NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Having played each other twice in the regular season, including an 11-inning epic a little more than a week ago, there were no secrets between North Attleboro and Dartmouth in Saturday afternoon’s Div. 1 South first round game at Kelly Field. It all came down to execution.
The Rocketeers scored seven times with two outs, including six runs after having two outs and no one on base, while the Indians stranded 10 runners and North ran away with an 8-0 victory that not only sealed a win of the season series but sent Big Red into the D1 South quarterfinal to face top seed Bridgewater-Raynham.
“I thought our defense played really well today,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “When you see a team twice…Bella [Erti] throws hard, but that wow factor is gone. For us, they throw the lefty and come back with the righty, but we know that. When you only have three strikeouts and they put the ball in play 18 times then you’ve got to make the plays.”
Two-out hitting has been a theme of late, as North used a series of two-out hits to beat Taunton in the regular season finale and had a similar burst in the first inning on Saturday. With two outs, Ashley Cangiano (3-for-3, three RBI) singled to left, Annabelle Hebard drew a walk, and Katie Daby brought both runners in with a ringing double that bounced off the fence in right center.
“It just got us hyped and started and just play our defense after that,” said Cangiano about the quick start.
In the second inning, Olivia Capobianco reached on an error to lead things off. Abby Gallagher dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt and Capobianco showed off her wheels to go from first to third. She scored when Cangiano ripped a line drive to the centerfielder. It was the only run that North scored with less than two outs.
Wallace said, “It’s so much easier playing ahead than playing behind. When we bunted with Olivia on first, she goes first-to-third, you might not try that down a run.”
Mandi Hanewich drew a lead-off walk in the fourth and stole second on a pitch in the dirt. Capobianco bunted her to third and with two outs Cangiano came through with another line drive hit to right center to make it 6-0.
The runs kept coming, as North tacked on insurance runs off Dartmouth’s reliever Hannah Arruda (who hit a pair of home runs and drove in five the last time the two teams played), always wary of a dangerous Dartmouth lineup. With two down (again), Gallagher doubled to right center, the ball skipping past the centerfielder. Cangiano followed with a carbon copy, this time heading to third with an RBI-triple. Hebard doubled to left and North led 8-0.
This was far from an easy win for the Rocketeers. Dartmouth consistently put pressure on Erti and the defense, but North made the plays it needed, including a couple of spectacular grabs in the outfield. Gallagher got things started on the first out of the game, laying out in right to take a hit away from Arruda. Capobianco took extra bases away from the Indians in the fifth when she chased down Samara Turgeon’s drive to the fence, flipping over the fence after pulling in the catch.
Erti finished with only three strikeouts and Dartmouth left two runners on in the first, fourth, sixth, and seventh, but Cangiano praised her pitcher’s approach to grind her way out of jams.
“She just gets so focused and she knows what she’s doing,” Cangiano said about Erti bearing down with two outs. “She’s been pitching for so long that she’s so used to that kind of stuff.”
“Her biggest improvement this year has been limiting the walks and I know she walked two today but part of that was trying not to just pound the strike zone,” said Wallace. “I think a lot of those runners on base were with two outs and, honestly, if you want to point a finger at the game that was the difference: we had two-out hits and also made two-out plays. That’s huge.”
North Attleboro (16-5) will move on to the Div. 1 South quarterfinal to face top seed Bridgewater-Raynham on Monday.
TAUNTON, Mass. – As she walked off the field following the final out, North Attleboro third baseman Annabelle Hebard, smile on her face, head back, lifted her outstretched arms up and took a big breath. It had been a long couple of days for the Rocketeers, who traveled to Taunton on Friday night for their third game in three days. After suffering back-to-back losses, North went into the regular season finale against its fellow league champion trying to build momentum entering the playoffs.
North showed no ill effects from its busy schedule, jumping out to a four-run lead in the first inning, twice led by the Tigers by five runs, and then held off a late Taunton rally to earn a 6-5 victory at Jack Tripp Field. It was exactly the response that head coach Bill Wallace wanted from the Davenport division champions.
“We kind of needed this tonight,” North coach Bill Wallace explained. “We lost two games that weren’t the easiest to swallow, if you know what I mean, and this one, the kids are like okay we’ve got our mojo back. We did the little things, we bunted, we moved runners along.”
While North had been playing every day, Taunton had been off for five days and there was a little rust at the beginning of the game. Starting pitcher Kelsey White retired the first two North hitters, but then Ashley Cangiano beat out an infield hit on a slow roller to short. Hebard followed with almost the exact same play. Katie Daby made it three straight hits, lining a single to right to score the first run.
After Emily Nardelli drew a walk, Alex Moulson got North’s third infield hit, this time right up the third base line, and brought in the second run. Belle Clarkin, North’s No. 8 hitter, doubled the lead with a bloop single to right that scored a pair of runs.
“They came through with the hits when they needed them,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry, “but sometimes you’ve got to make those dribbler plays when you need them too. We were a little bit slow reacting today.”
A one-out error proved costly in the second inning for Taunton. Cangiano bunted Abby Gallagher to third with two outs and Hebard got her second hit of the day, grounding it right back up the box, to make it 5-0. All five runs were scored with two outs.
“That was really helpful,” said Wallace. “Bella [Erti] has thrown 24 innings in the last three days against three really good teams, so I think she could relax a little bit. She’s got more guts and that’s what it was, a gutsy performance.”
Despite having pitched 17 innings in the previous two days, including an 11-inning outing against Dartmouth on Wednesday, North starter Bella Erti came out firing. She struck out a pair in the first and didn’t allow a hit until the third. She only allowed six hits overall.
Taunton got one back in the fourth inning. Hanna Aldrich drilled a lead-off homer to straightaway center that made it 5-1. An error put McKenzie McAloon on and it looked like the Tigers might be able to start chipping away at the deficit but Moulson and Nardelli turned a quick 6-4-3 double play that effectively ended Taunton’s momentum.
The reason that Taunton was still in the game was the relief effort from Alexa White. The senior replaced her sister in the circle with two outs in the second and retired the first 11 batters she faced, nine of them by strikeout. She finished with 12 strikeouts in just 5-1/3 innings and allowed only one hit.
“She was amazing, especially considering she hasn’t pitched much in the last month,” said Lewry about White. “She pitched an inning or two here or there, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Today she was right on, kept us in it.”
North did manage a crucial insurance run in the sixth. With one out, Clarkin hit a deep fly ball to left that went off the fielder’s glove. Mandi Hanewich dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move Clarkin to third and then lead off hitter Olivia Capobianco stunned Taunton with a perfect safety squeeze to get the run in.
