ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The parking lot was packed on Saturday afternoon, fans forced to make the trek up to the New England Sports Village from the street, and the stands were filled to the brim for a battle of neighbors. Bishop Feehan’s reaction after pulling out a 1-0 win over North Attleboro matched the atmosphere pulsating down from the crowd.
Feehan’s players swarmed each other at the final horn, while North players dropped to the ice in anger and frustration. This felt like a Div. 2 playoff game, not one being contested before Christmas with the teams having played only a handful of games between them.
“We did enough to win, but we’re fighting through back breaks,” said North Attleboro coach Ben McManama. “It’s tough. The kids are working hard, they’re good kids, so it’s harder for me to watch them have to go through that. We’re turning the page; it’s not where we start, but where we finish.”
Having had a week off between its opening game against Oliver Ames and its meeting with Feehan, North took a while to get its skates under it. Senior goalie Ryan Warren (26 saves) was on top of his game, however, and held the Shamrocks off the board during a dominant opening period.
Warren made nine saves in the first, while the Rocketeers managed only three on the other end. Just two minutes into the game, Warren was forced into a big pad stop to deny Ben Gaucher as North freshman defenseman Austin Comery chased back to hassle the Feehan forward.
With six minutes left in the first, Warren got a big helping hand from his defense. After Warren was knocked out of goal making a save, junior Jeff Baker reacted first to clear a loose puck off the line. Warren was caught wide of the goal in a mass of bodies and the puck went out to the point, Comery stepped in front of a goal bound shot to prevent the opening goal (in the process suffering an injury that forced him out of the game).
Feehan continued to attack and Gaucher had another chance with a tip on the edge of the crease but again Warren managed to get his pad across to make the stop.
“He was great,” McManama said of Warren. “That’s what we need from him for the rest of the season and I’m confident we’re going to get it from him.”
North’s first good scoring chance came early in the second when Dennis Morehouse dragged the puck through a pair of defensemen and was stopped from a tight angle. A minute later, the Rocketeers were positive that they had the lead. John Connolly got free in the slot and his shot clanged off a post and out towards the corner. North was sure that it hit the back of the net and everyone seemed to pause for a second but there was no signal from the officials.
“We did get the puck in the net, but they called it back,” said McManama, who was clear in his disdain for Saturday’s officiating. “It’s not right. It’s hard for our boys to work hard and compete when they really get the short end of the stick.”
Feehan had its fair share of chances to grab the lead as well. A minute into a penalty kill, North was given a major penalty, meaning 50 seconds of a two-man advantage and then more than four more minutes of power play to kill.
C.J. Botelho had a pair of chances, one saved by Warren and the other that he sent wide of an open net, and Jack Murphy’s shot from the point was redirected in front by Kevin Barrera but Warren managed to keep his pad on the ice to keep the shot out.
Surviving the long power play opportunity seemed to spark the Rocketeers into life. Jake Ebert had a good chance right after North got back to even strength and Will Yeomans had a shot from the point kicked aside. With 90 seconds left in the second, Todd Robinson backhanded a pass across ice to Connolly, who rode a check and managed to get a shot on net.
It was a good flurry for North in the attacking zone and foreshadowed a strong third period push. After being outshot 20-11 through the first two periods, North outshot Feehan 14-7 in the third.
McManama explained, “I think we have to do a better job getting pucks to the net. They did a good job blocking shots, but we’re trying to stickhandle it into the net instead of get it on net and go after the rebounds.”
Anthony Zammiello saucered a pass to Robinson on an odd-man rush and the senior forward forced Feehan goalie Rory Geraghty into a shoulder save. Connolly had another chance from inside the left circle but that was stopped too.
“It’s just because we spent the rest of the game in the box,” said McManama about the North attack in the third period. “It was nice to be able to play five-on-five for a little bit. The captains just talked about, we know what to do, we know we’re the better team, let’s just show it. We just ran out of time.”
Warren was forced into two big stops on the other end to keep the game scoreless and North broke up ice quickly with Justin Moccia forcing Geraghty (24 saves) into another stop. The chances kept coming for North, which was in control of the period, including a series of close calls on a power play opportunity with four minutes left.
But, with just 1:43 on the clock, Feehan managed to find one good scoring chance and made it count. Kevin Borah roofed his shot as he cut across the crease to give the Shamrocks the lead.
