TAUNTON, Mass. – The Taunton softball team has been one of the most lethal and dangerous offenses in the state over the past couple of seasons, and with 165 runs scored this year, they are among the best again this year.
While the Tigers can certainly mash and string together hit after hit, one thing that Taunton is focusing on as the state tournament approaches is cashing in when the opportunity arises.
Taunton turned to small ball on Wednesday night at Jack Tripp Field, scoring the first three runs of the game via squeeze plays, earning a 5-0 win over Franklin in a battle of top teams in the Kelley-Rex.
The win avenges the Tigers’ lone loss, which was to the Panthers back in April, a loss that snapped the defending D1 State Champions’ 28-game win streak.
“It’s something that we’ve used in the past and it depends on the situation and the batters,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry of the small ball approach. “We haven’t been great at bunting this year but we’ve hit so well its kind of been hidden. But tournament time, you have to be able to bunt.”
Taunton scored once in the third inning on a squeeze play and then used back-to-back bunts in the fourth inning to bring in two more runs. Sophomore Kelsey White, who threw a complete game shutout with four hits allowed and eight strikeouts, smashed a two-run home run in the fifth inning for insurance runs.
“Tonight and the other night game against Feehan, a night game between two good teams, a playoff-like atmosphere,” Lewry said. “That’s why we try to have these games towards the end of the year because it helps come tournament time.
“That was a huge win, I thought both teams played very, very well. We have a tough schedule coming up so It’s a lot nicer to have a two-game lead gap than it is to be in a tie, that’s for sure.”
With first place in the Kelley-Rex division up for grabs, both teams had a bit of a nervous start. Franklin’s Ally Shea smacked a single to lead off and Anna Balkus dropped a bunt down to put the first two Panthers on base with no outs. White answered with back-to-back strikeouts and induced a grounder back to the circle for the third out and no damage done.
“We missed our opportunities against an outstanding team, they are a great team without a doubt,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau. We missed our chances, we had a good chance in the first inning getting the first two on, and you can’t do that against a team like that.”
Jaime Brown singled to open for the Tigers and moved to second on a wild pitch but Franklin starter Jackie Cherry (6IP, 7H, 3BB, 5K, 5ER) fanned the next two batters and got a fly ball to center to escape the first.
After a scoreless second, Brown led off the bottom of the third with a walk. Alexa White dropped down a sac bunt and Brown used heads’ up base running to scamper all the way to third. With an emphasis on bringing in the first run, Lewry elected to have sophomore Hanna Aldrich — who leads the league in home runs — drop down a bunt for a squeeze play and Brown sprinted home to make it 1-0.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had Hanna bunt, certainly not this year, I can’t remember before that,” Lewry said. “But you have to get that first run. Hanna is a good bunter too. Payton Cegarlski bunted a few games ago for us. It doesn’t matter who’s at the plate, you have a runner at third with one out or no outs, you have to get in that run.”
Ceglarski drilled a deep single to lead of the fourth and pinch runner Kylie Thorpe moved up to second on a sac bunt from Kelsey White. A wild pitch third strike put runners on the corners and Lewry again called for the squeeze. Eighth-grader Ava Venturelli laid the bunt down and Thorpe was able to score when the ball was mishandled at home.
On the next pitch, Abbie McDonough dropped another bunt and Paige Silvia came sprinting home to make it 3-0. The Tigers loaded the bases but Cherry got a fly ball to center and Balkus gunned a runner at home for a double play to prevent any more runs.
White retired eight straight before Franklin’s Maggie Hobby singled through the left side with two outs in the fifth. After Shea was hit by a pitch, the Panthers had runners on first and second but white got a ground ball to Brown at third for the third out.
In the bottom of the fifth, Aldrich had a leadoff single before Cherry retired the next two batters. After bunting in her previous at-bat, Kelsey White got a hold of a pitch this time and sent it over the center field fence for a two-run home run.
