By Brian Hines, HockomockSports.com Contributor
TAUNTON, Mass. – King Philip has had no problem scoring runs all season, so after their bats were silenced for three innings, the sense was that an offensive explosion was coming.
And that’s exactly what happened.
After Meghan Duffy doubled and scored on a sacrifice squeeze in the second inning to give the Wamps a 1-0 lead, the Warriors plated six runs in the fourth inning to take the lead for good, on their way to a 9-3 win in Wednesday night’s Div. 1 South semifinal at Jack Tripp Field.
“They obviously never quit and they have a lot of confidence in themselves even when we were down 1-0,” King Philip coach Norm Beauchemin said about his team. “[Braintree has] an extremely good pitcher but they always thought they could come back and score at least two runs.”
The fourth inning rally started with back-to-back singles, then a misplayed ball loaded the bases for the Warriors. Catcher Brianna Lacy laced a one out single, driving in two runs and opening up King Philip’s first lead of the afternoon.
The runs didn’t stop there, as Sydney Phillips scored Lacy two batters later through a sacrifice fly. After another error scored Phillips, Meghan Gorman ripped a single to score two more for the Warriors.
“Today we scored,” Beauchemin said. “It’s not how many hits you get its when you get the hits and today we got the hits when we needed them. We took advantage of whatever mistakes they made, but for the most part our girls played very intelligent today, very intelligent game.”
After surrendering six runs in the fourth, the Wamps continued to fight back, but the Warriors had an answer every time.
In the fifth, Kara Paquin’s RBI double gave the Wamps life, but King Philip answered with two runs of their own after three consecutive singles.
Braintree again added a run in the sixth looking to get back into the game, but King Philip matched them yet again after scoring on a pass ball.
“We kept matching them when they scored,” Beauchemin said. “They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t a good team, plain and simple. You got four really good teams here so anybody is capable of beat anybody at this point.”
The offensive outburst was due to the same approach they’ve followed all year: being aggressive. The Warriors had seven stolen bases and laid down two bunts, both part of the six-run fourth inning.
“We’re aggressive all the time, we’ve got the talent to be aggressive,” Beauchemin said. “We try to do whatever they’ll give us. If it looks like we can put the bunt down we’ll put the bunt down, if it looks like we’ll have to swing away well swing away. We do whatever the other team wants to give us and we have the personnel to take advantage of whatever mistakes the other team makes.”
For as good as King Philip’s offense was, starting pitcher Elise Pereira was very economical on the mound.
The right-handed senior threw an 89-pitch (71 for strikes) complete game for the Warriors. Pereira was able to limit the Wamps damage all game, including ending the Wamps second inning rally with back-to-back strikeouts.
King Philip (21-3) advances to take on league rival Taunton in the Division 1 South Finals on Friday night at 7:00 back at Jack Tripp Field.
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.
TAUNTON, Mass. – In the quarterfinal round against Wellesley, Mansfield (20-6) went on a quick four-point run at the end of the first half that cut the deficit to single digits and gave the Hornets, who have been a standout second half team all season, a little extra confidence heading into halftime.
On Thursday evening at Taunton High, the Hornets got off to a tough start to their Div. 1 South semifinal against Braintree. Plagued by turnovers and struggling to knock down shots in the first half, Mansfield was still able to cut the Wamps lead to 10 points and head coach Mike Redding implored the Hornets to win the final three minutes of the half.
Instead, it was the Wamps that went on a run that essentially won the game.
Braintree went on a 12-1 run in the final three minutes of the second quarter to push the lead to 21 and kept the pressure on throughout the second half, pulling out a 68-40 victory that advanced the Wamps to their seventh straight South final.
“It was kind of what they did last year, they put runs on us and we can’t answer the runs,” said Redding. He added, “The first half we were just so uncharacteristic, throwing the ball away, and we lost so many possessions and when we did turn it over it led to transition points.”
In last year’s South final, Braintree caught fire and rained down threes to beat Mansfield, but on Thursday the Wamps were struggling from the floor in the opening quarter. Braintree was able to build a lead thanks to its defense, which forced a number of turnovers in the opening half and put pressure on the Hornets ball-handlers to deny the entry pass into Meg Hill in the post.
“I thought they played great defensively,” said Redding about the Wamps. “Everyone on the floor is athletic and they’re getting in passing lanes, nothing’s easy. Trying to get it into Meg, but they’re doubling, we didn’t hit many threes, just not many answers. They were simply the better team tonight.”
After Hill scored from a lobbed Ann Maher pass to make it 4-2, Braintree went on a 7-0 run before Hill scored again, this time on Steph Kemp assist. Jeniyah Jones beat the Hornets defense on the baseline and the Wamps led 13-6 after one.
In the second, Hill (19 points and five blocks) continued to be the lone Hornet to find any success on the offensive end. She scored four of the team’s seven points and had all four of Mansfield’s made field goals in the opening half.
Mackenzie Moore scored five points for the Wamps and Jones continued to fill up the scoresheet with eight of her team-high 15 points, including the final six points of the half. She also finished with 10 steals, eight rebounds and five assists. Braintree turned a 22-12 lead into 34-13 by the end of the half and completely took control of the game.