That run proved to be the game-winner because the potent Taunton offense found its footing against a tiring Erti in the bottom half of the inning.
Abigail McDonough singled to center with one out to start the rally. Aldrich ripped a single up the middle and then both runners read a pitch in the dirt to move into scoring position. McAloon walked to load the bases and then Payton Ceglarski belted a single to right to score a pair.
After a fly ball for the second out, Paige Silvia got her first hit of the game, singling to center to score another two runs and bring the Tigers back within one. Erti managed to escape with the lead, getting a grounder to third to end the threat.
“I think we developed some character tonight,” said Lewry. “We haven’t been in that position this year, we haven’t had to play from behind. I didn’t know how they would react, but they reacted pretty well. We learned that we can come back and we had some kids come through with some big hits tonight.”
Erti made quick work of the seventh, getting the Tigers in order to secure a win that has ramifications in the league title race, in the seeding for the upcoming tournament, and for North Attleboro (15-5, 13-3) confidence as it looks to make a run at bringing home a trophy.
Wallace said, “Part of what made this so important for a lot the kids is that we haven’t done very well against the Kelley-Rex (four of North’s five losses came against teams from the opposite division) and we were wondering, where are we? Now, we showed we can play with anyone.”
Taunton (19-2, 13-2) will now go into Saturday night’s rivalry game with King Philip needing a win to secure the outright league title and also to hang out to one of the top two or three seeds in D1 South.
“It’s a big game tomorrow,” Lewry admitted. “We want to win the Hock outright, so we need to win tomorrow. It’s as simple as that. It’s another big game, we just need to play from inning one not inning four.”
CANTON, Mass. – With an opportunity to make history for the program, North Attleboro put together a near perfect performance on Friday night under the lights at Walsh Field. The Rocketeers shut down division rival Canton, with junior pitcher Bella Erti throwing a five-inning perfect game, and the bats came alive, pounding out 17 hits and 13 runs.
It all came together for Big Red, which rolled to a 13-0 victory and secured at least a share of the program’s first league title since 1990. On top of that, it was also the 250th win of head coach Bill Wallace’s 20-year career (18 at North and two at Walpole).
After the game, the team presented Wallace with a ball signed by all the players and they gathered in the outfield and at home plate with a sign that had 1990 crossed out on one half and 2019 written on the other.
“We had a team meeting before the bus and we said, this is it,” Wallace explained after the game. “This is the homestretch and we need to get our focus and start winning every pitch. Not win every inning, every game, it’s got to be every pitch and the kids were really dialed in today.”
Canton freshman pitcher Sophia Santos threw a perfect top of the first, but the Rocketeers got to the Bulldogs starter in the second. Annabelle Hebard (4-for-4) led off with a double to left center and Katie Daby (3-for-3) followed with a single. Emily Nardelli walked to load the bases and then Alex Moulson lined a two-run single to left.
After a sac bunt moved two runners into scoring position and a walk to No. 9 hitter Mandi Hanewich (2-for-2), Olivia Capobianco drilled a base hit to center, aggressively taking second just ahead of the throw, to plate two more. A sac fly from Abby Gallagher made it 5-0, but the inning ended with Canton centerfielder Liz Bickett throwing out Capobianco as she tried to advance to third.
Erti started the game strongly, striking out two in each of the first two innings. In the third, North tacked on three more. Ashley Cangiano (2-for-3) singled and took second on a wild pitch before scoring on a hit by Hebard. After Caroline Hughes took over in the circle for the Bulldogs, Daby drilled a triple over the head of the right fielder. Daby scored on a groundout by Nardelli.
The Bulldogs continued to struggle at the plate, but started making contact against Erti, striking out only once after the second inning. North’s infield defense made no mistakes to keep Canton off the base paths.
“They played so clean and I look at all nine positions they play the game the right way,” said first-year Canton coach Dave Bohane.
He added, “Against some girls you can try to be patient because they might have a wild streak to them but with Bella Erti, she’s in control out there. But, our kids went up there not overwhelmed. We can play better than that but again no shame in losing to them.”
North sealed the win in the fourth with five more runs. Hebard drove in her second run of the night, Moulson brought in her third run with a hard grounder off the third baseman and Hanewich cleared the bases with a double pulled straight down the line and right over the first base bag.
“I thought Hughes came in and did well,” Bohane said. “She’s a veteran and battled. I know it’s a lot of runs, but they’re a good hitting team. The bottom of the order has gotten us in both games too.”
In the bottom of the fifth, the Rocketeers clearly wanted to finish off the perfect game for Erti. She induced grounders from SSteph Trendell, Jackie Morrissey, and Hughes. The last one went to first baseman Alivia Byrne, who took it to the bag herself and set off the team’s celebration.
“They’re so happy,” said Wallace about the team pulling for Erti to get the perfect game. “That means a lot to me. At the end of the day, that is what’s important and they really pull for each other.”
When asked about what it meant for the program to get over the hump (North had a stretch of three straight seasons that it finished one game out of first place) and claim an elusive league title, Wallace pointed out that his team has made the playoffs 11 out of the last 12 years, reached two South semifinals, and one South final.
As he explained, North’s 29-year wait for a league crown was more a product of the level of competition that the Rocketeers faced within the league.
“Part of it was that we were in the Kelley-Rex division with Taunton and King Philip,” Wallace said. “And then there was Milford, which lost like three games in two seasons. It shows how strong the league is. Since 2008, we’ve missed the tournament just once and yet this is our first league title.”
North Attleboro (12-3, 10-2) can clinch the outright Davenport division crown on Monday with a win at Foxboro. Canton (6-10, 5-9) will host Milford on Tuesday and needs a win against Dedham on May 23 to secure a playoff spot thanks to the Sullivan rule.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In a showdown between two of the Hockomock League’s top pitchers, North Attleboro’s Bella Erti and Stoughton’s Nicole Baker both delivered.
Erti, a junior, allowed just one run on four hits and one walk, striking out 13 in the circle for the Rocketeers. Baker, a sophomore, was also strong with just two runs (one earned) allowed on three hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts, including 10 swinging.
A game with two great pitchers is likely to come down to one or two plays, and that’s exactly what happened.
Stoughton took the lead in the top of the fourth inning, but the Rocketeers answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. And then erased the tying run at the plate in the top of the sixth on a nice defensive play by North Attleboro junior catcher Ashley Cangiano.
“It was nice to respond,” said North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace. “We’re still a young team, we had four girls that it was their first varsity start. Having said that, they know the game. We knew that we’d have to put the ball in play.
