That certainly didn’t phase the seventh seeded King Philip Warriors.
KP scored a pair of runs in the first inning, added two more in the fourth and tacked on one more in the fifth to get a 5-2 win over the Lakers and the team’s first sectional title since 2011.
“It takes the pressure off us,” King Philip head coach Norm Beauchemin said of the first inning runs. “It gives the opportunity to make a mistake but fortunately we didn’t make mistakes. Altogether, it’s a different game with a two run lead.”
The Lakers, who had been unbeaten at 23-0 (25-0 if you include exclusion games) coming into the game, had only allowed more than one run in three games this season and allowed more than two runs just once, a 5-4 win in April.
Sophomore Elise Pereira got things going in the first inning after Lakers pitcher retired the first two Warrior batters with swinging strikeouts. Pereira’s grounder rolled along the first bast line, was bobbled by the Lakers catcher and the throw was off the mark. Junior Jenn Hutnyan followed with a single through the left side of the infield to put runners on first and second.
Senior Caeli Bench came in clutch with a single to score Pereira from second for a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Brooke Taute followed suit with a slow roller down the third base line for an infield single RBI to make it 2-0. Kali Magane’s single loaded the bases for KP but Silver Lake pitcher Maddy Barone was able to induce a pop fly to right.
Despite leaving the bases loaded, the damage was done for KP.
“We wanted to get [Barone] early because she moves the ball a lot and we wanted to get ahead first because they’re a very good team,” freshman Meghan Gorman, who had a pair of RBI, said. “It gives us a lot of confidence [to get the lead] because we have Kali, she shuts everyone down, she’s great.”
While Barone retired KP in order in both the second and third, Magane worked around a one out double in the bottom of the first and retired the side in order in the second. Silver Lake was able to draw within one in the bottom of the third. Madeline Critch led off with a single and moved to second on a sac bunt. Critch then used a pair of wild pitches to get to third and then home to cut the lead in half.
But KP was quick to answer, stretching the lead to three by plating a pair of runs in the top of the fourth.
Taute started the top of the fourth with a double and moved to third when Magane lined a single down the left field line. Barone got a ground out by Gorman came through with her first RBI hit of the day, this one a double into left center to bring Taute and move courtesy runner Jessica Bonner over to third. Senior Christa Wagner drove a pitch to center, deep enough for a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.
“The kids are all good hitters, they make good adjustments, one through nine, Beauchemin said. “Anyone that thinks the bottom of our order is easy, they haven’t seen us play. Seven through nine is just as strong as one through three. Our number nine hitter [Gorman] is probably one of our best hitters but she’s also fast.”
After retiring the side in order in the fourth, Magane allowed a lead off walk in the bottom of the fifth but responded with back to back strikeouts and then got a ground ball to third for the third out.
“They made Kali work, they fouled off a lot of pitches,” Beauchemin said. “But Kali is as tough as a pitcher can be. She doesn’t get the accolades, I don’t know why. I’d put her over any other pitcher in the state in a game. It’s like Tom Brady, he doesn’t get the recognition but when push comes to shove, who are you putting out there? I’m putting Kali Magane out there every time.”
That gave KP enough momentum to tack on another run in the top of the sixth. Taute was the catalyst once again, this time leading off with a walk. Magane grounded out to the shortstop but Taute advanced to second. Gorman connected with her second RBI hit of the day, this one into the outfield deep enough to bring Taute home to make it 5-1.
“We didn’t hit [Barone] as hard this year but we got some scratch hits but they all add up,” Beauchemin added. “We’re comfortable against her because we hit her last year. Obviously, it was late in the game and we hadn’t scored any runs we would be concerned. But coming out with two runs kind of made us feel like we could hit her all day, which wasn’t going to happen.”
Silver Lake turned a lead off single into a run in the bottom of the sixth but Magane induced two fly balls in foul territory, caught by Pereira at first, and a grounder to Ashley Hession at short to finish the inning.
“King Philip was very aggressive at the plate,” Silver Lake coach Tony Pina said. “They were jumping on the first pitch in just about every at bat, making her throw a lot of pitches. Hats off to King Philip for taking the right approach offensively and putting a lot of pressure on our defense. [Magane] was doing a nice job of hitting her spots. She was hitting that low outside corner really effectively. At some point we needed to do a better job attacking that pitch and we didn’t.”
It was business as usual in the final inning for Magane, getting a line out to Hutynan at third, who made a nice grab, a swinging strikeout — her seventh of the game — and then got a grounder to short for the sectional final winning clinching out.
“It’s been five years since the team has won the South sectional, so this is a big win,” Beauchemin said.
“[Silver Lake] is a good team, but there are other good teams and whoever plays the best that day is going to win. Taunton is a very good team, Bishop Feehan had [Silver Lake] for six innings. There’s no cake walks in this tournament. This is probably the toughest tournament that anyone can play in.”
King Philip (22-4) advances to the Division 1 State Semifinal to play the North champion, Lexington. Lexington (20-4) defeated Newton North 2-1 in eight innings in the North sectional final. KP and Lexington will play for a spot in the state finals on Tuesday, at Martin Field in Lowell at 7:00.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.