Total Team Effort Lifts Taunton to First State Title

Taunton baseball Evan Melo Josh Lajoie Jack Moynihan
Taunton captains (L-R) Evan Melo, Josh Lajoie, and Jack Moynihan celebrate with the D1 State Championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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LOWELL, Mass. – It was fitting that the final out bounced to sophomore shortstop Ty Cali. He jumped into the lineup in the playoffs after starter Danny MacDougall suffered an injury in the first game of the postseason. Cali had two hits and an RBI in Saturday night’s Div. 1 state championship game at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park and was an example of the way the whole Taunton program came together to send the Tigers on an improbable championship run.

That run came to a climax on Saturday, as Taunton (21-7) got four hits and a pair of RBI from the bottom three in its lineup, got four strong innings from senior Josh Lajoie, who was making his first start of the playoffs, and rallied with a pair of runs in the final two innings after seeing a 3-0 lead slip away.

The Tigers found a way to win, a common thread throughout the tournament, pulling out a 5-3 victory against Shrewsbury to secure the program’s first-ever state championship.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We knew it was going to be another tough game,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “That’s a great team over there and they gave us everything we could handle. We were able to put some at-bats together. It’s a team effort.”

Senior pitcher Logan Lawrence, who picked up the win with three innings of relief, said, “It almost feels too good. First time in history winning sectionals, never mind winning states.”

A state championship seemed farfetched in April. The Tigers stumbled out of the gates, going 4-4 in their opening eight games, but they stayed the course and eventually things turned around. Taunton finished the season by going 17-3 over its final 20 games. Its only losses in that span were to Super 8 participants Mansfield (twice) and Franklin.

“At the beginning of the year we all talked about it in the weight room about how nice it would be, but we also knew how difficult it would be and all the hard work it would take, and how much better we’d have to get throughout the year,” said senior Jack Moynihan.
“We knew we’d have to keep fighting and everyone in the program has busted their butts.”

Bourque said, “This season we had a lot of adversity early and I think that helped us down the road. Obviously, the Mansfields and the Franklins are the teams we want to compete with. This is a step in the right direction.”

On Saturday, the Tigers faced Shrewsbury ace John West. The 6-foot-8 junior has already committed to Boston College and he lived up to the billing the first time through the Taunton order. He struck out five, held the Tigers hitless, and allowed only one base runner over the first three innings.

West may have drawn the headlines prior to the game, but he was matched over the first three innings by Lajoie. The St. John’s University-commit got the ball for the final and allowed only two hits through four innings. An error and a walk gave Shrewsbury its only rally in that stretch, but Lajoie responded with a strikeout and induced a pop up to get out of the jam.

Taunton grabbed the lead in the fourth. Colby Lariviere drew a one-out walk and would come all the way around to score when Lawrence’s line drive skipped past the centerfielder and turned into a triple. Nolan Melo came in to run at third base and he would score on a perfectly placed safety squeeze by Jared Roderick.

The Tigers tacked on another run in the fifth. Evan Melo led off the inning by drilling a double into the corner in right and he was quickly brought home by a Cali single. Gavin Leahy drew a walk and Lucas Martins had an infield single to load the bases with one out but a double play ended the inning.

“It’s great because as a pitcher you look at the bottom of the order and you think just breeze through them,” said Lawrence about Taunton getting production from its full lineup. “When you know for a fact that other teams aren’t going to be able to breeze through the bottom of your lineup, that helps you a lot mentally. A lot of confidence comes from that.”

Shrewsbury did not go quietly. In the bottom of the fifth, the Colonials had three straight singles, including a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Lajoie was pulled for Lawrence, who gave up an RBI-single on his first pitch.

The next batter hit a shot down the first base line but Lariviere made a diving stop and got the lead runner at home. The batter had slipped so a return throw to first turned into a double play. With a chance to get out of the inning with the lead, Lawrence gave up a single to West, which scored a pair and tied the game.

Rather than letting their heads drop, the Tigers got right back to the plate and promptly grabbed back the lead. Roderick reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then took third on an error that allowed Andrew Gomes to reach. For the second time in the game, Bourque called for a squeeze and this time it was Evan Melo who dropped it down, pushing it up the first base line for a single and an RBI.

“We have confidence in ourselves and our ability to generate a couple of runs here and there,” Bourque explained. “There was no panic, we’ve been down before. Last game, we were down twice, so we had the confidence in our ability to generate some offense.

Taunton loaded the bases with one out for the second straight inning but both times failed to score a run. Lawrence made sure that it wouldn’t hurt too much by throwing a perfect sixth inning.

In the seventh, Taunton added an important insurance run. Nic Notarangelo, who’s inclusion in the starting lineup coincided with the Tigers’ improvement, started the inning by drilling a triple to the wall in right. Two batters later, Lariviere made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to left.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

As it turned out, the Tigers didn’t need the extra run. Lawrence got back to the mound for the seventh inning and threw another clean inning. He got a grounder to second, a strikeout, and then a grounder to short to seal the win and the championship.

