McAloon’s Hit Helps Cement Legacy For Taunton’s “Big Three”

Taunton softball Hanna Aldrich McKenzie McAloon Kelsey White
Taunton’s “Big Three” of Hanna Aldrich, McKenzie McAloon, and Kelsey White pose with the state championship trophy after beating Wachusett. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 TAUNTON, Mass. – With one swing of the bat, Taunton senior McKenzie McAloon not only etched her name into the historic lore of Tiger softball, but she also cemented the legacy of a veteran trio aptly named “The Big Three.”

Joined by pitcher Kelsey White and shortstop Hanna Aldrich, McAloon helped Taunton’s “Big Three” put an exclamation point on their storied careers in a Tiger uniform with their second state title, the program’s sixth overall.

And fittingly, that trio proved to be the catalysts in the biggest game of the year.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

White, who is committed to play at Villanova, capped one of the best individual seasons in state history by firing a complete game shutout with 13 strikeouts, allowing just two hits in the process.

Aldrich, a Lehigh University-commit, set a new program record this spring, launching 15 home runs, five more than the previous record. Her two-out double was Taunton’s first extra-base hit of the game.

But the most important hit of the season, one that will define this state championship win, came off the bat of McAloon, who is headed to Bryant University to play softball. On the first pitch of her third at-bat, McAloon laced a ground ball up the middle and Aldrich came scampering home from second to score the lone run of the game.










“She sometimes can get lost in the mix among the three of them but what she does behind that plate is so underrated, and what she gives to this team as far as leadership and taking the younger kids under her wing, she’s always so positive,” said first-year Taunton coach Carrie Consalvi. “She’s the whole package, she’s that kid you’re going to see really blossom in college, I really feel that.

In her first two at-bats of the game, which took place back on Wednesday, she popped up to the catcher and to short.

The lengthy break gave McAloon and the Tigers some time to adjust to the pitching of Wachusett ace Riley Quirk, who had allowed just three base hits through the first five innings.

McKenzie McAloon Hanna Aldrich Kelsey White

“She definitely threw faster than most girls we’ve seen this year and then she has that rise ball,” McAloon said. “Over our little break that we had, we were hitting off the pitching machine, I was going to the field with my dad working on not swinging on something above my eyes and just really looking down and seeing something under my hands.”

It didn’t take long for McAloon to get a pitch she liked, connecting on the first pitch from Quirk to give the Tigers the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs.

“She comes with a lot of first pitch strikes and I’m a first pitch strike hitter, I like to go after that and attack it, it’s usually the best pitch I’m going to get especially as the four batter,” McAloon said. “I knew once it was coming over the plate that I was going to go for it. If it was a strike, I was going to swing.

“I went up to the plate with confidence. Hanna got into scoring position for us so it was perfect timing, I knew I just had to put the ball in play for my team.”




White came back out and retired the side in order for the fourth time, getting her 13th strikeout of the game to clinch the championship. On the other end of the strikeout was McAloon, who caught 116 innings this season after playing second base during her first three seasons with the Tigers.

McAloon, White, and Aldrich were all in the starting lineup when Taunton knocked off Wachusett for the 2018 State Championship as well.

“I was so hyped up for her,” White said of McAloon, who drove in her 25th run of the season for the game-winning run. “She just deserves every single second of this. It’s great that we’re ending our last season on a great note. We really wanted this, this was our goal to leave high school with the title.”

McAloon finished the season hitting 0.443 with 27 hits, launching six home runs of her own. She also only allowed just two passed balls in the 116 innings that she caught with only two players able to steal a base.

Aldrich kept the inning alive with her double, the Tigers had two quick outs on a pop fly to the first baseman in foul territory and a strikeout. The shortstop fell behind in the count but patiently worked her way back to a full count before lacing a double into the gap in right-center.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

McKenzie McAloon Hanna Aldrich Kelsey White

“Kenz is so deserving of that,” Aldrich said of McAloon. “She’s probably one of the people that works the hardest on the team and she totally deserved that today.”

Aldrich closes the season with 40 hits for a whopping 0.625 batting average, and of course, the program’s new home run record (15). White went over 200 strikeouts for the season during the game with under 100 innings pitched, adding 11 home runs (which also broke the old program record) and 28 RBI.

“This is awesome,” McAloon said. “We lost our season last year, but coming out here and winning, this is what we’ve wanted all season long. We’ve worked hard for this. Every practice, every pitch, we’ve all worked for this. It’s just a dream to finish with a state championship.”

Taunton Wins Rain-Delayed Final, Secures Sixth Title

Taunton softball
The Taunton softball team poses with the 2021 MIAA Division 1 State Championship trophy after beating Wachusett. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“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.”