North had one more great chance when Robinson, despite Feehan going on the power play during a scrappy closing sequence, got behind the Shamrocks defense but Geraghty stood tall again and made a solid pad save to deny the breakaway and the opportunity for a tie.
North Attleboro (0-2) will be back on the ice on Thursday afternoon at Levy Rink when it opens the Burrillville (R.I.) Hockey Winter Classic against Cumberland (R.I.).
By Cameron Merritt, HockomockSports.com Contributor
TAUNTON, Mass.- The No. 2 seed Taunton Tigers took an early lead against Bishop Feehan Wednesday night at Jack Tripp Field and didn’t look back as they beat the visiting No. 4 seed Shamrocks 9-1 to advance to the Div. 1 South final.
“It feels great,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “It’s been a while since we’ve been [to the South final] and we’re just taking it one game at a time. We treat every game as if it’s the championship.”
On the mound, Taunton freshman starter Kelsey White put up a strong performance, surrendering just one run and six hits, while striking out two in a complete game win.
For Feehan, the loss went to senior Shauna Hamill, who gave up 14 hits, nine runs (six earned) and two walks while striking out two in a complete game performance.
At the plate, the Tigers saw several strong contributions, starting from the leadoff spot. Junior third baseman Jaime Brown went 3-for-3 with three runs and an RBI on two singles, a double and a walk. Senior catcher Kya Enos also impressed at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a pair of both runs and RBI.
For the Shamrocks, the offense was lead by sophomore catcher Gabrielle Comeau, who went 2-for-3 scoring the team’s only run of the evening.
The Tigers wasted little time in getting on the board as a leadoff double by Brown in the bottom of the first put a runner on for the hosts, who would come home off a sacrifice bunt by Enos to make it 1-0.
“That was huge,” Lewry said of the run. “We went suicide squeeze on that. I like to get the first run, I like to put the other team behind and make them push a little bit.”
The Shamrocks would push a little in the top of the second, as a leadoff single up the middle by Comeau turned into the tying run three at-bats later as a simple short hit to shallow left by sophomore designated player Hannah Ramer brought in Comeau from third and quickly drew the action back even.
However, things wouldn’t stay even for long.
The Tigers struck back in the bottom half of the inning, as a single by junior second baseman Alexa White became the go-ahead run off of a base-clearing triple from sophomore first baseman Paige Silvia. Silvia was brought in two at-bats later as a single to left by Brown allowed her to score and make it 3–1 in favor of the home team.
The middle innings were fairly quiet for both offenses, as both pitchers settled in to their grooves, particularly Kelsey White, who went three straight innings with three straight outs.
“She’s incredible,” Lewry said of White. “I’ve grown out of superlatives for her, she is just an incredible pitcher for a ninth grader, for any grade. She throws the spots, she’s got nice stuff, she throws hard and she does not get rattled out there.”
The Taunton offense roared back to life in the bottom of the fifth, as walks to Brown and Enos to start the inning gave the hosts a good scoring chance, but they quickly found themselves down two outs. A shallow infield pop up by freshman shortstop Hanna Aldrich looked likely to end the inning, but the ball bounced off Hamill’s glove, allowing Aldrich to load the bases and Kelsey White to clear them with a deep double just an at-bat later, doubling the Tigers’ lead to 6-1.
Three more runs would follow as the Tigers batted around in the bottom of the sixth. Six straight singles put Taunton in control, with Enos scoring Brown, senior outfielder Mackenzie Handrahan scoring Liana Duarte and Aldrich scoring Enos respectively, making it 9-1.
Comeau lead off the top of the seventh for Feehan with a single, but a comeback wasn’t meant to be for the Shamrocks, as two fielder’s choices and a fly out to right would end both their chances and their season.
Three games now separate the Tigers from a D1 state title, and for players like Handrahan, their desire for the trophy grows stronger every day.
“We’ve never wanted something so much for each other,” said Handrahan. “We’re just so close, this team’s so close… and we have ‘it,’ so we have to bring ‘it.’”
The Tigers will look to bring it on Friday when they face a familiar foe in the South final – Kelley-Rex rival King Philip.
“King Philip’s a great team,” said Lewry. “We had two outstanding games with them this year, both of them one run games, and I expect another one like that.”
