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.
North wasn’t done. Emily Nardelli and Alex Moulson drew walks and Belle Clarkin lined a single to left center that brought in another couple of runs for an early 4-0 lead and a cushion for starting pitcher Bella Erti to work with.
“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.
Dartmouth had its first four batters reach on three straight walks and a double, resulting in a quick 1-0 advantage. But that was all the damage the Indians did as catcher Zach DeMattio erased the leadoff walk trying to steal second and starting pitcher Peter Cohen settled in to get two outs with runners on second and third.
And in the bottom half, North had a swift answer. The Rocketeers scored three runs, assuming a lead that they never relinquished, and sparked what would be an offensive showcase that resulted in a 20-2 win.
North Attleboro advances to the D2 South Final to play Hockomock rival Oliver Ames.
Big Red senior starting pitcher Peter Cohen not only had to face the top of a talented Dartmouth lineup to start the game but also had to deal with a hole near the rubber on the pitching – a mound issue that also gave Oliver Ames starter Michael Mulrean issues in the nightcap.
Cohen walked Dylan Pacheco to start the game but he was erased at second by a perfect throw from DeMattio. But Dartmouth’s Brett Abreu and Hunter Pimental also drew walks. Eric Sylvia sent one to the outfield for a double to bring one run in and put runners on second and third.
But Cohen finally settled in, getting a pair of popups in the infield to end the top of the first down just 1-0.
“It wasn’t a matter of Peter’s ability, he was really struggling with the mound,” said North Attleboro coach Mike Hart. “He figured it out and battled, that’s the senior in him. I’ve said it before, he’s a bulldog. I knew he’d find a way to figure it out to stay in the game, he was excellent from there on out.
“I think you feel great after [the top of the first]. They got one run but it could have been worse the way that first inning was going. But again, Peter has been in that same exact spot before and he’s gotten out of it. So we have a lot of faith in him.”
The momentum the Rocketeers seemed to get from allowing just one run seemed to carry over to the offensive side. Brendan McHugh reached on an error – one of seven miscues for the Indians on the day – and Nick Sinacola walked to quickly put runners on first and second for North.
As he has done all season, DeMattio delivered at the plate but crushing a two-run triple to right center field. Two batters later, DeMattio came home on a hard hit ground ball from Nick Raneri to make it 3-0.
“If you want to pick a defining moment in the game, I think that was it, even though it happened early, that was huge,” Hart said. “Just because of the struggles in the top of the first with a couple of walks and a run. Then we come back and get those three runs, that was huge. I think that Peter at ease and let him kind of figure out the mound and pitch his game.”
Cohen showed he had settled in by needing just 11 pitches in the top of the second inning, striking out the side. And North Attleboro kept things rolling in the bottom of the second, exploding for seven runs.
Three straight singles from Aidan Harding, Shawn Watters, and McHugh loaded the bases with no outs. Sinacola’s hard-hit grounder allowed two runs to score and put runners on the corners. DeMattio followed with an RBI single to plate McHugh, and Sinacola came home on a sac fly from Pearce.
Raneri reached on an error, allowing DeMattio to score to make it 8-1. North’s offense kept rolling with a single from Kyle Bolger, who then stole second. Harding then reached on an error and two runs came in for a 10-1 advantage.
“I think we did a good job putting the ball in play,” Hart said. “Obviously it helps if the other day has some errors. We’ve done well offensively this year but we just try to focus on our at-bats and attacking the baseball instead of what’s happening in the field.
“It’s a good time for everybody in the lineup to be putting in that effort.”
Dartmouth added a second run in the top of the third. Pacheco singled, advanced to second after a walk, took third after Cohen induced a double play, and scored on a wild pitch.
North’s offense went down in order (for the only time in the game) in the bottom of the third but was right back at in the fourth. Nate Pearce struck out but raced to first on a dropped third strike and forced a high throw, allowing him to take second. A line drive double from Raneri made it 11-2, and a two-out single from Harding scored Raneri in from third.