A two-base error was erased by Kelsey White on a fielder’s choice in the sixth, and then she retired the side in order in the seventh, getting the final two outs on strikes.
“Kelsey was amazing tonight, huh?” Lewry said. “She had everything going, the changeup was probably the best she’s had all year and she got a lot of kids with that nice change. She’s been struggling a little at the plate, I told her yesterday I was thinking about flexing for her and she told me she was ready. She got into that pitch though and hit it pretty darn good.”
Taunton softball (10-1 Hockomock, 14-1) takes sole possession of first place with a game in hand. The Tigers return to action on Saturday night against Attleboro at 7:00. Franklin (9-3, 10-4) returns home for a game against Oliver Ames on Friday afternoon.
Fittingly, the Tigers were the last team to win a league game at PAL, back in 2016. Taunton was on the verge of a win last season before a seventh inning rally resulted in a walk-off win.
This time, Taunton jumped ahead early, building a 5-0 lead through three innings and that lead was more than enough for sophomore pitcher Kelsey White (CG, 2H, 4K).
“I thought we played a complete game,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “Our pitching was outstanding, Kelsey was really on today. We played good, solid defense, and we hit the ball well, especially early. Hanna [Aldrich] got into a couple, and that’s what you have to do to beat this team. They are solid, they are going to be around come the end of the year.”
Sophomore Hanna Aldrich was the catalyst for the Tiger offense. In her first at-bat, she launched a two-out solo home run over the fence in left field to put the visitors up a run after an inning.
Eighth-grader Ava Venturelli led off the top of the second with a walk for the Tigers and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Alexa White. A double off the wall in right from Paige Silvia put runners on second and third.
Payton Ceglarski brought Venturelli home with a sacrifice fly into right field with Raegan Simeone making a terrific running catch and nearly getting the runner at home with a great throw. Silvia, who moved to third on the sacrifice, came home to score on a passed ball to make it 3-0.
After allowing a two-out single in the bottom of the first inning to KP’s Faith Turinese, Kelsey White retired the side in order in the second, getting a strikeout and two ground balls.
Taunton’s offense was back at it again in the top of the third. Kelsey White reached on a bunt with one out and Aldrich delivered again. This time, Aldrich smashed the second pitch she saw well over the wall in left for a two-run homer and a 5-0 lead on the scoreboard.
“I think it’s every team’s plan, you want to get an early lead and put the pressure on the other team.=,” Lewry said. “For Hanna get that home run in the first inning and give us the lead, and kind of take a little pressure off, that was huge. And then she added another in the third too.”
King Philip’s Grace Kelley reached on an error to start the bottom of the third but White got a pop up to center, erased the lead running with a grounder, and another out to left to prevent any damage.
The sophomore right-hander retired the side in order in the fourth, five, and sixth innings, getting five ground balls for outs.
“That’s the key, you have to play good defense,” Lewry said. “Kelsey was pitching to contact today. She threw a lot of good changes, she got some swings and misses but she got a lot of ground balls which is what we were trying to do in this situation.”
Taunton added some insurance in the top of the sixth inning. Sophomore Tayah DeCosta drew a two-out walk, and courtesy runner Kylie Thorpe advanced to third on a single from Rylie Murphy (Abigail McDonough re-entered to run). Senior Jaime Brown knocked both runners in with a double to left field to increase the score to 7-0.
Taunton softball (2-0 Hockomock, 3-0 overall) is back in action on Friday when it visits Foxboro. King Philip (1-2, 1-2) returns to PAL on Tuesday to host Bishop Feehan.
2018 Record: 9-12 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Homer
After back-to-back playoff appearances, the expectations are high around the Attleboro program this spring. The Bombardiers return eight of nine starters from last year’s team and the lineup should be loaded with good hitters, as well as multiple players who can step into the circle and produce a good start. With the depth on the roster this season, Attleboro will be eyeing another postseason berth.