“Baker did a really nice job, Bella did a really nice job. It was classic pitcher’s day…the wind blowing in, cold…and both pitchers did exactly what they were supposed to. A game like that comes down to one or two plays, and the bunt and the play are home were the two plays.”
Both pitchers had it going early on. Bella retired the first nine Stoughton batters in order, six by strikeout. Baker allowed just two base runners to start, one on an error in the first and Katie Daby’s leadoff single in the second. But neither runner advances past second and Baker had seven strikeouts through three.
“That was a great game and it really could have gone either way,” said Stoughton head coach Deb Parker. “Nicole had a great day, that’s how she throws every day. She keeps her composure and does what she needs to do. She’s going to keep us in every ball game.”
The offenses for both teams came alive in the fourth inning. Stoughton senior Jordan Lyons sliced a one-out triple over the right fielder’s head. Two batters later, junior Lexi Baptista hit a hard grounder through the right side for a two-out RBI and a 1-0 lead for the visiting Black Knights.
Stoughton’s Bri Ferrandiz followed with a single up the middle to put runners on first and second but Erti bounced back with a three-pitch strikeout to escape further damage.
North Attleboro had an immediate response in the bottom half of the fourth. Cangiano led off with a single up the middle. Annabelle Hebard followed with a bunt up the third base line. The ball was bobbled into foul territory, and Cangiano hustled to an open third base, which allowed Hebard to take second.
Daby hit a soft grounder up the middle but the throw to first was high and both Cangiano and Hebard came home safely. Stoughton freshman Sydney Menz made a terrific catch in right and doubled the runner at second to help the Black Knights keep the deficit at one.
“That’s two juniors and a senior making those plays,” Wallace said of leaning on more experienced players while the younger players gain experience. “We only started the one senior today, we have a handful of juniors. We have to learn as we go. We still made some mistakes but we got through it.”
Stoughton threatened with the tying run at third in the sixth but North Attleboro denied the Black Knights. Karly Estremera led off with a walk and moved to second on a single from Baker. A short grounder allowed Estremera to take third and Baker moved to second.
On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Cangiano was able to block the ball down. It looked like it had gotten away from her and Estremera took off for home but Cangiano recovered nicely, grabbed the ball and made a diving play to tag the Black Knight base runner as she slid into home for an out.
“Ashley did a great job on that play,” Wallace said. “I thought she could have had her the play before, the girl got caught leaning a little but I think it surprised Ashley a little bit. But I think that helped because then she was aware and felt like she could have gotten her, and then she did a great job blocking and tagging her.
“I trust our lineup, one through nine we can get it done,” Parker said. “If we’re going to be aggressive and take a chance, I thought that was a chance worth taking. It just didn’t go our way.”
Baker retired the final six batters in order while Erti had a 1-2-3 seventh inning, including back-to-back strikeouts to end it.
North Attleboro softball (1-0 overall, 1-0 Hockomock) is back in action on Monday when it entertains Oliver Ames. Stoughton (1-1, 1-1) has its first home game on Tuesday against Attleboro.
2018 Record: 9-12 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Homer
After back-to-back playoff appearances, the expectations are high around the Attleboro program this spring. The Bombardiers return eight of nine starters from last year’s team and the lineup should be loaded with good hitters, as well as multiple players who can step into the circle and produce a good start. With the depth on the roster this season, Attleboro will be eyeing another postseason berth.
Senior McKenzie Bergdoll is one of the top power hitters in the league and will be back for another spring in the heart of the Attleboro lineup. She will be joined by classmates Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti as starters. Junior Makenzie Killough will be back at shortstop and also batting cleanup and providing protection for Bergdoll in the order. Sophomore Lora Woyton returns behind the plate, sophomore Autumn O’Connell will be in center and batting second and junior Ashley Macia will be out in left. Sophomore Brenna Morse will be taking over in rightfield. In the circle, Attleboro has plenty of depth with juniors Emily and Jenna Gittle and Bergdoll all able to step in. The Bombardiers will try to take advantage of their overall team speed and head coach Mark Homer said there are a few freshmen who may see playing time right away.
“The bar was set high from last season,” said Homer. “So the girls are onboard to perform well again this season with high hopes of competing in every game they play. They have set some goals to achieve one a\t a time. I am cautiously optimistic with our chances of winning more games this season than we have in the past. Knowing that there are no easy games on our schedule so we have to come to play every night.”
2018 Record: 8-13 2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Dave Bohane
Canton had quite the turnaround in 2018 under second-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, winning eight games, seven more than in 2017, and making a return to the state tournament. Robillard, last season’s HockomockSports.com Coach of the Year, has moved on to a position at Bentley and football coach Dave Bohane has taken over a team that has seen an influx of young talent and has momentum on its side heading into the spring.
Junior pitcher Caroline Hughes is one of the reasons for optimism in the program, as she is looking to build off a strong sophomore season in which she pitched almost every inning. Hughes was also one of the team’s top hitters and she will be at the heart of the lineup along with sophomore outfielder Liz Bickett, who batted .409 last season. Bickett is just one of several sophomores who the Bulldogs will be counting on, including infielders Olivia Lanci and Sarah Kelly, catchers Steph Trendell and Amanda Vrabel. Junior catcher Jackie Howard and seniors Haley Donovan and Ally Chin will provide leadership for this young group to try and get the Bulldogs right back into the state tournament mix.
“I am very excited to be coaching this team,” said Bohane, who has previously served the program as an assistant coach. “They are extremely hard working and devoted to the program. I think they will set the standard for our future players who come through the program. It’s a very tough league, but we will take it one game at a time and try to improve each game”.
2018 Record: 11-12 2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Mark Maguire
Foxboro made a run in the Div. 2 tournament last season, winning a pair of games before being knocked out in the quarterfinals, and the Warriors will hope to build on that exciting finish to 2018 by making a run at the Davenport crown this spring. Even with the loss of catcher Hannah Davis, who was instrumental in the team’s playoff run, Foxboro has a strong returning core and some talented young players stepping in to give head coach Mark Maguire confidence ahead of the new season.
Senior Emma Rohan will be back in the circle for her fourth year as the Foxboro starter and she has the experience of pitching in a number of big games and against the top teams in the league. Senior Cam Willis will play first this season, but can also step in and pitch if needed along with junior Amelia Stowell. The pitchers will have a rookie to throw to, as freshman Allie Willis will be stepping in behind the plate. Sophomore Morgan Sylvestre returns at shortstop after a strong first season on varsity and will be one of the leaders of the infield. Senior Chelsea Gibbons is at third base and freshman Peyton Feldman takes over at second. Sophomore Nicole Theriault will be in centerfield but can play a number of positions, senior Riley Martignetti gives the team pop from the right side of the plate, and senior Jill Finn can play all three outfield positions.
