TAUNTON, Mass. – North Attleboro came into Thursday night’s Div. 1 South semifinal against top seed and unbeaten Silver Lake at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field as the heavy underdog. The Rocketeers were the No. 12 seed, had three freshmen in the starting lineup, including a freshman starting pitcher, and were playing their fourth game in seven days.
When the Lakers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning, the game seemed like nothing more than a formality on Silver Lake’s path to the sectional final, but North did not go quietly and continued to battle all the way to the final out, making the top seed work for the win.
In the end, Silver Lake had too much for North Attleboro, pulling out a 12-5 victory and setting up a match-up with No. 2 seed Milford in Saturday afternoon’s South final. Despite the defeat, North coach Bill Wallace was proud of how far his young team had come this season.
“I like how they didn’t give up…and it’s hard,” said Wallace. “Even when it was 11-3, we’re still banging hits and, you know, we had the bases loaded…I’m thrilled with the way the kids played this year.”
The Lakers looked every bit the top seed with six runs in the first two innings. A two-out single by senior pitcher Jill Richards scored an unearned run in the first and in the second inning the Lakers sent 10 batters to the plate and brought home five runs, including a two-out, two-run single by senior catcher Emily Critch.
Trailing 6-0 and with no hits through two innings, the Rocketeers could have rolled over and called it a spring, but instead North showed signs of life in the third and cut the lead in half.
Freshman Ashley Cangiano (4-for-4) and junior Andrea Miceli started the inning with singles and freshman Abby Gallagher reached on an error to load the bases. The Lakers got the first out at the plate but senior Megan Barlow drew a walk to get North on the board. Senior Liz Morehouse followed with a two-run single off the glove of Silver Lake shortstop Caroline Videtto.
The Lakers responded in the bottom half of the inning with another five runs to break the game open again. After freshman Bella Erti got a comebacker for the first out, the Lakers had five straight hits, including a two-run single by Videtto to make it 11-3 heading to the fourth.
Wallace said of Silver Lake, “That team can rake. They get the barrel on the ball quite a bit.”
Gallagher got one back for North in the fourth with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Cangiano, who had somehow gotten to third on the play before with an unorthodox slide to avoid the tag.
In the fifth, the Rocketeers got a fifth run with a two-out rally. Pinch hitter Amelia Murphy, who has battled injuries all season, reached on an infield single, took second on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single to center by Kristina Murphy.
After a rough start, Erti settled into her start and, despite having pitched a complete game against Marshfield just a day early, seemed to get stronger as the game went on. She retired eight Lakers in a row between the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“Bella is a freshman and she just kept gutting it and gutting it and I couldn’t be any prouder of her,” said Wallace. “She’s a tough nut and when you’re a freshman you have the weight of the seniors on your shoulder and all the upperclassmen and she’s handled it great. She’s very coachable and she’s just going to get better.”
In the top of the sixth, North had the chance to make things interesting when Cangiano and Miceli started the inning with singles, but Richards struck out Gallagher, Anna Battista chased down an Olivia Capobianco fly ball in foul territory, and Barlow lined out to second to end the inning.
“The kids just kept battling, but when you’re chasing you can’t do the things that get you there,” Wallace said. “We’re a little bit of a different team when we’re ahead than when we’re chasing runs, but we’ve got more dimensions.”
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Alexandra Ruprecht reached on an error. Two batters later, Hannah Mitchell singled to right center for an unearned insurance run.
In the seventh, North continued to put pressure on the Lakers. Morehouse and Murphy each singled to get things started. Morehouse was forced out at third and Sam Courtemanche lined out to short before Cangiano got her fourth hit of the day to load the bases. Richards closed out the hard-fought win with a strikeout.
While the night ended in defeat for North Attleboro (14-7), there is plenty for the Rocketeers to be optimistic about. Six of the nine starters will be back next season, including Erti in the circle.
“If you could’ve told me at the beginning of the year that we’d be standing here in the semifinal, I’d say that’s great, but not only did they get it but they got to live through the four games to get here.”