“This game is really big to us,” said Handrahan. “We want to win so bad”
Taunton (23-2) and King Philip (21-3) will face off Friday at 7 p.m. at Taunton High School’s Jack Tripp Field.
But the Tigers showed just how quickly they can change a game with their offense. Three straight hits resulted in two runs and a tie game, sending the game to extras.
And in extra innings, Oliver Ames needed just two innings to breakthrough, earning a 3-2 walk-off win over the Shamrocks in nine innings.
“I give my guys a lot of credit to come back in that seventh inning,” said OA head coach Joe Abarr. “[Feehan starting pitcher Colin Gauther] did a phenomenal job, he was mixing pitches and getting ahead of almost every batter and I could tell it was getting to our guys.
“Around the fourth or fifth inning it kind of occurred to me, in terms of coming from behind, we haven’t done it a lot. But looking back, it didn’t matter because our focus all season has been winning every pitch and treat every at-bat as the same. We had some guys step up and do the job.”
Gauthier tamed the Tigers through the first six innings, allowing just four hits and issuing one walk. And of those five baserunners, only Sean O’Brien (double) reached past third.
But Matt McCormack’s double to lead off the seventh inning gave the Tigers the spark they needed. McCormack had singled back in the second inning but was picked off at first. A half inning later, Feehan capitalized on that momentum and scored the game’s first run.
“I just didn’t let it get to me,” McCormack said of the second inning pickoff. “Coach came over and told me to shake it off. We knew the pressure was on the pitcher in the seventh inning so I just tried to make contact and put the ball in play. I was seeing it well and my timing was pretty good.”
With McCormack on second, junior Jake Erlich collected his first hit with a single into right field. That was enough for McCormack to sprint around third to bring OA within a run, down 2-1.
Abarr then called upon sophomore Jacob Levine to come in and pinch hit. Despite not playing all game, Levine answered the call in impressive fashion. The sophomore got a hold of one and ripped a deep shot to the gap in right-center field. Pinch runner Ezra Coyne came racing around from first to tie the game and Levine was into third with a stand up triple with no outs.
OA couldn’t get the winning run across though as Gauthier got three straight outs without the ball leaving the infield, sending the game to extras.
OA starter Michael Mulrean didn’t skip a beat in either the eighth or ninth innings. He got two fly balls to center and then made a nice play on a slow grounder for an unassisted out. In the top of the ninth, Mulrean sandwiched his 10th and 11th strikeouts around a 6-3 ground out.
“[McCormack] stepped up for us early in the year as a DH and then he had a slump where he was struggling a little bit,” Abarr said. “He took a great batting practice the other day, he was all over the ball in our scrimmage against Brockton. After that scrimmage, I told him he was going to be the DH for us and he really stepped up for us. He could have let that [pickoff] situation break him but he didn’t, he showed a lot of mental toughness.
Junior CJ Deveau, who entered the at-bat 0-for-2 on the day, tried to lay a bunt down on the first pitch but it went foul. Three pitches later and the junior drove a shot to center field just out of the reach of the outfielder and McCormack sprinted his way to the plate for the walk-off win.
“I was just thinking about having runners on second and third, and I was hoping CJ could put one down, put some pressure on the third baseman and make a play,” Abarr said of the original bunt call. “He struggled during his first couple at-bats but he did a nice job grinding through there. He could have counted himself out and said it wasn’t his day but he came through with an unbelievable hit for us.”
Feehan took the lead in the top of the third inning. Back to back singles put runners on first and second but a sacrifice bunt attempt turned into an out when the ball hit the batter. A chopper got just through the gap on the left side allowing Joe Castano to come home and score for the first run. Mulrean induced an infield fly and pop up to right to escape without further damage.
The Shamrocks capitalized on a pair of OA mistakes in the fifth inning to double their lead. Castano reached on an infield single and took second on an errant throw. He took third on an infield groundout and then came home to score on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
Beyond those chances, Mulrean had his way with the Shamrocks lineup. He allowed just five hits, only one of which dropped in shallow center field. He retired the side in each of the first, second, fourth, eighth and ninth innings. He had a pair of strikeouts in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and nine innings. He had just one walk all game.