“We know [Jenna] Roche and [Adriana] Timberlake and Mackenzie Moore,” said Redding, “but then kids like Jones come off the bench and get some layups, gets to the line and buries every free throw. I said pregame, they make you pay for every mistake and every turnover led to points.”
It may have been a little too late to save the semifinal, the Hornets did find their offense in the second half. Hill completed a three-point play, Kemp knocked down a jumper off a Sydney Mulkern assist, Maher grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a jumper for her only two points of the game, and Emily Vigeant chipped in with all six of her point in the third.
Mansfield scored 15 points in the third quarter, two more than it scored in the entire first half, but the Wamps were able to score 19 and continued building the lead. Timberlake (14 points) drilled a three, Jones added three points and assisted on back-to-back baskets for Alyssa Tenaglia. Braintree led 53-28 after three.
Maggie Danehy, who was coming off a career-high 20-point game against Wellesley, scored four of her five points in the fourth, but Hill was the focal point for the Hornets down the stretch, scoring eight points to close out her standout career, which Redding said was definitely worthy of the school’s Hall of Fame.
During her four varsity seasons, Hill went to four Div. 1 South semifinals and won three straight league titles, while playing in a remarkable 100 games for the Hornets.
“She’s been a workhorse,” Redding said of Hill. “She hasn’t missed a game due to illness or injury and to average a double-double for 100 games is ridiculous. It’s just a great senior class. I mean, four Final Fours in Div. 1 South, thee championships in a row…it’s tough to end in a game like this where you don’t feel like you competed but when you look at the whole big picture it’s been an amazing run for this senior group.”
The Hornets have been one of the most consistent programs in Div. 1 in recent years, but talented Braintree teams have always stood in the way. Redding is expecting that Mansfield will be right back in the mix again next winter.
He said, “We’ve got a slew of juniors coming back and we’ll compete next year. Braintree’s got a great program; I’m glad some of those seniors are gone so they may come back down to everyone else’s level.”
TAUNTON, Mass. – Mansfield came into Friday night’s Div. 1 South final at Taunton High allowing only 37 points per game, including just 31 points in each of its two playoff victories. Of course, the Hornets had not faced a team like Braintree this season.
The Wamps, perennially one of the top programs in the state, nearly put up double what the Hornets were allowing per game this season. Braintree knocked down nine three-pointers (seven in the first half) and, even with star guard Keelah Dixon sidelined with an injury for the third and fourth quarters, rolled to a 72-43 victory and the team’s fifth South title in the past six years.
“They’re great off the dribble, they had some great drives and when we did double they kicked out,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “We’re a really good defensive team and they were simply at another level tonight executing, shooting…they’ve got a lot of kids who can score in different ways.”
He added, “Offensively, I thought we were okay but the more shots they made our morale dropped a little bit and they just pulled away.”
The Hornets were hanging around early in the game, trailing 10-6 midway through the first quarter, but the Wamps went on a 15-4 run to break the game wide open. Adriana Timberlake (team-high 17 points) and Jenna Roche (14 points) knocked down three from beyond the arc and Isabella Tonetti added eight points in the first.
It only got worse for Mansfield in the second, as the Hornets were held to just two points on a basket by senior Jen Peel (seven points), while Braintree continued to pile on with 15 to hold a 40-12 lead at the break. Dixon (13 points) added seven in the second before hobbling off at halftime.
“They’ve got nine, 10 kids who can play and, you know, they can all handle the ball, they can all shoot the three if you leave them open, and they’re a handful to handle defensively,” said Redding. “On the other end, they’re as good as anyone defensively. That’s a tough combination. We’re a good team and we certainly met our match and were humbled tonight.”
Mansfield rarely gives up 20 points in a half, but on Friday the Hornets twice allowed Braintree to score 20 points in a single quarter. That included the third, as Timberlake scored eight points, including a pair of threes, and Roche added eight of her own.
The third was also Mansfield’s top offensive quarter with 17 points. Junior center Meg Hill scored six of her game-high 19 points (to go along with 10 rebounds), Ann Maher scored off a Mady Bendanillo assist and Peel (eight assists) and Erin Daniel each nailed threes.
Hill added another seven points in the fourth and Maggie Danehy showed flashes with a finish despite contact, but the Wamps continued to execute perfectly against the Hornets defense and cruised to another sectional title and trip to the TD Garden.
Redding noted, “I like how we battled. We scored 30 in the second half. Obviously, it’s too little, too late, but the kids have a lot of heart and played more like our team in the second half.”
Mansfield will bring back all but two players for next season, as it tries to three-peat as Kelley-Rex division champions.
“Our kids had a great year,” Redding said. “To get to the final is a great achievement and it’s tough to lose like this but I’m just so proud of what we had to do to get here. Thirteen of the 15 are back and maybe this experience will get is a little deeper next year.”
One of those seniors who will not be back next year is Peel, who has been a starter for the Hornets for three seasons and turned into one of the top guards in the league. Peel found it tough to score consistently in the playoffs, but Redding knows that the Hornets will miss her next year.
“She’s seeing everyone’s best defender,” explained Redding. “Every time she gets the ball, they’re going to double and help and she’s just not getting much space to breathe let alone shoot. She finds a way; she’s such a competitor.”
Mansfield finished the season at 20-4 and 15-1 in the Hockomock League.