“Preseason is going great as the girls are working very hard to be ready for the season,” said Maguire. “We have a group of girls who work hard. I think team defense should be good with our senior leadership, and the younger players who aggressively look to make plays in the field. I have high expectations for this team, as we look to compete for a Davenport title and gain a state tournament berth.”
2018 Record: 9-11 2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Kate Fallon
Franklin has consistently been right behind perennial league leaders Taunton and King Philip in the Kelley-Rex division standings but has narrowly missed out on the playoffs by a single win in each of the past two seasons. This year, the Panthers have eight seniors coming back with the goal of getting the team back into the postseason and use a typically tough schedule to prep for a tournament run.
Pitching will be a strength for the Panthers this year with seniors Jackie Cherry and Emily Valentino giving the team depth and different options in the circle. Throwing strikes will be the key for both and limiting opposition base runners. Behind the plate, Franklin has plenty of experience as well with seniors Ally Shea and Maggie Hobby both capable of stepping in and handling the pitchers as well as providing power at the plate. Senior Tara Hartnett will be back at shortstop and provides strong defense up the middle. Junior Anna Balkus will be in centerfield and will set the table for the offense as the lead-off hitter. Junior Maddy White will be at third base and joins Shea and senior Kylie-Jade Bouzan as the team’s primary run producers.
“We are excited to see the Panther players on the field again,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau. “Overall our tough league and non-league schedule will keep us focused for tournament and we will rely on our solid pitching and defense.”
2018 Record: 21-4 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Final Coach: Norm Beauchemin
Every season King Philip loses important players and every season the Warriors seem to be right back in the mix for the league title. This spring should be no different. KP will have several important players to replace in the lineup, but it expects to challenge for a 12th title in the past 13 seasons and also make another tournament run, following last year’s South final loss to Kelley-Rex rival Taunton.
Meghan Gorman is the player to watch for the Warriors this season, as the senior shortstop is one of the top defensive players in the state and also the spark plug at the top of the lineup. Senior Faith Turinese will move from the outfield into the circle and will split time with classmate Heather Nix as the top pitchers for the Warriors. Turinese also batted over .400 last year and will be an important bat in the middle of the order. Junior Destiny Goyco will step in behind the plate, after overcoming an injury from basketball season, and fellow junior Liliana Rolfe will take over at third. Grace Kelley will be at second base and Anna Bradley will be at first. The outfield will be filled with speed, including Kara McWhinnie in left, sophomore Paige Berdos in center, and either Ryan Stagg or junior Reaegan Simeone in right.
“One to nine, everyone hits the ball,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin. “I’m looking forward to another solid season. The league overall is going to be very competitive, so it should be fun.”
2018 Record: 7-13 2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Lori Letendre
Mansfield is looking to bounce back from a tough 2018 season in which the Hornets struggled in the Hockomock (going 4-12 in league play) and missed the playoffs. This year, Mansfield hopes for a quick turnaround and return to the state tournament with an experienced roster that brings back 11 players, seven starters, and seven seniors from last season.
The battery of senior pitcher Sarah Cahill and senior catcher Caty DeMassi is back and should give the Hornets a good foundation on which to build on this season. Seniors Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo will hold down the left side of the infield and provide pop in the middle of the lineup, while Mady Bendanillo returns in centerfield to give Mansfield a dynamic defensive player and another strong bat. There is an influx of youth as well with two sophomores and a freshman jumping into varsity and having the chance to contribute right away.
“Our goal is to make it back to the tournament this year and with strong leadership from our captains and our seniors, I think we will have a good shot at it!” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre.
2018 Record: 18-3 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Steve DiVitto
The biggest question for Milford is how do the Hawks move on from a group of 10 seniors that won a combined 79 games, four league titles, and the 2017 state championship? Milford has been the team to beat in the Davenport division for six years and a relatively inexperienced group will have to face a season in which the target for every team in the league is squarely on their backs.
Junior Megan Hart is one of the primary options to replace Kelley Reichert in the circle to start the season, with freshman Olivia Morelli showing potential to step in and contribute innings right away. Senior Lucy Creedon can step in at first or in the outfield. Junior April Swain will jump into the outfield along with classmate Taylor Waldrup, while junior Amanda Wenckus can play either position on the left side of the infield and sophomore Carly Ferreira can play either corner infield spot. Sophomore Elise Fauerbach can play behind the plate or in the outfield, while her classmate Natalie Casilli will take an outfield spot. There are a lot of spots to fill this year, but head coach Steve DiVitto is talking about that as an opportunity for a new group of players to step into.
“We understand that lack of experience is something that we will need to combat with, however the bar will continue to be set high!” DiVitto said. “Each year a new page is turned over, and as always the focus is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season. We’re excited for the challenges of playing in the best league in the state!”
2018 Record: 16-5 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Bill Wallace
Two seasons ago, North Attleboro was a young team that made a surprise trip to the South semifinal, but this year the Rocketeers will have much higher expectations. North is now the experienced team in the Davenport division and has aspirations of unseating Milford and winning a first league title since 1990 and adding to the league’s recent history of strong tournament performances with another deep run.
Junior pitcher Bella Erti will be one of the league’s top pitchers again this season, after a 15-5 sophomore season in which she struck out 137 batters. She also hit .357. Junior Ashley Cangiano is also back for her third year as a starter and is one of the top catchers in the league. Abby Gallagher returns to the North outfield after hitting .500 last season as a sophomore and senior Olivia Capobianco will be back in centerfield and the middle of the North lineup. Freshman Mandi Hanewich and sophomores Emma Bailey and Belle Clarkin will compete for the third outfield spot after impressive preseasons. Senior Katie Daby is at first, while sophomore Emily Nardelli moves from shortstop to second base. Junior Alex Moulson takes over at short and her classmate Annabelle Hebard will be at third. Emily Bedard and Makenzie Nardelli add to North’s infield depth and Alivia Byrne will give Erti a rest in the circle and is another big bat in the lineup.
“We will need to be more multi-dimensional, as late in the year we couldn’t sustain our offensive start to the season,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “This group really wants to make their mark on the league and they know how much work that is going to take.”
Last season was a struggle for the Tigers, with only three wins and head coach Lindsey Allison is hoping that a group of younger players can add to the returning core and make a push to get Oliver Ames back into the state tournament. Allison is confident that the offense will get into the swing of things for the Tigers after scoring only 66 runs last season, second-lowest in the league.