The Rocketeers continued to stay hot at the plate and pushed across five more runs in the fifth inning. Sinacola doubled and DeMattio reached on an error to put runners on the corners. After DeMattio stole second, Pearce was intentionally walked and Raneri made the Indians pay with a two-run single through the right side.
Bolger was intentionally walked to load the bases again and Harding delivered with a two-run single. Watters followed with an RBI single to make it 17-2. The teams came off the field and started to leave the dugouts because of the 15-run mercy run.
The umps called both teams back saying the rule did not apply. A 30-minute delay occurred as officials figured it out. In the end, it was decided that the MIAA 15-run mercy run does not apply past the quarterfinal round.
After the long break, freshman Dennis Colleran took over on the mound for Cohen (5 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 5 BB, 4 K). Colleran retired the side in order in his first varsity experience.
North tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ryan Pasquel was hit by a pitch and took second on a hit from Matt Seavey. Todd Robinson’s bloop single pushed Pasquel to third but Dartmouth got the force out at second. Bolger drove Pasquel in, Jake Palmer brought Robinson home with a single, and Harding scored Bolger with a base hit.
Ben Arrighi worked around a one-out walk, striking out a pair in the top of the seventh to end the game.
“Our guys came ready to play, they were really excited to get after it today,” Hart said.
North Attleboro baseball (20-2) will take on Oliver Ames in the D2 South Final on Saturday at 10:00AM at Campanelli Stadium.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Dartmouth twice had the lead in Monday night’s Div. 1 South quarterfinal at Jack Tripp Field, but twice Taunton was able to erase the lead with one swing of the bat. Senior Kya Enos and freshman Hanna Aldrich both hit solo shots that brought the Tigers back after falling behind.
With the momentum back on its side, Taunton put together a five-run rally in the fifth, all with two outs, to take control of the game. The Tigers would roll to a 9-2 victory that books their first appearance in the South semifinal since 2015.
“Finally,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry about the offensive explosion. “We haven’t been hitting the ball the last two, three weeks like we did earlier in the year. It was good to see us start to string hits together as a team. We needed to do that.”
The Tigers had a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first and a chance to get the early lead. A walk to Jaime Brown and a bunt single by Liana Duarte (3-for-4), who beat the throw, put two on for Enos, but she was unable to make contact against Dartmouth starter Sophia Sousa. An infield hit for Mackenzie Handrahan (3-for-4) loaded the bases, but Sousa got a pop up and a grounder to escape.
Dartmouth grabbed the lead with an unearned run in the third. Rachel Pereira drew a two-out walk and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches from Kelsey White. After Sousa drew a walk, a bouncing ball to second was misplayed allowing the run to score.
In the bottom half of the inning, Enos crushed a pitch to left that bounced off the top of the fence and into the trees for a solo homer that energized the Tigers bench.
“That’s the type of leader she is and that’s the type of player she is,” said Lewry about Enos, the Hockomock League co-MVP. “You want to see her up in those situations. That really woke us up, really gave us some life. Now we said, okay we can hit this kid.”
Enos added, “Our number one thing we tried to focus on was getting on top and that didn’t really work out, so after my home run everyone was wicked pumped up.”
The senior catcher is the emotional and vocal leader of the team and her energy was infectious. It is a role that she has welcomed since joining the program as an eighth grader.
“It’s wicked important,” she said. “Since eighth grade, I’ve always been wicked emotional…but this is it for me. It’s all or nothing, so I’m trying to go out with a bang.”
The visitors retook the lead in the next inning. Hailey Camire beat out an infield single on a very close call at first and moved to second on a sac bunt. White induced a bouncer back to the circle for the second out, but Sarah Gioiosa lined a single to center to bring in a run. It was one of only two balls that Dartmouth got out of the infield against White.
In the bottom of the fourth, Taunton quickly evened the score. Aldrich led-off with a blast to left that easily cleared the fence and nestled into the trees.
