All 12th-seeded North Attleboro had to do was play perfect.
Big Red was nearly flawless on the defensive end, came up with timely hitting and walked away from Jack Tripp Field with a 4-1 upset win over fifth-seeded Taunton.
“We played nearly flawless tonight – and that’s how you have to play to beat a team like Taunton,” Wallace said. “You have to play as sound as possible. We got a few breaks and that’s what we needed.”
Freshman Bella Erti pitched a complete game for the Rocketeers, scattering eight hits and one walk and struck out won to earn her second straight postseason win.
“Bella pitched great tonight,” Wallace added. “The good thing was that they didn’t see her the first time around (an 8-1 win by Taunton). That was a new wrinkle coming in. Especially when you draw someone from you own league, you usually see a pitcher you’ve seen before. She made two big plays in the field too.”
It took Taunton just three batters to take the lead in the bottom of the first. Sophomore Jaime Brown led off with a single, advanced to second on a sac bunt from junior Liane Duarte and scored on an RBI double from junior Kya Enos to put the Tigers ahead early.
The Tigers had at least one runner on base in every inning after that except for the sixth and had a runner reach third in three of those innings but couldn’t get another run in.
“[North Attleboro] played a great game,” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “I told Coach Wallace after the game that they executed everything the way it should be executed. And he said that’s the only way to beat you – to be perfect. And they were damn near perfect tonight. They played a real solid game defensively, they got key hits when they had to and they took advantage of our mistakes. That usually turns the tide, especially in tournament time.”
Big Red took a couple of innings to get its offense in gear. The Rocketeers went down in order in both the first and second inning and had just one hit in the third – an Andrea Miceli single – and just a two-out single from Erti in the fourth.
North finally broke through in the fifth inning. Sam Courtemanche reached after a throwing error to first and took second on the same play. Freshman Ashley Cangiano laid down a bunt and beat the throw to put runners on the corners for Big Red.
With both the infield and the outfield playing in, Abby Gallagher laced a hard grounder up the middle, the ball hitting the edge of the outfield grass and hopping over Taunton’s center fielder. Both runs came in to score and Gallagher took third on the play.
Meg Barlow delivered a single in the next at-bat to plate Gallagher and give North Attleboro a 3-1 lead.
“This place has been a house of horrors for us over the years,” Wallace said. “One reason is that Taunton has had such a great program over the years and the other is that when you get to the state tournament and in the semifinals and finals, you play great teams. This is a great memory for the girls to get the win here.”
Taunton was close to coming up with a big response in the bottom of the fifth. Enos reached on an infield error and went to third on a one-out double to right field from MacKenzie Handrahan. A line drive to center was snagged by Olivia Capobianco and she fired a strike home to get the runner on the tag up, ending the threat.
“That was the play of the game,” Wallace said of Capobianco’s throw.
North Attleboro pushed an insurance run across in the top of the seventh. Gallagher reached on Taunton’s sixth error of the day and moved to second on a sac bunt from Capobianco. Barlow just just a piece of the ball, putting it in the dirt right in front and the throw from first hit both Barlow and Taunton’s first baseman, allowing Gallagher to score.
“They executed better than we did and they deserved to win the game,” Lewry said. “We hit the ball pretty well most of the night, made good solid contact. But they made the plays, that’s the difference in the game”
Taunton threatened once again in the bottom of the seventh inning with Duarte (error) and Enos (walk) reaching with two outs, but Erti got a line drive to Cangiano in left field for the final out.
North Attleboro softball (13-6) advances to the D1 South Quarterfinals and will take on the winner of #4 Marshfield (15-3) and #20 Mansfield (13-8) on a date and time to be announced. Taunton finishes at 17-5.