Senior Kayla Georgeu will be back in the circle for OA and in the heart of the lineup. The Tigers will count on sophomore Emma Varella to provide some innings at pitcher, as well as playing in the infield. Senior first baseman Katie Mills is a big bat for the Tigers and junior Katie Abreu can step in at either shortstop or centerfield depending on the game to provide vocal leadership. Sophomore Grace Simone will be behind the plate this season.
“Every spot is open for the taking and there are many young players who are hungry to be on the field,” said Allison. “This group of players seem like a team – not just a group of individuals. They compete with one another for positions, but also support each other. They hold each other accountable and communicate. I am excited to see what hard work can accomplish this season.”
It was definitely a rough debut season for Sharon coach Heather Poliferno, but it was also a chance for a number of young players to get experience at the varsity level. This spring, there is renewed enthusiasm with a crop of underclassmen joining the experienced players to give Poliferno and the Eagles confidence for a much better spring.
Freshman Trinity Payne is the player to watch for the Eagles this season as she takes over as the starting pitcher and has already drawn the attention of coaches in the Davenport division. She will be used at a couple of different positions and gives the Eagles versatility in the lineup. Senior Alli Small will be back at shortstop this season, while classmate Jody Goldenberg is back at first, and senior Rebecca Clayman will be the leader of the outfield group. As the program is growing, Sharon is hoping for much different results this season.
“We are very excited for this season!” said Poliferno. “We have many returning players leading our varsity team, as well as the addition of a very talented freshman class. Though we have only had a handful of practices, one of our clear strengths is our desire to be the best on the field.”
2018 Record: 7-13 2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Deb Parker
Stoughton struggled to find a groove in 2018 and ended up missing the playoffs under first-year head coach Deb Parker, who had made the switch from Sharon before last season. This year, the Black Knights bring back starters in key positions and once again have the potential to make a run at a state tournament berth and even challenge for the Davenport title.
Seniors Nikki Coppola (second base) and Jordan Lyons (shortstop) give Stoughton a strong combination up the middle and senior Karly Estremera brings plenty of experience at third base. Sophomore pitcher Nicole Baker will take over full-time in the circle this season and Parker is impressed by the work that she put in during the off-season to get ready. Baker will be throwing to an experienced catcher, as senior Brianna Ferrandiz is back behind the plate for the Black Knights. Junior Lexi Baptista will lead the outfield crew in center and could also be one of Stoughton’s top hitters this season. Freshmen Melody Casna and Sydney Menz will give the Black Knights versatility by playing multiple positions.
“This team has come together so quickly, it is a real tribute to the leadership of our captains,” said Parker. “This team knows what they are playing for this year and we have high expectations going into the season. Softball in the Hockomock League is incredibly competitive but if we continue to work hard, we should have a great season.”
2018 Record: 26-2 2018 Finish: Won D1 State Championship Coach: Dave Lewry
How do you follow up a state championship? For Taunton, it just may be to make a run at a repeat. The Tigers lost the second, third, and fourth hitters in the lineup (including league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Kya Enos), who combined for 88 RBI, but there is a ton of talent coming back from last season, all of whom contributed at one point or another during Taunton’s run to the title.
It starts in the circle where sophomore Kelsey White will be the starter again this season after going 16-2 as a freshman and pitching every inning during the playoff run (not to mention batting .418). Her sister Alexa will also see time at pitcher, along with freshman Olyvia Mendonca, but will also play most of the season in centerfield. The infield will be a strength for the Tigers, with all four players back. Senior Jaime Brown (batted .469) is back for her fifth year at third base and is one of the top hitters in the league, sophomore Hanna Aldrich (.385 average with four homers and 30 RBI) is in her third year at shortstop and was this site’s Underclassman of the Year in 2018, sophomore McKenzie McAloon returns at second base for her third season, and junior Paige Silvia is back at first. Silvia and junior Riley Murphy are also in the running to replace Enos behind the plate, while junior Abbie McDonough takes over in left and eighth-grader Ava Venturelli could start the season in right.
“While we lost three outstanding players to graduation, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “We have a good nucleus of returning players looking to defend our D1 state championship.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – It was a game that felt like a preview of the Div. 1 South tournament, with both teams defending in numbers and chances at a premium. Mansfield and North Attleboro, both defending division champions, demonstrated tough team defense and got timely goalkeeping in a fast-paced, scoreless draw on Wednesday night at Alumni Field.
“That was a good game,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “It was a state tournament-level game. It was physical, it was fast, and every mistake was punished by both teams.”
North created early chances in the first half. Emma Gaulin was particularly active in the Rocketeeers midfield winning the ball back and pushing North into the attack. A give-and-go with her sister Ashlyn allowed her to run at Emily Vigeant but the Mansfield defender was able to get back in time.
Just a minute later, Lydia Santos lined up a 30-yard free kick that dropped right into the middle of the box but was punched away by Mansfield keeper Lauren Whitman. The rebound fell to Haley Ferrin but her effort went over the bar. Kayla Pasquel played Emma Gaulin in behind on the left side of the box but her shot was saved by a diving Whitman (four saves).
Mansfield also passed the ball well in the opening half and was finding some space behind the North fullbacks. Sydney Mulkern played a ball into Steph Kempon the left edge of the box and her cross bounced off a defender in the box and bounced to Katie Garvin, who hit the volley over the bar.
Kemp had a neat turn in the box to get space for a shot that was blocked on its way to goal by Olivia Bishop. On the ensuing corner, Vigeant nearly curled it directly in, but North goalie Emma Noreck was able to get a fingertip on it. Emma Gaulin nearly opened the scoring a few minutes later but Whitman made the kick save.
Just before halftime, Vigeant again came close from a set piece. This time it was a 50-yard free kick that she put just under the crossbar but Noreck was able to get up and tip it away.
“Emma Noreck had probably her best game,” North coach Bill Wallace said. “At halftime I wanted to pull her because she’s been under the weather all week, but she told me to leave her in.”
The second half was a much cagier 40 minutes, as both teams clamped down in the midfield. Melissa Reef helped out the Hornets back line in limiting the touches for Ashlyn Gaulin and the center back pairing of Mikaela Maughn and Vigeant kept just about everything in front of them. On the other side, Sam Hawkins, the only returning defensive player from last year, and Brieann Westcott were equally tough to beat.
“They just played their hearts out,” Wallace said. “Twice this year we’ve changed what we normally do for teams and the girls reacted great to it. That’s not normally how we play but boy they did it to a ’T’. The longer you keep them off the board, the smaller the goal seems, the more those passes tend to go longer, and that was our intent.”