“Did she crush that thing, my god,” Lewry said of Aldrich’s homer. “Two good swings, two runs, we’ll take it. We’ll take the solo home runs to get us back in the ballgame and get things rolling.”
White settled into her start, limiting the Indians to only two infield singles and a walk over the final three innings. She seemed to get stronger as the game wore on.
Lewry explained, “It took a little while to get all her pitches working. She was hitting her spots and I thought she was throwing the ball hard tonight and then she fielded her position as well as anyone.”
It always helps a pitcher to feel more comfortable when the offense provides some runs and that is what Taunton managed to do in the fifth.
After a pair of groundouts to short, Duarte lined a double to left and Enos followed with a four-pitch walk. Handrahan ripped a ball up the middle that Kayleigh Alonso was able to get a glove on but not field cleanly. As the ball bounced a couple feet away, Duarte scampered home with the go-ahead run.
Aldrich showed a good eye to draw a walk and load the bases for Kelsey White and she helped her own cause with a single to left that scored two. Alexa White brought in two more when she followed with a double over the leftfielder’s head for a 7-2 lead.
Enos admitted that it took the Tigers time to adjust to the Dartmouth pitcher, who relied on changing speeds and movement rather than trying to overpower hitters.
“It’s not what I expected,” she said. “It took a little bit. First at-bat I swung a pitch way over my head, I think it was a little anxiousness, but I think everybody finally found it, started clicking and then it all pulled together and it ended up working out good.”
In the sixth, the Tigers tacked on some insurance that essentially put the game away. Brown lined a one-out single to center, stole second, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Duarte drove Brown in with her third hit of the night, this one a single to right. Handrahan made it 9-2 two batters later with a sliced double down the left field line.
The final score was one-sided, but the Tigers faced adversity, rallying twice before taking control, and Lewry thinks this will benefit his team going forward.
He said, “Tournament ball is totally different than regular season. There’s a lot of pressure and we had to play under pressure, especially once we fell behind. In the long run, hopefully this game will be a good building block for us.”
Taunton (22-2) will face Bishop Feehan in the semifinal on Wednesday at Jack Tripp Field at 7:00.
Bombardier sophomore Bryant Ciccio scored less than five seconds into the game off of the opening tip and then hit back-to-back threes, giving Attleboro an 8-0 lead just 1:13 into the game.
Attleboro went on another 8-0 run to start the second quarter, creating a double-digit lead that was never relinquished in a 72-44 win for the Indians.
“In the game of basketball it’s those surges and runs that can make the difference,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “If you pile those back to back, you can really pull away. We went from a six-point lead to a 14 point lead, and once you get another one, you’re able to cut out any chance of a comeback.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to put away a team early and I think today, early in the second half we did that. It started with defense, especially our half-court defense which was pretty solid.”
Dartmouth closed the first quarter strong to stay within two possessions (14-6) after eight minutes. But the separation came early in the second. Sophomore Qualeem Charles (eight points, seven rebounds) converted one of two free throws before sophomore Tim Callahan, fresh off the bench, came up with a steal and easy layup.
After a miss, Charles came up with a big offensive rebound and putback and two possessions later, junior Mason Houle (eight points, three assists) drained a three off a feed from Ciccio to make it 22-8 with just over five minutes left in the third.
“We’re still learning, we turned the ball over a lot against the zone, it’s the first time we’ve seen a zone team,” Houle said. I think we were prepped for it earlier this year but didn’t see it and we just didn’t take care of the ball in the half court as much as we should have. And our transition defense is something we have to work on, things we can’t do going forward.”
Mason Houle banked a three from just over half court at the halftime buzzer, giving Attleboro its largest lead, 33-14, heading into the locker rooms.
While the teams were level for the first four minutes of the third quarter, the Bombardiers put the game away with an 11-0 run over the next two minutes.
Callahan (career-high 15 points) got it started with a triple, then came up with a steal for an easy layup. Ciccio forced another turnover and Nate Douglas (six points) hit a jumper. Ciccio then split the defense and hit a pull up jumper and Callahan capped the run with a strong take to the basket.