Senior McKenzie Bergdoll is one of the top power hitters in the league and will be back for another spring in the heart of the Attleboro lineup. She will be joined by classmates Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti as starters. Junior Makenzie Killough will be back at shortstop and also batting cleanup and providing protection for Bergdoll in the order. Sophomore Lora Woyton returns behind the plate, sophomore Autumn O’Connell will be in center and batting second and junior Ashley Macia will be out in left. Sophomore Brenna Morse will be taking over in rightfield. In the circle, Attleboro has plenty of depth with juniors Emily and Jenna Gittle and Bergdoll all able to step in. The Bombardiers will try to take advantage of their overall team speed and head coach Mark Homer said there are a few freshmen who may see playing time right away.
“The bar was set high from last season,” said Homer. “So the girls are onboard to perform well again this season with high hopes of competing in every game they play. They have set some goals to achieve one a\t a time. I am cautiously optimistic with our chances of winning more games this season than we have in the past. Knowing that there are no easy games on our schedule so we have to come to play every night.”
2018 Record: 8-13 2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Dave Bohane
Canton had quite the turnaround in 2018 under second-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, winning eight games, seven more than in 2017, and making a return to the state tournament. Robillard, last season’s HockomockSports.com Coach of the Year, has moved on to a position at Bentley and football coach Dave Bohane has taken over a team that has seen an influx of young talent and has momentum on its side heading into the spring.
Junior pitcher Caroline Hughes is one of the reasons for optimism in the program, as she is looking to build off a strong sophomore season in which she pitched almost every inning. Hughes was also one of the team’s top hitters and she will be at the heart of the lineup along with sophomore outfielder Liz Bickett, who batted .409 last season. Bickett is just one of several sophomores who the Bulldogs will be counting on, including infielders Olivia Lanci and Sarah Kelly, catchers Steph Trendell and Amanda Vrabel. Junior catcher Jackie Howard and seniors Haley Donovan and Ally Chin will provide leadership for this young group to try and get the Bulldogs right back into the state tournament mix.
“I am very excited to be coaching this team,” said Bohane, who has previously served the program as an assistant coach. “They are extremely hard working and devoted to the program. I think they will set the standard for our future players who come through the program. It’s a very tough league, but we will take it one game at a time and try to improve each game”.
2018 Record: 11-12 2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Mark Maguire
Foxboro made a run in the Div. 2 tournament last season, winning a pair of games before being knocked out in the quarterfinals, and the Warriors will hope to build on that exciting finish to 2018 by making a run at the Davenport crown this spring. Even with the loss of catcher Hannah Davis, who was instrumental in the team’s playoff run, Foxboro has a strong returning core and some talented young players stepping in to give head coach Mark Maguire confidence ahead of the new season.
Senior Emma Rohan will be back in the circle for her fourth year as the Foxboro starter and she has the experience of pitching in a number of big games and against the top teams in the league. Senior Cam Willis will play first this season, but can also step in and pitch if needed along with junior Amelia Stowell. The pitchers will have a rookie to throw to, as freshman Allie Willis will be stepping in behind the plate. Sophomore Morgan Sylvestre returns at shortstop after a strong first season on varsity and will be one of the leaders of the infield. Senior Chelsea Gibbons is at third base and freshman Peyton Feldman takes over at second. Sophomore Nicole Theriault will be in centerfield but can play a number of positions, senior Riley Martignetti gives the team pop from the right side of the plate, and senior Jill Finn can play all three outfield positions.
“Preseason is going great as the girls are working very hard to be ready for the season,” said Maguire. “We have a group of girls who work hard. I think team defense should be good with our senior leadership, and the younger players who aggressively look to make plays in the field. I have high expectations for this team, as we look to compete for a Davenport title and gain a state tournament berth.”
2018 Record: 9-11 2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Kate Fallon
Franklin has consistently been right behind perennial league leaders Taunton and King Philip in the Kelley-Rex division standings but has narrowly missed out on the playoffs by a single win in each of the past two seasons. This year, the Panthers have eight seniors coming back with the goal of getting the team back into the postseason and use a typically tough schedule to prep for a tournament run.