Mansfield had a good opportunity six minutes after the break when Garvin played Cassidy McMahon into space but Noreck was able to save. Vigeant’s corner found Garvin at the back post but her header was blocked by a host of North defenders.
Alex Moulson had a chance off a North corner but her header went narrowly wide. Kemp reacted first to a loose ball and had a go from 20 yards, just missing the target at the near post.
The best chance to break the deadlock came with 10 minutes to play. Santos slipped Pasquel into space on the right and she crossed to Ashlyn Gaulin in the box but the league’s leading scorer couldn’t get full purchase on her shot and it was saved comfortably by Mansfield’s second keeper, Caty DeMassi.
Wallace remarked, “We’re really happy with the point and now we’re one away from the tournament…Both teams played really strong and that’s a great tournament warm up.”
Mansfield was playing for only the second time in nearly two weeks and there was an element of rust, which North was able to amplify. Smith explained, “Our first touch just wasn’t there. Whether it was the first touch on the pass or on the receive and go, it was just a little too far away from ourselves and their speed and pressure was real intense, so we couldn’t afford that.”
North Attleboro (7-2-3, 6-2-3) will host Stoughton on Friday afternoon. Mansfield (9-0-2, 8-0-2) travels to Attleboro on Friday and then hosts Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) on Saturday.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It may have only been the second week of the season and both teams had yet to even play a handful of games this fall, but the intensity of the play on the pitch Wednesday night was reminiscent of a playoff game or at least when these teams meet with the Blue-Red Cup on the line.
It was tight, it was physical, and in the end it was tied. Briley Harnois scored with 15 minutes left in the game to cancel out Kayla Pasquel’s first half strike and earn Attleboro a point in a 1-1 draw with North Attleboro on the Beaupre Field turf.
“We’ve been a slow starting team and I challenged them today to really start right off the opening whistle,” said Attleboro coach Steve Santos. “They worked hard. We knew it was going to be a physical game. They have a lot of speed up top and on the wings and we knew we had to slow them down.”
The Rocketeers created enough chances over the course of the game that on another day, with more composed finishing, they could have pulled out the victory. But, for all the chances created by the hosts, the two goalies finished with the same amount of saves because North struggled to put the ball on frame.
North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace said, “We had some chances. A lot of shots we were leaning back on and they were going high, but this is a completely different team than last year and these kids are working real hard. It’s been a crazy preseason, crazy start to the season, and we’re starting to find ourselves.”
Ashlyn Gaulin was the primary focus of the Attleboro defense, with several players taking turns to man-mark the senior forward (who has accounted for six points in a game twice already this season), but she was still able to work scoring opportunities.
Just seven minutes in, Gaulin’s nifty footwork opened up the Attleboro defense but her shot from the right side of the box was right at Bombardiers goalie Tayla Drape. Seven minutes later, Gaulin flicked a pass through the defense to Pasquel, who then gave it right back but the shot went over the bar.
North found its breakthrough in the 23rd minute. Again it was Gaulin who opened up the Attleboro back line, showing off her skill to get space on the left side and then deftly chipping a cross to the back post. Pasquel beat her defender to the ball and bundled it over the line for a 1-0 advantage.
While Attleboro was not getting as many shots on goal, the Bombardiers were giving North’s defense something to worry about on the break with the speed of Harnois and fellow sophomore Isabella Salviati keeping the Rocketeers on their toes. Senior defenders Sam Hawkins and Bishop Feehan transfer Olivia Bishop both had to cut out chances.
After Julia Reyes had a shot from the right wing that went into the side netting, Attleboro got its first shot on target in the 35th minute. A Harnois free kick from 25 yards was saved under the bar by a leaping Emma Noreck.
Just a minute later, Emma Gaulin sent in an angled free kick from nearly midfield that found the head of Haley Ferrin, but the header was right at Drape. North had one more chance before halftime, as Emma Gaulin played the ball through to Lydia Santos, who picked out Ashlyn Gaulin, who then fed Pasquel, but again the final shot was too high and off target.
The Rocketeers continued to get shots off early in the second half. Pasquel teed up Alex Moulson racing in from the left side but she could not keep the shot down under pressure from Ashley Lauzier and Gaulin and Pasquel combined again for a chance only to have the shot smack off the football goalposts.
“I rotated a few defenders on Ashlyn to keep her man-marked,” Santos explained, “and in the second half we had to push a few more up and create more chances, put pressure on their backs. They had some chances early that I’m sure they wish they had back.”
As long as the game stayed 1-0, Attleboro felt like it had a shot. In the 55th minute, Jessica Gates got free on the right and her cross went all the way across the box to Reyes, who had her shot blocked. The rebound bounced to Salviati but again the shot found the leg of a North defender. Three minutes later, Gates had a long free kick that Noreck was able to catch.
In the 65th minute, the Bombardiers found an equalizer. Salviati ran onto a bouncing ball down the right side and played a clever, one-touch pass in behind the North defense that Harnois was able to run onto. With Noreck racing off her line to cut down the angle, Harnois made no mistake with a rasping finish into the far corner.
“It was a good finish,” Santos said. “I thought she had one more chance when she came down here and she just mis-struck it. When you show up at North Attleboro, you know it’s going to be a battle.”
After the goal, Attleboro had momentum and nearly took the lead but Reyes’ cross was just in front of Salviati on the edge of the six-yard-box. North had one last chance in the final six minutes, but Gaulin saw her line drive free kick held by Drape.
“We’re beginning to be a little more offensive,” said Santos. “We have some girls who are feisty and they’re willing to be scrappy. The girls are starting to believe in themselves and that’s what you need to compete in the Hock.”
Wallace added, “This was a good motivational game for them because the intensity was there. We hadn’t faced this kind of intensity yet this year. At this point in the season, we’ll take the point and move on, but hopefully we’ll finish those chances.”
Attleboro (1-2-1) will try to build on the draw when it hosts defending league champ King Philip on Monday. North Attleboro (2-0-2), which moved into a one-point lead in the Davenport, will host Taunton on Saturday morning.
2017 Record: 10-6-2 2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Kate Howarth
Canton has been on the cusp of getting back to the top of the Davenport division in recent seasons and on their day the Bulldogs can be very difficult to play against. As one of the favorites for the league title this fall, consistency will be the biggest challenge for Canton as it tries to unseat North Attleboro at the top of the Davenport standings.
To get the attack in gear, Canton will be turning again to its youth. The Bulldogs will look to sophomores Olivia Rodman and Elisa Diletizia to run at opposing defenses and continue developing a partnership that was one of the most potent in the league last fall. Senior defender Sarah Collins will be the leader of the Canton defense, which will look to improve on the 34 goals allowed from last season. Junior Morgan McCabe will be stepping into a larger role this season, with her versatility as a forward or midfielder, and senior Julia Hamilton adds tenacity in the center of the pitch.