“Nothing, just strictly adrenaline,” said Lawrence about what was going through his mind in the seventh. “When it was a 3-2 [count] and everyone was screaming, oh my god…” Lawrence shook his head, chuckled, and smiled.

Lajoie added, “It’s a dream come true. You dream of this at the beginning of the season and then you go through the season with your team, battling, and you see the pieces falling together…It’s unbelievable; I’m speechless.”

Saturday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 04/06/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Baseball
Mansfield, 10 vs. Foxboro, 3 – FinalClick here for a photo gallery of this game.Mansfield held a 2-1 lead through four innings of play but scored eight runs in the final three innings to pull away from Foxboro. The Warriors scored in the first inning as Anthony Mollica walked, advanced to second on a passed ball, took third on a ground out, and scored on an RBI triple by Joe Cavaleri. Mansfield answered back with two runs in the top of the second. Kyle Moran led off with a double and Eric Longley reached on an error. Both advanced on a wild pitch and Moran scored on a groundout from Nick Dumouchel. Longley scored on a double from Connor Smith.

In the fifth, Sam Nugent reached on an error, stole second and third, and scored on a sac fly from Dan Saraceno. Jake Gerraughty, who walked and stole second, scored on an RBI single from Moran to make it 4-1. Tim Rockett (John Carney single), Doumouchel, Chris Jenkins (3 RBI), and Nugent scored in the sixth inning while Will Giffen and Brandon Kemp came around for runs in the seventh inning.

Moran got the win for the Hornets, allowing three hits and one walk over five innings of work, striking out eight eight one earned run allowed. Foxboro sophomore Cam Prescott had a solid outing, allowing five hits and one walk in five innings of work, striking out three with five runs allowed but just one of them earned.

King Philip, 3 vs. Sharon, 2 – FinalClick here for a photo gallery of this game.Sharon loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but could only push across one run as the Warriors escaped the new Taunton turf field with a win. Junior Alec Filipkowski brought in a run with a sacrifice fly but KP starter Terry Murray (CG, 5H, 1BB, 2R, 0ER, 5K) got his fifth strikeout to end the game. KP sophomore Jake Silveria singled and took third on an error and scored on a double from Zach Zarba to make it 1-0 in the second inning.

KP added two more runs in the top of the fifth. Tom Weir reached on an error, stole second and third, and scored on an RBI single from Robbie Jarest. Jarest stole second and took third on a pop up, then came home when a throw from the catcher back to the pitcher got away. Sharon got on the board in the sixth as Filipkowski got to second on a two-base error and then came in to score on an infield error on a hit by Jared Reef.

Sharon junior Max LeBlanc pitched a complete game, striking out six while allowing four hits and two walks. He allowed a total of three runs but just on earned.

North Attleboro, 4 @ Taunton, 6 – FinalClick here for a photo gallery of this game.In a back and forth contest, Taunton scored three runs in the top bottom of the fifth and added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to get the win. North jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring in the first inning (Evan Melo walk, stolen base, to third on Danny MacDougall fly ball, scored on Josh Lajoie’s RBI groundout) and in the third inning (Lucas Martins walk, to second on Gavin Leahy grounder, and scored on an infield error).

North cut the deficit in half with a run int he top of the fifth (Russell Dunlap walked, took second on a wild pitch, to third on Shawn Watters sac bunt, scored on two-out single from Jake Palmer). Taunton had an immediate answer, plating three runs in the bottom of the inning. Martins walked and stole second. Leahy reached on an error and Melo hit an infield single to load the bases. Lajoie was hit by a pitch to bring a run in and Logan Lawrence drove in a pair with a single.

North Attleboro made it a one-run game with three run in the top of the sixth. Kyle Briere walked and came around to score on a single from Dennis Colleran, and Watters drove in two with a two-out single to make it 5-4. Taunton added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when pinch runner Curt Marshall (running for Colby Lariviere after a double) came home after a throw from home sailed into the outfield when Martins stole second. Lajoie got the win, striking out nine in six innings of work, scattering five hits and two walks with four runs allowed. Justin Rollo earned the save with a perfect seventh inning. Colleran (5.2 IP, 5H, 3BB, 6K, 6R, 2ER) was solid in his season debut.

Softball
Mansfield @ Holliston – Postponed to TBD.

Gordon, Franklin Win Big On The Road Over Taunton

Franklin football
Franklin’s Owen Palmieri (top) is tackled by Taunton’s Max Moitoso. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – Heading into Friday night’s contest against Taunton, Franklin head coach Eian Bain wanted to get as many of his skill players involved as possible to keep the Tigers’ defense guessing.

Senior quarterback Nick Gordon delivered with a near flawless performance, going 11-for-14 for 243 yards, connecting with six different receivers, and tossing four touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a dominant 42-7 win over Taunton.