Pitching will be a strength for the Panthers this year with seniors Jackie Cherry and Emily Valentino giving the team depth and different options in the circle. Throwing strikes will be the key for both and limiting opposition base runners. Behind the plate, Franklin has plenty of experience as well with seniors Ally Shea and Maggie Hobby both capable of stepping in and handling the pitchers as well as providing power at the plate. Senior Tara Hartnett will be back at shortstop and provides strong defense up the middle. Junior Anna Balkus will be in centerfield and will set the table for the offense as the lead-off hitter. Junior Maddy White will be at third base and joins Shea and senior Kylie-Jade Bouzan as the team’s primary run producers.
“We are excited to see the Panther players on the field again,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau. “Overall our tough league and non-league schedule will keep us focused for tournament and we will rely on our solid pitching and defense.”
2018 Record: 21-4 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Final Coach: Norm Beauchemin
Every season King Philip loses important players and every season the Warriors seem to be right back in the mix for the league title. This spring should be no different. KP will have several important players to replace in the lineup, but it expects to challenge for a 12th title in the past 13 seasons and also make another tournament run, following last year’s South final loss to Kelley-Rex rival Taunton.
Meghan Gorman is the player to watch for the Warriors this season, as the senior shortstop is one of the top defensive players in the state and also the spark plug at the top of the lineup. Senior Faith Turinese will move from the outfield into the circle and will split time with classmate Heather Nix as the top pitchers for the Warriors. Turinese also batted over .400 last year and will be an important bat in the middle of the order. Junior Destiny Goyco will step in behind the plate, after overcoming an injury from basketball season, and fellow junior Liliana Rolfe will take over at third. Grace Kelley will be at second base and Anna Bradley will be at first. The outfield will be filled with speed, including Kara McWhinnie in left, sophomore Paige Berdos in center, and either Ryan Stagg or junior Reaegan Simeone in right.
“One to nine, everyone hits the ball,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin. “I’m looking forward to another solid season. The league overall is going to be very competitive, so it should be fun.”
2018 Record: 7-13 2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Lori Letendre
Mansfield is looking to bounce back from a tough 2018 season in which the Hornets struggled in the Hockomock (going 4-12 in league play) and missed the playoffs. This year, Mansfield hopes for a quick turnaround and return to the state tournament with an experienced roster that brings back 11 players, seven starters, and seven seniors from last season.
The battery of senior pitcher Sarah Cahill and senior catcher Caty DeMassi is back and should give the Hornets a good foundation on which to build on this season. Seniors Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo will hold down the left side of the infield and provide pop in the middle of the lineup, while Mady Bendanillo returns in centerfield to give Mansfield a dynamic defensive player and another strong bat. There is an influx of youth as well with two sophomores and a freshman jumping into varsity and having the chance to contribute right away.
“Our goal is to make it back to the tournament this year and with strong leadership from our captains and our seniors, I think we will have a good shot at it!” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre.
2018 Record: 18-3 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Steve DiVitto
The biggest question for Milford is how do the Hawks move on from a group of 10 seniors that won a combined 79 games, four league titles, and the 2017 state championship? Milford has been the team to beat in the Davenport division for six years and a relatively inexperienced group will have to face a season in which the target for every team in the league is squarely on their backs.
Junior Megan Hart is one of the primary options to replace Kelley Reichert in the circle to start the season, with freshman Olivia Morelli showing potential to step in and contribute innings right away. Senior Lucy Creedon can step in at first or in the outfield. Junior April Swain will jump into the outfield along with classmate Taylor Waldrup, while junior Amanda Wenckus can play either position on the left side of the infield and sophomore Carly Ferreira can play either corner infield spot. Sophomore Elise Fauerbach can play behind the plate or in the outfield, while her classmate Natalie Casilli will take an outfield spot. There are a lot of spots to fill this year, but head coach Steve DiVitto is talking about that as an opportunity for a new group of players to step into.
