WORCESTER, Mass. – The Division 1 State Championship game was certainly far from over when King Philip took a 1-0 lead over Doherty the top of the first inning. But with Kali Magane in the circle and the way that she’s been pitching in the postseason, it sure felt like more than just a one run cushion.
The confidence level grew after the Warriors tacked on another run in the top of the third and then peaked when Jenn Hutnyan launched a three-run home run in the fifth inning.
Magane did the rest, tossing a one-hit shutout with 13 strike outs, fanning the side in order in the bottom of the seventh, punctuating King Philip’s 5-0 win to claim the Division 1 State Championship.
It marks the third D1 State Title in the past seven years for the Warriors.
“We’ve been trying for four years so it’s good to finally get it the last one,” beamed Magane, a senior. “It always feels good when it’s a strikeout, nice to end it like that. We hadn’t faced [Doherty] before so I had to see what they were hitting. In the past, I had been focusing on jamming hitters and keeping them off balanced. But they ended up chasing it high more so that’s what I went with. As the game went on, I just kept adjusting to what they were hitting.”
Senior Christa Wagner started the game with a leadoff single and quickly took second with her first of three stolen bases of the game. Hailey McCasland advanced Wagner with a ground out and Elise Pereira’s contact was deep enough to center to score the run on a sacrifice fly.
Wagner reached on a fielder’s choice in the third and promptly swiped second and third, just beating the throw to third. Doherty pitcher Peyton Sylverster saw her pitch elude catcher Emma Brennan and Wagner took advantage, sprinting in to make it 2-0.
“We don’t like to say [the 2-0 lead is safe] but I’m breathing pretty good,” King Philip coach Norm Beauchemin said. “There’s a reason why that [Doherty] is here…but [Kali] is an equalizer.”
Magane was dominant from start to finish. Doherty’s lone hit was a leadoff single in the top of the second inning and a runner reached on an error in the fifth but neither advanced past second base. Magane retired the side in order in the first, third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings and recorded a strikeout in every inning.
“She’s a tremendously smart pitcher. She knew where their weaknesses were and she attacked it,” Beauchemin said.
The Warriors put the proverbial nail in the coffin in the top of the fifth inning. McCasland singled and Pereira drew a two-out walk to put two on. Hutnyan, who had made contact in her first two at-bats but was without a hit, fell behind Sylvester 0-2. But that did’t stop the junior from connecting on the next pitch, smacking a bomb over the left center field fence and putting KP up 5-0.
“She had a two strike lead and I was nervous but I was looking for a pitch to hit,” Hutnyan said. “I wasn’t trying to swing for the fences or anything but it just went off my bat the right way. I could feel it when it came off my bat, it felt good. It gave us a cushion but we still had to play like it was a 0-0 game.”
Magane was at her best following the home run. After the error to start the fifth, Magane fanned three straight. She induced an infield pop up and grounder to third before getting his 10th strikeout to end the sixth. She finished off the season with three straight swinging strikeouts to earn the championship.
“They’re a very relaxed team, they all enjoy each other and have each other’s backs,” Beauchemin said. “They have a lot of confidence and they play a lot of softball. They were able to build up the confidence and they knew if they could play their game today, they’d be tough to beat.”
The Warriors totaled nine hits with Wagner, McCasland and Gorman each having two and Caeli Bench, Brooke Taute and Hutnyan each adding one.
King Philip softball finishes the season with a 24-4 record, and were quick to credit their schedule as a reason they were ready to play today. Over the past 10 years, teams that now reside in the Hockomock League have won the D1 State title six times. Taunton won in 2007 before joining the league, Milford won back-to-back in 2012 and 2013, the latter their first year in the Hock and King Philip won in 2011, 2012 and now 2016. The Warriors also loaded their non-league schedule up, including Bishop Feehan and Newton North.
“I think our schedule paid off, absolutely,” Beauchemin said. “There weren’t that many easy games, so if you don’t have any easy ones, you have to fight for it. When you get into these situations, you have a lot of confidence. We were tested a lot this year, and these girls responded very well.”
“I think our schedule helped prepare us a lot for this game,” Hutnyan said. “We’ve seen pitching exactly like that before, a lot of teams haven’t so that helped us. And I don’t think a lot of teams have seen pitching like Kali, she’s an awesome pitcher, she really is.”
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.