Franklin was essentially perfect in the first half with Gordon completing all of his passes (7-for-7) and the team recording 254 yards of offense, scoring on all four of its drives for a 28-0 lead at the break.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We got off to a very fast start and I thought we executed the game plan really well,” Bain said. “We try to think about players not plays so we wanted to get certain kids to touch the ball. We had a lot of different kids touch the ball tonight and that wasn’t by accident.

“Taunton does a nice job of changing up their looks, they don’t use the same coverages and fronts a lot. It’s a fun cat and mouse game to play but it’s tough. But we were ready, made some audibles, and when the run game hits, everything is easier and we had some nice runs.”

It was all Panthers from the get-go. After forcing Taunton to punt on its opening drive, Franklin needed just four plays to find the end zone. Owen Palmieri (10 carries, 50 yards) took the first play for 20 yards and the third for four more, sandwiched around a pass from Gordon to Jack Nally (75 all-purpose yards). On the fourth play, Gordon hit Ryan Driscoll (two catches, 88 yards) on a short bubble screen, and the senior got the block he needed to race for a 32-yard touchdown.

Parker Chevrant (6-for-6 extra points) drilled the point after for a 7-0 lead with 6:58 to play in the first quarter.

After another defensive stop that resulted in -5 yards for Taunton, Franklin needed just three plays this time around. On a broken play, Gordon scrambled to the left sideline and waited until the last second before linking up with Driscoll. After a nice block, Driscoll was able to cut inside and raced across the field for a 56-yard score and a 14-0 advantage with 2:59 left in the first quarter.

“We came out flat, we didn’t answer the bell at all to start the game,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “They are a good, athletic team and I know we’d have a tough matchup with them at spots defensively. I thought we might have been able to do a little more offensively but we didn’t. We had one good drive to start the second half running the ball, but we have to do that for all four quarters.

“We thought we’d be able to do some things but they did a nice job of getting the ball to their playmakers, they’re a skilled team.”

Taunton moved the ball some on its next drive but a tackle for loss from junior Austin Jordan put the Tigers in a hole and they were forced to punt. Franklin responded with its most methodical drive of the game, rattling off 10 plays to cover 50 yards. The longest play on the drive was from Gordon to Nally for 16 yards, and Palmieri finished with a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-0 with 5:31 left in the second quarter.

Franklin’s defense stuffed Taunton on a 3rd and 1 attempt to force another punt and get the ball back. And the offense wasted little time to move the ball yet again.

Nally and Gordon ripped off back-to-back runs that combined for 25 yards and then Gordon found Jake Davis in stride down the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown and a 28-0 advantage heading into halftime.

“Keeping the offense on the field in a rhythm is a big part of it,” Bain said of his defense forcing quick three-and-outs. “Last week against KP, they had a lot of third and short opportunities. Tonight we were able to get ahead and get them into second and longs. When you can force a team to be one dimensional, it shrinks the playbook. Our staff is really good at creating different pressures. Noah is really dangerous, he can throw and run so you have to have smart pressure and I thought we did that this week.”

Taunton looked like a new team coming out in the second half, forcing its first three-and-out of the game to get the ball early in the third quarter. The Tigers offense rewarded the defense with its best drive of the game.

With a boost from senior fullback Damian Manning, who had two carries for 16 yards and one catch for five yards — two of those plays resulting in first downs, Taunton got on the board. On the eighth play of the drive, quarterback Noah Leonard used a QB sneak – with a push from Manning – to score from 1-yard out and cap an 80-yard drive to make it 28-7.

The momentum carried over to the Taunton defense, which again came up with a stop, including a big pass breakup from Curt Marshall. The Tigers got the ball back with 2:59 left in the third with a chance to make it a two-score game, but Franklin’s defense had other plans.

On third and 6, Franklin put pressure on Leonard and forced a quick throw on a screen attempt, and Taunton had to punt.

“It could have been closer there, but the defense did a nice job,” Bain said.
“We don’t scoreboard watch, we don’t care about what happened the previous drive or the previous play, we have to focus on the current play. We can’t worry that they scored the drive before, we have to make the stop on this series. That was huge for us.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin’s offense got back into gear, marching 71 yards on six plays, the big play a pass and catch from Gordon to Sean Leonard over the middle for 24 yards. Nally came across in motion and took a simple touch pass forward while on the run and went around the left edge for a 15-yard score and a 35-7 lead with 9:55 to play. It was Gordon’s fourth touchdown pass of the day.

“He’s like Ricky Bobby, he just wants to go fast,” Bain said of Gordon. “When I slow the game down in my play calling, I take away what he does well. He has that ability to go on the fly. The touchdown pass to Driscoll, the second one, that was a bad call and he made it a good one with his athleticism and vision. He does a lot of smart things too. He knows the situations and makes good decisions.”

Sean Hofferty added a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the final minutes.

Franklin football (4-2 overall, 2-2 Hockomock) returns home next Friday to take on Attleboro in what could be a potential playoff preview. Taunton (3-3, 1-3) will try to bounce back when it hits the road to take on King Philip.