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.
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.