The Tigers held bragging rights on their division rivals…right up until Monday night.
The third time proved to be the charm for the Warriors. Kali Magane struck out 11 and allowed only three hits and fellow senior Ashley Hession blasted a three-run homer in the second inning to lift KP to a 3-0 victory in the Div. 1 South quarterfinal at Jack Tripp Field.
“Oh gosh. We wanted to leave everything on the field,” said Hession about how the Warriors felt coming into Monday’s game. “I got up there and I just…we had to do it for the team, you couldn’t think about yourself, and we did.”
The defining inning began with a leadoff walk by Brooke Taute and a single by Caeli Bench that put two on with no outs.
Taunton pitcher Aimee Kistner got a line out to left and another line drive right back to the circle to give her a chance of escaping the jam, but her two-strike rise ball to Hession caught too much of the plate and the St. Joseph’s commit deposited the pitch over the left field fence.
“She caught a rise ball that possibly didn’t rise as much as we had hoped,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry, “and got it up around the letters and hit the ball out and that’s the ball game.”
Hession admitted that she had no idea that it was going to be a homer when it left her bat. She said, “I didn’t realize it was gone, I really didn’t. Not until I hit second base and then I knew. It was amazing.”
Magane dominated the Tigers from start to finish and made sure that Hession’s one swing was enough to earn the win. She struck out the side in the top of the first and struck out two hitters in an inning twice.
The Tigers got a two out walk in the second, but did not get their first hit until the fourth on a single by Meghan Navarro, which followed Kistner’s walk and was the only time that Taunton had more than one base runner in an inning. Magane stuck out Kya Enos and got Sarah Bagge on a soft liner over second that Hession chased down to end the threat.
“She beat us tonight. There’s no doubt about it,” said Lewry. “We didn’t even hit her well in the two games we won; we just got enough bats on the ball to score a couple of runs.
“In three games we probably squared four balls up. She’s good…the kid can pitch.”
KP coach Norm Beauchemin added, “Dominant, dominant. She’s getting more and more determined. Mentally stronger, but not physically stronger; I think she’s reached her peak.”
Taunton also got a hit from Katie Van Zandt with one out in the fifth, but the inning ended when Liana Duarte grounded to second baseman Meghan Gorman who turned a 4-3 double play. That was the last Tigers base runner, as Magane retired the final seven hitters.
“The first game they only had two hits,” said Beauchemin. “They may have had three hits today, so actually they may have hit her better today than the first game but we didn’t make any errors…and we scored runs.”
Kistner had a rough start to the game but seemed to get stronger as the innings wore on and turned it into another pitcher’s duel. She limited the Warriors to just two hits after the second inning (a single in the fifth and one in the seventh) and finished with three strikeouts, including back-to-back K’s to end the sixth.
“Aimee battled like she does every single game,” said Lewry. “She had trouble with a couple of pitches early on, couldn’t get things to work, but she just finds a way to battle through things.”
Lewry added that he is going to miss the influence of seniors Jordan Wade, Navarro, and Kistner, who have played at least four years on varsity and won a pair of league titles.
He said, “I said to the other kids coming back next year, let’s remember what they established. Lets remember the teamwork they emphasized. Lets remember the hard work they were willing to put in every single day. We’ve got to keep that same level of spirit.”
Beauchemin was basking in the moment after beating the Tigers. He said, “It was nice to see the seniors come through…If we don’t win another game, this one’s sweet, but I think we’re going on.”
When asked if he felt comfortable potentially playing the next two games at Jack Tripp Field, he replied with a smile, “We’re very comfortable here. We’ve played a lot of games here and had a lot of success in the past.”
King Philip (20-4) will face the winner of Hopkinton/Walpole on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.