“He scored when we needed him too, and he’s capable of doing that,” Houle said of Callahan. “He’s a solid player, and only a sophomore. He’s filling his role very well right now coming off the bench. As soon as he comes in he gets open looks and he’s ready to knock them down. He made some mistakes in some rotations on defense but overall he definitely had his finest game for us.”
Ciccio finished with a game-high 16 points along with three assists.
“I think Bryant really played a solid game for us,” Houle said. “And Bryant’s done that for us the last couple of games. He’s leading us from the point guard position and he’s doing a nice job defensively. He’s getting open looks and he’s hitting shots. He scored the first eight points and they were all from what we want to do. I definitely think Bryant’s last couple of games, both ends of the court, he’s really playing solid for us.”
Attleboro shot 50% (27/54) from the floor overall and hit 12 of its 25 three-point attempts. It marked the third straight game that the Bombardiers hit double-digit threes, following 11 triples against Stoughton and 10 against Sharon. On Wednesday afternoon, five different Attleboro players connected for at least one three-pointer.
“When you can shot 50% from three good things are going to happen,” Houle said. “Guys start running out at you and then it opens things up inside too. We have a nice balance right now. Kids are understanding where the shots are coming from and they are working hard on them. When the ball goes in, it makes it easier.”
Attleboro boys basketball (2-1 Hockomock, 3-1 overall) is back in action on Friday when it welcomes in-town rival Bishop Feehan at 6:30.
DARTMOUTH, Mass. – In a back and forth battle that featured two heavyweights that featured four fourth quarter touchdowns, each side matching each other punch for counter punch, a special teams play in the second quarter may have been the biggest difference in the game.
North Attleboro emerged from the thrilling contest as 37-27 winners over Dartmouth in the D2 South Semifinal, snapping the home team’s 16-game win streak (longest in the state) and handed the Indians their first loss of the season.
While the fireworks were saved for the fourth quarter, arguably the biggest play came late in the second quarter. Dartmouth’s Liam Caulfield intercepted a tipped pass and brought it back 65 yards. A play later, QB Cole Jacobsen hit Caulfield for a 15 yard score, bringing the Indians within a point with less than two minutes to play in the first half.
On the extra point, North Attleboro senior Jack Dakin came flying in untouched and blocked the kick. Two bounces later, Rocketeer senior Neal Doherty scooped the ball up and sprinted 75 yards for two points for Big Read.
Instead of a tie game at halftime, the Rocketeers held a 16-13 edge. The three point difference proved pivotal in the fourth quarter shootout.
“I thought it was huge at the time,” North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson said. “The thing is we should have blocked more. We worked on it, we were confident we could get one and we got one, but we wanted more of them.
“It was so big, it just changes the whole game because of that one point right there.”
The first half saw each team have a lead – Dartmouth striking first before North responded with two straight scores. Both teams turned it over on the opening possession and the Indians used a trick play – wide receiver Nate Ellis hitting fellow wideout Miles Linhares for a 75 yard touchdown.
North responded with a methodical 10-play drive that covered 78 yards, Nick Rajotte (16 carries, 113 yards, 3 touchdowns) capping it with a 2 yard run to tie the game 7-7.
It took less than two minutes of time in the second quarter for the Rocketeers to seize the lead. On 2nd down, North junior QB Chad Peterson (11/18, 166 yards, 2 touchdowns) delivered a perfect lofted strike down the left sidelines and senior Hacmoni Cuevas hauled it in over his shoulders and scampered in the last five yards for a 44 yard touchdown.
“I think the real key was our offense being able to move the ball,” Johnson said. I don’t know how many snaps they had compared to us, until the end there. I thought us moving the football on offense kept their offense off the field and that was a big factor.
North had a chance to add to its lead before halftime but Dartmouth’s Luke Clarke grabbed his second interception of the game, picking off Peterson in the end zone midway through the second quarter.