Franklin Battles Back But Falls to Westwood in Final

Franklin seniors Sydney Hawkins, Ali Socci, and Katie Jones and coach Kristin Igoe-Guarino with the MIAA D1 State Finalist trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – As it had for almost all of Thursday night’s Div. 1 state championship game at a packed Pisini Stadium, the Franklin defense came through with another stop when it needed it most, forcing a turnover in a tie game with the clock racing to the final horn. Overtime seemed inevitable.

The Panthers tried to clear from behind the cage, but a slip in the pouring rain and a loose ball in front of an empty goal proved decisive. It was a moment that seemed to happen in slow motion.

Westwood sophomore Ava Connaughton scooped the ground ball and, while falling, found the back of the open goal with just 12.2 seconds on the clock. The Wolverines won the ensuing draw to secure a 6-5 victory and their ninth state championship. Franklin went toe-to-toe with the most successful program in state history, but came up just short in its first state title game appearance.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I’m so proud of this group,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino. “We’ve been in that situation before and for them to battle back against a really, really good Westwood team was amazing. I thought our ‘D’ was amazing, Brigid, they just made one more play than us on the offensive end. It happens, but I’m really proud of the girls, they played amazing.”

In the opening minutes of the game, it didn’t look like a dramatic finish would be in the cards. Franklin looked nervous, making uncharacteristic turnovers and being tentative in front of goal. Kaitlyn Carney had the first chance of the game from the opening draw, but was denied on a dodge from the left side by Westwood goalie Anya Holland.

The Wolverines started strongly and took a quick 2-0 lead inside the opening 2-1/2 minutes. Ashley Mackin, Westwood’s star and a Johns Hopkins-commit, played provider, feeding first Lindsey Diomede and then Connaughton for goals.

Franklin’s defense, led by Sydney Hawkins, Anna Grasso, and Ali Socci, was soaking up endless pressure in the first, as the Wolverines seemed to have the ball for the vast majority of the opening quarter. The Panthers also got a big boost from junior goalie Brigid Earley (10 saves), who made a big kick save to deny a point-blank chance and then took one off the mask from Kella McGrail.

“This is her first year playing goalie and look where she brought us,” Igoe Guarino said of Earley, who started as a freshman attacker on JV and volunteered to step in between the posts to fill a need this season. “She’s incredible and she made some huge saves on some Div. I shooters and kept us in the game. I’m really proud of her. She learned quick and she led us to the state finals.”

Three minutes into the second, Westwood added a third and looked like it might be able to break the game open. Mackin was again the provider, finding Kate Deehan on the cut through the middle. After Earley made another big stop to deny Lillian Hancock after a free run through the heart of the defense, Mackin got her first of the night on a sidearm snipe.

Franklin needed to find something positive on the offensive side of the ball. After several missed opportunities from eight meters, Kate O’Rourke found a crucial breakthrough on a free position with 4:43 left in the half. The Panthers went into the break down 4-1, but still hanging in and still with a shot at the title.

The hosts picked up a big early goal in the third to build momentum. Stella Regan picked out Carney cutting through the middle and her lefty finish found the top corner.

Mackin got her fourth assist of the night, this time setting up Jane Gaffney in front to restore the three-goal lead, but the Panthers looked like they had more life than the opening half.

Earley helped out again, getting enough of a Mackin rip from distance to send the ball just over the bar. Three minutes later, Regan was able to drive into the middle from the right side and finish over the top of Holland to make it 5-3.

With the clock winding down in the third, Earley got a piece of yet another shot, which caromed out to Kenzie Baker. She snagged the ground ball, got it to Regan, who moved it on to Carney at midfield. The sophomore instantly attacked, splitting a pair of defenders, racing 50 yards, and then firing into the top far corner with just 17.4 to go.

It was a stunning goal at the perfect moment to send the Panthers into the fourth with all the momentum and ramp up the energy in the crowd. It was also the moment that the heavens opened and it started pouring.

Four minutes into the fourth quarter, the comeback was complete. Carney played provider this time, driving towards the cage from the right side and seeing Jamie Tanner at the back post. Tanner was able to make a nice catch in traffic, spun, and finished over Holland to tie the game at 5-5.

Westwood had its chances to go back in front, but Earley continued to play at another level. Mackin fed Deehan in front but Earley stayed tall to make the stop, then she denied Diomede from close range, and took one off the midriff after Mackin got open in the middle. Baker had the best chance down the stretch for Franklin, but Holland (four saves) came up with a big stop.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

In the end, it took an unlucky bounce to separate the two teams. Franklin (18-1), which is only seven years removed from its first sectional title, showed just how far it has come as a program. The Panthers wanted to show that a title game appearance was no fluke and that they were on the same level as the best in the state.

“I’m just so proud for all the alumni who set the culture standards before and brought us inch-by-inch,” said Igoe Guarino. “We have a great youth program, the girls work incredibly hard not just in season but out of season, and I think they just left a legacy no matter the outcome of this game.

“For years to come, this is the standard for Franklin lacrosse,” she continued. “We lost to the best in the state by one, we’ll be back.”

