we didn’t have many hits to begin with.”

Taunton wasted no time jumping in front. JJaime Brown led off the bottom frame with a double to right center. Abigail McDonough dropped down a bunt to move Brown to third and a wild pitch allowed her to come home with what would turn out to be the game-winning run.

Beauchemin said, “You can’t make any mistakes against this team. They’re as strong as they were last year, if not stronger.”

It stayed 1-0 until the third inning. With one out Brown drew a walk and again McDonough dropped down a bunt to move her into scoring position. Hanna Aldrich, who was robbed of a single in the first by KP shortstop Meghan Gorman, lined a base hit to left to double the lead.

Lewry said, “I just had a feeling it was going to be one of those games, so we want to get runs any way we can, chip away one at a time if we have to and it seemed to work out.”

In the fourth Taunton gave itself a cushion with a two-out rally. Turinese got a pair of fly balls, including one to deep center by Kelsey White, and seemed to be cruising through another inning, but Paige Silvia took a pitch off her thigh. Alexa White followed with a triple that was crushed into the gap in left center. White scored on a double by eighth grader Ava Venturelli.

“It brings the confidence in the next batter up to keep it going and it definitely gets the girls pumped,” said Alexa White about the importance of two-out rallies.

There was one more threat by the Warriors in the seventh, as they tried to keep their season alive. Rolfe was hit by a pitch with one out, reaching base for the third straight time, and Turinese hustled to beat out an infield single. Taunton’s defense made the plays it needed to with Aldrich and Brown grabbing grounders and getting the outs to seal the win.

“I think the kids gave a very good representation today, we played hard,” said Beauchemin. “We’re not young, but we’re inexperienced and I think next year we’re going to be a very formidable team.”

Lewry praised the Warriors and was happy to get through a third meeting with KP. He said, “I think they’re a much better team than they were at the beginning of the season and I thought they played an excellent game tonight. Their defense was good, their pitching was real good, and they just had some trouble hitting Kelsey, which is good for us.”

When asked if things felt any different entering the playoffs defending last year’s title, White said that the Tigers were just trying to focus on the moment rather than the ultimate destination.

“We’ve got a tough road ahead, we know that, but I think we have the talent to do it,” she said. “It’s about pulling everything together with clutch hits and keeping those rallies going. We have the mentality to take every game one step at a time. Just focus on the game you’re playing.”

Taunton (21-2) will host No. 10 seed Marshfield on Tuesday night at Jack Tripp Field.

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Two-Out Hits Propel Big Red Into South Quarterfinal

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Abby Gallagher holds up the ball after making a diving catch for the first out of the game against Dartmouth in the playoff opener, while Olivia Capobianco celebrates. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Having played each other twice in the regular season, including an 11-inning epic a little more than a week ago, there were no secrets between North Attleboro and Dartmouth in Saturday afternoon’s Div. 1 South first round game at Kelly Field. It all came down to execution.

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The Rocketeers scored seven times with two outs, including six runs after having two outs and no one on base, while the Indians stranded 10 runners and North ran away with an 8-0 victory that not only sealed a win of the season series but sent Big Red into the D1 South quarterfinal to face top seed Bridgewater-Raynham.

“I thought our defense played really well today,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “When you see a team twice…Bella [Erti] throws hard, but that wow factor is gone. For us, they throw the lefty and come back with the righty, but we know that. When you only have three strikeouts and they put the ball in play 18 times then you’ve got to make the plays.”

Two-out hitting has been a theme of late, as North used a series of two-out hits to beat Taunton in the regular season finale and had a similar burst in the first inning on Saturday. With two outs, Ashley Cangiano (3-for-3, three RBI) singled to left, Annabelle Hebard drew a walk, and Katie Daby brought both runners in with a ringing double that bounced off the fence in right center.

North wasn’t done. Emily Nardelli and Alex Moulson drew walks and Belle Clarkin lined a single to left center that brought in another couple of runs for an early 4-0 lead and a cushion for starting pitcher Bella Erti to work with.

“It just got us hyped and started and just play our defense after that,” said Cangiano about the quick start.

In the second inning, Olivia Capobianco reached on an error to lead things off. Abby Gallagher dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt and Capobianco showed off her wheels to go from first to third. She scored when Cangiano ripped a line drive to the centerfielder. It was the only run that North scored with less than two outs.

Wallace said, “It’s so much easier playing ahead than playing behind. When we bunted with Olivia on first, she goes first-to-third, you might not try that down a run.”

Mandi Hanewich drew a lead-off walk in the fourth and stole second on a pitch in the dirt. Capobianco bunted her to third and with two outs Cangiano came through with another line drive hit to right center to make it 6-0.

The runs kept coming, as North tacked on insurance runs off Dartmouth’s reliever Hannah Arruda (who hit a pair of home runs and drove in five the last time the two teams played), always wary of a dangerous Dartmouth lineup. With two down (again), Gallagher doubled to right center, the ball skipping past the centerfielder. Cangiano followed with a carbon copy, this time heading to third with an RBI-triple. Hebard doubled to left and North led 8-0.

This was far from an easy win for the Rocketeers. Dartmouth consistently put pressure on Erti and the defense, but North made the plays it needed, including a couple of spectacular grabs in the outfield. Gallagher got things started on the first out of the game, laying out in right to take a hit away from Arruda. Capobianco took extra bases away from the Indians in the fifth when she chased down Samara Turgeon’s drive to the fence, flipping over the fence after pulling in the catch.

Erti finished with only three strikeouts and Dartmouth left two runners on in the first, fourth, sixth, and seventh, but Cangiano praised her pitcher’s approach to grind her way out of jams.

“She just gets so focused and she knows what she’s doing,” Cangiano said about Erti bearing down with two outs. “She’s been pitching for so long that she’s so used to that kind of stuff.”

“Her biggest improvement this year has been limiting the walks and I know she walked two today but part of that was trying not to just pound the strike zone,” said Wallace. “I think a lot of those runners on base were with two outs and, honestly, if you want to point a finger at the game that was the difference: we had two-out hits and also made two-out plays. That’s huge.”

North Attleboro (16-5) will move on to the Div. 1 South quarterfinal to face top seed Bridgewater-Raynham on Monday.

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