To start the second quarter, North not only had a 16-13 lead thanks to Dakin and Doherty, they opened with possession — and made the most of it. The Rocketeers used nearly eight minutes of the third quarter to march 61 yards on 15 plays – going 4/4 on third down – to increase the lead to double digits.
Despite a pair of holding calls early in the drive, the Rocketeers were still able to move the ball — Peterson hitting Kyle McCarthy (3 catches, 64 yards; 10 carries, 86 yard) for 13 yards over the middle to convert the first third down. Facing another third down, Peterson kept it on the option for a five yard gain for another first.
Rajotte converted the third third down of the drive, plunging for six yards. Bobby Mylod (10 carries, 51 yards; 4 catches, 29 yards) nearly got into the end zone on the fourth third down but it was enough to move the sticks. On the next play, Rajotte darted in for a touchdown; Devin Slaney (5/5 XP) split the uprights to make it 23-13 with 3:05 left in the third quarter.
“You’ve got Bobby Mylod that can just pound people in there,” Johnson said of his run game. “Then all of a sudden, Rajotte has the speed and he can get out and find that seam, that’s big.”
The final quarter was completely back and forth, with Dartmouth getting within three on two occasions, but never tied the game — all tying back to Dakin’s block and Doherty’s return.
With 8:55 left in the game, Jacobsen connected with Ellis on a comeback but North’s defensive back slipped and Ellis ran his way to a 37 yard touchdown to make it 23-20.
North responded, again converting a pair of key third downs to get into the end zone. The Rocketeers were faced with 3rd and 5 from their own 49. Instead of keeping it on the ground, Big Red went play action and Peterson aired one out deep where McCarthy hauled it in for a 45 yard completion after getting a step on the defense.
Three plays later, facing third and goal, Peterson used play action again to fool the Indians and connected with a wide-open Mylod on the right side for a score and a 30-20 lead with 5:33 left.
Dartmouth used a 24 yard completion and 15 yard penalty to quickly move back up the field. On second and goal, Jacobsen tossed a perfectly timed pass to find a diving Ellis near the sideline for an 11 yard touchdown with 3:28 to go, drawing Dartmouth within 30-27.
“The message was to just never hang our heads,” Rajotte said of the message among the team after Dartmouth continued to fight back. “In the first half, I never thought they were truly beating us. They used a trick play for the first touchdown but we just had to keep our heads up and keep grinding. They weren’t pounding the ball like we were so we just had to keep our heads in it and never give up.”
The Indians elected for an onside kick on the ensuing kick off and the ball did bounce free for a moment but David Engler quickly smothered it. North Attleboro attempted to run the clock out but Dartmouth had four timeouts to burn, helping keep North in check.
Fittingly, on another third down, the Rocketeers were able to put the game away. Facing third and four from midfield, Rajotte got to the outside on the left sideline, found a seam and burst through it, racing to the end zone for a 37-27 lead with 2:50 to go.
“Going through my head, I knew I needed to get four yards,” Rajotte said. “It was 3rd and four, it was a huge spot in the game for us, we were up by a little bit. A first down at that point was going to be huge for us. During the play, I was just patient. The outside linebackers had been blitzing all game, luckily we had some great blocking on the play.
“Patience was key and there were great blocks. I was able to turn the corner, stay inbounds and score. It was such a great feeling.”
The Rocketeers defense was finally able to stop Dartmouth on its ensuing drive to end the game.
While Jacobsen was able to find success through the air, his normal game includes a lot of running – which the Rocketeers limited. Dartmouth finished with just 51 yards rushing as a team.
“We saw every one of [Dartmouth’s] games on film, and he was the difference,” Johnson said of Jacobsen. “Every game he broke big plays. So our primary goal was to stop the quarterback and not let him beat us. He actually ended up throwing the ball pretty well which we hadn’t seen. He’s a great player.”
North Attleboro football (8-1) advances to the D2 South Final to play #1 Duxbury (9-0). The Dragons used two fourth quarter touchdowns to beat Stoughton, 35-21, to reach the final. The game is currently scheduled for Friday night at Duxbury High with a 7:00PM kickoff.