Franklin Beats Chelmsford, Heads to First State Final

Franklin’s Kate O’Rourke scores a goal on a low shot in the final minute of the third quarter to restore a two-goal lead. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – As the clock ran down under six minutes to play, Franklin held a three-goal lead in Tuesday night’s Div. 1 state semifinal at Pisini Stadium and the Panthers held possession. Before they could advance up the field, the officials stopped the game. Lightning in the distance caused a delay that stretched to nearly an hour.

When play resumed, 5:25 was all that stood between Franklin and a spot in its first ever state title game. After the Panthers ran a minute off the clock, Chelmsford forced a turnover and converted it into a goal on the other end. Now it was only a two-goal game. Another chance a minute later went inches wide of the post and Stella Regan chased it down behind the cage to win possession.

Franklin had the ball and 3:33 on the clock. The Panthers showed great patience and vision to keep the ball moving in the attacking half of the field, running down the clock despite Chelmsford pressuring every pass. Franklin held on for the 11-9 win, handing Chelmsford its only loss of the season and ending a long wait to play for a state title.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“It’s awesome,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino. “I think it’s been a long time coming. I think this group has worked extremely hard and they deserve it. They’re all in, so we’re really excited for Thursday.”

This spring, Igoe Guarino’s alma mater Boston College also ended a long wait for its first national title, with Franklin’s Annie and Erin Walsh on the roster, and the former Eagles star is hoping that mojo can carry over to the Panthers as well.

“I kind of feel like Boston College,” she said. “They went to the national title three times and they won it on the fourth, so maybe we can do the same.”

The hosts came roaring out of the gates, winning four of five draws in the opening quarter and quickly jumping out to an early lead with three goals in less than two minutes.

Kenzie Baker won the opening draw of the game, got the ball upfield to Kaitlyn Carney, who then fed Katie Jones in the middle for a goal after just 13 seconds. Exactly a minute later, up a player, Kate O’Rourke was able to score from eight meters to double the lead. Twenty-four seconds after that, Regan picked out Katie Peterson cutting through the middle to make it 3-0.

Chelmsford answered 30 seconds later with a side-arm finish by Sofia D’Agostino, but things settled down after that frenetic start. Franklin almost added one midway through the first, but Jackie O’Neil’s free position shot was saved. Peterson kept possession, but Carney had a goal waved off for being in the crease. The Lions also had a chance from eight meters but Brigid Earley (four saves) made the stop.

The Lions cut the lead to one early in the second and had a good look to tie it but Earley robbed Leah Green from point-blank range. Baker restored a two-goal cushion when her pass to Jones cutting across goal eluded everyone, including the goalie.

After the lead was cut back to one, Franklin went on a run to grab control of the game. Right from the draw, O’Rourke found O’Neil for a goal. Regan then spotted Jamie Tanner, who went with an overhand finish to beat Chelmsford goalie Morgan Wright (seven saves). O’Rourke and Baker each added free position goals to give Franklin its largest lead of the game.

Chelmsford got one back but trailed 8-4 at the break. Maybe it was a momentum boost because in the third quarter the visitors rallied.

The Lions scored three straight goals to get the lead down to just one. With 3:04 left in the third, O’Rourke again drove right at the goalie on an eight-meter try, going low to get a crucial goal. In the closing seconds, Franklin called timeout to set up a play. Peterson swung the ball to Baker, who moved it on to Jones. The pass into the middle was high, but Carney made a great catch and was able to finish in one motion to make it 10-7 with just 2.1 left in the quarter.

“That’s a theme,” Igoe Guarino said about teams coming back in the third quarter against the Panthers in the postseason. “There’s ups and downs of every game and we survive. We have players who can make big plays to help turn it around like Kaitlyn grabbing it and putting it in. I think we’re used to ups and downs and teams go on runs it’s just who can outlast.”

Earley came through with a big stop on Kate Krueger two minutes into the fourth, but multiple efforts to clear went array and the Lions capitalized. Julia Pitts got Krueger the ball on the edge of the crease and this time she didn’t miss.

The score stayed the same until just under seven minutes to play. Regan was able to get the ball to Peterson in space. She drove towards the cage and with the goalie aggressively chasing passes had a lot of space to shoot at. Peterson made no mistake and put the hosts up 11-8.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Even lightning delays couldn’t slow down Franklin (18-0), which will now host South champion Westwood on Thursday night. Not only is this a chance to make history by winning a state title, but also to earn a rare win against a program with a long history of being one of the best teams in the state.

“Beat the best right?” said Igoe Guarino, who also battled the Wolverines in the state semifinals while winning two state titles as a player at Framingham. “Westwood is just a powerhouse, but we’ll be ready. We know they’re fast and like to double and they have some really good players.

“We’re definitely going to have to play better than we did today. I think our team has yet to play a complete game, so maybe they’re saving it for the end.”