“I think this is going to be an exciting year for us, with strong players returning and some exciting new talent stepping in,” said Canton coach Kate Howarth. “Our goal as a group is to push passed being a really good team and become the great team we know we can be. The Hock is such a strong league and every team pushes each other to become better.”
2017 Record: 10-9-0 2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Katie Stalcup
Last year was a transition season for Foxboro under first-year head coach Katie Stalcup, as a group of talented young players made their debuts at the varsity level. The Warriors improved over the course of the season, made the playoffs, and now with a year of experience for a young squad there is a lot of buzz about Foxboro this fall.
The graduation of Lily Sykes, who was one of the league’s top players for all four years of her career, leaves big shoes to fill, but Foxboro has a number of players with potential to make up some of her production. Senior Mackenzi Fraser will be the main striker for Foxboro this year but sophomore Jordyn Collins will add speed on the wing and freshman Kaitryn Franchino will contribute up top as well. Junior Kendra Wentling returns in the midfield and freshman Kailee McCabe is a player to watch in the center of the pitch. Defensively, Foxboro has a lot of experience in senior Alex Stamatos, who will be joined in the back line by junior Yara Fawaz. Sophomore Morgan Sylvestre will be in net again this fall.
Stalcup praised the team’s tenacity and speed. She added, “I am very excited about this season. Even though we are still a young team, I think we will do very well. We have a team full of hard workers and great attitudes.”
For the past several seasons, Milford has been on the verge of getting back to the playoffs and now new coach Lou Colabello, who formerly coached at Douglas, will look to push the Hawks up the league standings with a number of experienced players in key positions.
The midfield will be patrolled by seniors Siena Pierce and Cassie Probert and junior playmaker Juliana France, who was named a league all-star as a sophomore and demonstrated the ability to cover a lot of ground in the middle of the pitch. The Hawks scored only 24 goals last season, so the attacking unit will be hoping to step it up this year, including senior Hannah Martin and junior Ashleigh Starks. The defense also has plenty of experience with junior Olivia Marshall back in goal and her classmates Maddie Boyle and Annie Flanagan in front of her to keep things organized at the back.
Colabello said, “We should have a solid midfield and many other players who can play different positions,and we expect big things from our returning goalkeeper. I feel this team is capable of competing with some of the elite teams in the league. There work ethics and attitude have been outstanding,thus I expect it will be a rewarding season and hopefully a playoff berth.”
2017 Record: 14-3-3 2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Bill Wallace
North Attleboro will need a number of players to step into bigger roles this season, if the Rocketeers are going to make it three league titles in a row. North graduated 14 seniors and eight starters from last year’s team, but there are a number of familiar names and big contributors who are back and aiming for a three-peat.
The Rocketeers scored 60 goals last year and senior Ashlyn Gaulin contributed on 27 of those (17 goals and 10 assists). She will be the focal point of the attack this season, after the graduation of 100-point scorer Haley Guertin, and her sister Emma will try to provide the assists from the midfield. Seniors Kayla Pasquel and Haley Ferris will add to the experience in the center of the pitch for North and classmates Morgan Silver, Liz Smahi, Lexi Sinacola, and Lauren Pezzi will add depth in the midfield and defense. Seniors Sam Hawkins and Brieann Westcott will be at heart of the defensive unit with classmate Emma Noreck in goal.
North coach Bill Wallace said that sophomores Lydia Santos and Tess Collins will be contributors this season in midfield and attack. He added, “This group is a pleasure to work with, they want to work hard and get better.”
Sharon alum Catherine Sullivan takes over the program this season, as the Eagles look to rebuild and work towards a return to the state tournament. With the graduation of Ali Filipkowski, Sharon lost a lot of firepower but Sullivan is excited about the potential and the growth of the team during the preseason.
One of the key returning players is senior goalie Lydia Chase, who is a fearless shot stopper and her distribution will be important for the Eagles’ transition game. In front of Chase, senior Rose Wald is back in the heart of the defense and will partner with sophomore Molly McAlevey, who is a newcomer to the varsity but already showing a lot of composure on the ball. The midfield engine is senior Maxine Gordon, who will drive the Eagles forward, and junior Bella Berger will add playmaking and vision in the center of the pitch. Senior Bridget McManus will be the main forward and she will be expected to not only provide goals but also set up her teammates and get others involved in the attack.
“As a Sharon graduate, I’m really excited about the opportunity to once again represent the maroon and gold,” said Sullivan. “I think this team has a lot of talent and athleticism, and we will be striving to create a cohesive group that can consistently compete at a higher level.”
Although Stoughton was unable to pick up an elusive league win last season, Black Knights coach Tara Daniels felt that there was progress from the team, particularly in attack. A group of speedy, young attackers made Stoughton a more dangerous team and that experience has Daniels hopeful for even more in 2018.
Speed on the edges is going to be a key strength for the Black Knights this season led by senior outside back Cintia Khouzami and sophomore Nikki Anderson, who has gained a lot of confidence after playing a lot of minutes as a freshman. In the heart of the defense, senior Corina Kavanagh will be the leader of the group, ensuring everyone is organized. Sophomore Mackenzie Manning is another player who grew a lot over the course of her rookie season and will again be the primary playmaker for the Black Knights and a key to keeping possession. Senior Gabriela Diaz played a lot at the back last season, but this year her speed will be utilized up front to create even more opportunities.
Daniels said, “Our strength this year is our speed; our team has many players that excel on the track in the off-season. Last year we made big strides offensively and this year we plan on using the speed of many players to help us continue the offensive push we need.”
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro had the right defense in place and the pitch out of sophomore Bella Erti’s right hand was in the right spot.
But Braintree’s Meghan Duffy got just enough of the pitch, the two-out bloop single falling just fair in no man’s land in right field, bringing two runs across.
That was all the damage the Wamps did on the scoreboard, and despite a seventh-inning rally from the host Rocketeers, it was enough for a 2-1 victory for #9 Braintree.
“It was an inside pitch and she just fisted it out there,” said North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace.
“What are you going to do? We had the right defense on for an inside pitch, but those things happen. I told the girls afterward, that’s why we play the games. You have to tip your hat to Braintree’s pitcher [Erin Barry]. I don’t think she walked a batter.”
Barry, in fact, didn’t issue a base on balls and struck out 11 Rocketeers. North had just two hits through six innings before nearly coming back to tie the game in the final frame.