“And he was ready to go back out there for the 10th inning if we needed it,” Abarr said of Mulrean. “He’s one of our most reliable strike throwers. He was dealing for us and he battled for us. He treats himself like a softball pitcher, if he could he would pitch every single game.”
Oliver Ames baseball (14-7) advances to the D2 South quarterfinal round and will host #14 Nauset (7-12), who upset #3 Whitman-Hanson, 3-0, in the first round. The Tigers will welcome Nauset to Frothingham on Tuesday at 4:00.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Trailing by two points entering the fourth quarter, Mansfield knew that it would need a spark on the offensive end to come out on top against non-league rival Bishop Feehan in Friday night’s meeting in the James Albertini Gym.
The Hornets put the ball into the hands of junior point guard Mady Bendanillo and she delivered, personally outscoring the Shamrocks 15-12 in the final eight minutes. With Bendanillo leading the way, Mansfield, which had scored 36 points over the first three quarters, put up 30 as a team in the fourth.
Bendanillo finished with a game- and career-high 22 points and added five assists to lead the Hornets to a 66-50 victory over Feehan, which head coach Mike Redding said afterwards was his first coaching win against the Shamrocks.
“She put on a show tonight,” said Redding of Bendanillo. “She was money at the free throw line (9-of-10 in the fourth quarter), hit some big threes, and handled the ball. I think she played more minutes than anybody and never gets tired, never takes a possession off, and she’s definitely coming into her own getting confidence scoring.”
He added, “We know Meg’s going to get some points inside, Ann will hit some threes, but when Mady goes for double digits then we become a really good basketball team.”
Bendanillo got the fourth quarter started with a three-pointer to give the Hornets a one-point edge. After she hit a pair of free throws, junior Maggie Danehy got into the act with a baseline drive and finish to make it 43-38. Feehan scored, but Ann Maher (12 points and four assists) nailed a step-back three from the left wing to push the lead to six.
The speed of Bendanillo allowed her to break the Feehan press and turn any rebound into a quick break and her ability to get to the rim led to five different trips to the line in the quarter. She buried a three (her third of the night) off a Steph Kemp assist for a 51-43 lead then assisted on a Maher three that pushed the lead to nine.
Meg Hill (14 points and 10 boards) had a pair of baskets in the fourth, one off a Maher assist and the other on a putback, and Danehy added a layup, as the Hornets stormed to the final whistle.
“It was just a lot of different contributions when we needed it,” said Redding about the difference on this night compared to other meetings with Feehan in the past. “Where in the past we may have gone flat for a couple minutes and no one would make a play. Tonight we had a bunch of kids making plays to extend it and make it comfortable.”
The game looked similar to recent meetings between the two teams midway through the second quarter. With the Hornets struggling to make shots and with Hill, who had kept Mansfield in the game with eight points in the first quarter, on the bench with her second foul, Feehan built a 24-12 lead and looked poised to break the game wide open.
Instead of the game getting out of hand, the Hornets grabbed hold of the momentum and closed the half with a 14-4 run. Erin Daniel (seven points) drained a three that cut the lead to seven and Bendanillo followed with a steal and layup and then a three off an assist by her twin sister Kara.
After a Kemp steal, Kara Bendanillo scored her only basket of the night to tie the game at 26-26. Although Feehan added a bucket to lead at the break, it was the Hornets that went into halftime happier.
“When Meg got her second [foul], we sat her and said okay we just have to survive these last two [minutes] and we went on an 8-0 run with the subs,” Redding explained. “That really kind of set the tone going into the second half.”
He continued, “All of a sudden we have that run and it’s a ballgame and we came out with some confidence to start the second half.”
Sydney Mulkern hit a three after the break, her only points of the game, to give Mansfield its first lead since it was 2-0. Nicole Smith (15 points) answered with a three for the Shamrocks, but Maher stepped into a kick out pass by Hill to bury a three on the next possession. Daniel added four points in the quarter to keep the Hornets within two heading to the final eight minutes.
“It was a great game,” said Redding. “We’ll have out hands full over there and this will probably end up being the first of three of them. So, they’re all going to be fun to watch. It’s a high level of basketball for both teams.”
Mansfield (4-1, 2-1) will get a few days off before facing Franklin on Dec. 28 with a rematch against Bishop Feehan slated for Jan. 3.
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.