Sophomore Abby Gallagher led off the inning with a double to left to start the rally and classmate Ashley Cangiano followed with a hard hit single through the right side for a single, putting runners on the corners with no outs.
Sophomore Annabelle Hebard grounded out to shortstop but Gallagher came racing home, cutting the deficit to 2-1, while Cangiano took second.
Barry put an end to the rally through, striking out the next two North Attleboro batters to secure the win.
Erti was equally as good to Barry, allowing just four hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
Braintree orchestrated its two-runs with a leadoff single from Barry before Erti got the first out with a strikeout. Lily Adams reached on an infield error and courtesy runner Delia McGuire advanced to second.
On a ground ball from Kara Paquin, McGuire was called out after a collision with North Attleboro freshman Emily Nardelli, keeping runners at first and second with two outs. But Samantha Hayes drew a two-out walk and Duffy followed with the bloop double.
Olivia Capobianco led off the fourth inning with a bunt single and ended up on second after a throwing error. Gallagher’s groundout to Capobianco at third with just one out but Barry once again got a big strikeout and then a soft liner to short to end the threat.
“I had a great group of seniors, there were 10 of them, they are going to be sorely missed,” Wallace said. “And then we also have a very good group coming back. We have seven starters coming back, including the pitcher and the catcher. It’s a tough way to go but they had a great season. If you had told them at the beginning of the year they’d be 16-5, I think they’d be pretty happy with that. But as you go, your expectations increase so it makes it harder.”
North Attleboro softball finishes the season at 16-5.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin came into Monday’s Memorial Day matinee with North Attleboro needing a victory keep alive hopes of reaching the postseason. After punching in a run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, throwing a runner out at the plate to stay tied in the ninth, and escaping a bases loaded jam in the top half of the 10th, the Panthers were just 60 feet from the win.
Senior Meghan Caron, the lone Panther player celebrating senior night before the first pitch, stood at the plate with Tara Hartnett poised at third. Caron hit a chopper towards the left side of the infield and North shortstop Emily Nardelli had to come home with it, but Hartnett was off on contact and slid in ahead of the throw.
Franklin pulled out a 4-3 victory that split the season series against the Rocketeers and also sends the Panthers into the season finale knowing that a win will clinch a spot in the state tournament.
“I’m so pumped for her,” Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau said of Caron. “They call her ‘Meg Money’ because she was so clutch when she was younger, growing up, and I’m just glad she was the one that was clutch today.”
It was a back-and-forth game from the start. The Panthers took the lead in the bottom of the first thanks to an unearned run. Allie Shea (3-for-5) got it started with a single to left and Anna Balkus beat out a bunt single. Nardelli made a diving stab of a Maddy White grounder up the middle to get a force at second but a bobble on a grounder off the bat of Hartnett brought Shea home.
North took its lone lead of the game in the third inning. Olivia Capobianco singled with one out and stole second. Abby Gallagher followed with a walk and then Ashley Cangiano lined a double into right center than scored one. North coach Bill Wallace held up Gallagher, as the Franklin relay got the ball in quickly, but Bella Erti helped her own cause with a single that drove in both runners for a 3-1 advantage.
Franklin cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning. Balkus and White singled to start the inning and, after a force at third to get the lead runner, Hartnett singled to right to drive in White and make it 3-2.
After the third both pitchers settled into their starts. Erti retired 12 straight Franklin hitters from the third to the seventh inning and finished the game with eight strikeouts. Cherry kept the Rocketeers off-balance, moving the ball around and although she walked eight hitters, she also struck out 15 and didn’t allow a run over the final seven innings.
“She settled in nicely,” Fallon-Comeau said of her starter. “She found the pitch that worked for her and, you know, she just pounded parts of the zone that they didn’t seem to be hitting hard.”
North had its chances to extend the lead, stranding a pair of runners in the fourth and one each in the fifth, sixth, and seventh. “We did [get the hits] early to go up 3-1,” Wallace said, “but then we had runners in scoring position all day but we left a small village on base.”
The inability to tack on insurance runs came back to haunt the Rocketeers in the seventh. A one-out walk to the nine-hitter Gabby Colace got the rally started. Shea followed with a single to left and both moved up into scoring position on a groundout to first by Balkus. White hit a bouncer to short that Nardelli bobbled for a split second before firing to first. It was a bang-bang play at the bag and White was ruled safe, allowing the tying run to score.
“It’s either now or never, so get it done. If you want your season to continue then you need to get a run here, two would be nice,” said Fallon-Comeau of her message to the team before the seventh. She added, “They’ve been that way all season. They don’t get down. They really rise up for the competition.”
North nearly broke the deadlock in the ninth. A one-out walk to Gallagher was followed by a blast to center by Cangiano that one-hopped the fence. This time, Wallace elected to send the runner, but the relay from Balkus to Hartnett to catcher Maggie Hobby was perfectly executed to cut down the go-ahead run at the plate.
Fallon-Comeau explained, “I can’t tell you how many balls we’ve hit off the fence and say okay get the fastest kid in our program out at home. We do it all the time because it comes down to get the ball and perfect throw and perfect throw. If you don’t have that, then it’s a run.”
Franklin put two on in the ninth as well, with one-out singles by Shea and Balkus but Erti got a pop on the infield and a strikeout to end the threat.
“She grinded and that’s typical of her that she gets better as the game goes on,” Wallace said of Erti. “She’s not the least bit tired right now. In her eyes, she’d rather be out there throwing two, three more innings.”
The Rocketeers threatened again in the 10th. Katherine Munley drew a walk and with two outs Andrea Miceli lined a single to left. After Abby Warren drew a walk, the bases were loaded but Cherry was able to bear down and struck out Capobianco to keep the game tied.
“Little things win games like that and we didn’t do enough of the little things to win,” said Wallace, who added that this was good preparation for his team before the tournament. “We’ve got to do a better job situationally hitting, things like that, and these are things we can point out at practice.”
In the bottom of the inning, Hartnett singled to start the inning and moved up to second on a wild pitch. She failed to move up a base on a hard grounder to the right side by Kylie-Jade Bouzan but went to third on a second wild pitch. That gave Caron the chance to be the hero on senior night.
“We did it. I don’t know how we did it, but we did it,” said Fallon-Comeau. “Bill and I, since probably back when I was in high school because he was the coach when I played, have always had these barnburner games. It goes back-and-forth, back-and-forth all the time and I’m just glad it swung back in our direction this time because we needed it.”
Franklin (9-10, 8-8) will have one last game against Bridgewater-Raynham on Wednesday night. If the Panthers win, then they are in the playoffs. North Attleboro (15-3, 11-3) will face Davenport division champ Milford on Thursday.