“We understand that lack of experience is something that we will need to combat with, however the bar will continue to be set high!” DiVitto said. “Each year a new page is turned over, and as always the focus is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season. We’re excited for the challenges of playing in the best league in the state!”
2018 Record: 16-5 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Bill Wallace
Two seasons ago, North Attleboro was a young team that made a surprise trip to the South semifinal, but this year the Rocketeers will have much higher expectations. North is now the experienced team in the Davenport division and has aspirations of unseating Milford and winning a first league title since 1990 and adding to the league’s recent history of strong tournament performances with another deep run.
Junior pitcher Bella Erti will be one of the league’s top pitchers again this season, after a 15-5 sophomore season in which she struck out 137 batters. She also hit .357. Junior Ashley Cangiano is also back for her third year as a starter and is one of the top catchers in the league. Abby Gallagher returns to the North outfield after hitting .500 last season as a sophomore and senior Olivia Capobianco will be back in centerfield and the middle of the North lineup. Freshman Mandi Hanewich and sophomores Emma Bailey and Belle Clarkin will compete for the third outfield spot after impressive preseasons. Senior Katie Daby is at first, while sophomore Emily Nardelli moves from shortstop to second base. Junior Alex Moulson takes over at short and her classmate Annabelle Hebard will be at third. Emily Bedard and Makenzie Nardelli add to North’s infield depth and Alivia Byrne will give Erti a rest in the circle and is another big bat in the lineup.
“We will need to be more multi-dimensional, as late in the year we couldn’t sustain our offensive start to the season,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “This group really wants to make their mark on the league and they know how much work that is going to take.”
Last season was a struggle for the Tigers, with only three wins and head coach Lindsey Allison is hoping that a group of younger players can add to the returning core and make a push to get Oliver Ames back into the state tournament. Allison is confident that the offense will get into the swing of things for the Tigers after scoring only 66 runs last season, second-lowest in the league.
Senior Kayla Georgeu will be back in the circle for OA and in the heart of the lineup. The Tigers will count on sophomore Emma Varella to provide some innings at pitcher, as well as playing in the infield. Senior first baseman Katie Mills is a big bat for the Tigers and junior Katie Abreu can step in at either shortstop or centerfield depending on the game to provide vocal leadership. Sophomore Grace Simone will be behind the plate this season.
“Every spot is open for the taking and there are many young players who are hungry to be on the field,” said Allison. “This group of players seem like a team – not just a group of individuals. They compete with one another for positions, but also support each other. They hold each other accountable and communicate. I am excited to see what hard work can accomplish this season.”
It was definitely a rough debut season for Sharon coach Heather Poliferno, but it was also a chance for a number of young players to get experience at the varsity level. This spring, there is renewed enthusiasm with a crop of underclassmen joining the experienced players to give Poliferno and the Eagles confidence for a much better spring.
Freshman Trinity Payne is the player to watch for the Eagles this season as she takes over as the starting pitcher and has already drawn the attention of coaches in the Davenport division. She will be used at a couple of different positions and gives the Eagles versatility in the lineup. Senior Alli Small will be back at shortstop this season, while classmate Jody Goldenberg is back at first, and senior Rebecca Clayman will be the leader of the outfield group. As the program is growing, Sharon is hoping for much different results this season.
“We are very excited for this season!” said Poliferno. “We have many returning players leading our varsity team, as well as the addition of a very talented freshman class. Though we have only had a handful of practices, one of our clear strengths is our desire to be the best on the field.”
2018 Record: 7-13 2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Deb Parker
Stoughton struggled to find a groove in 2018 and ended up missing the playoffs under first-year head coach Deb Parker, who had made the switch from Sharon before last season. This year, the Black Knights bring back starters in key positions and once again have the potential to make a run at a state tournament berth and even challenge for the Davenport title.
Seniors Nikki Coppola (second base) and Jordan Lyons (shortstop) give Stoughton a strong combination up the middle and senior Karly Estremera brings plenty of experience at third base. Sophomore pitcher Nicole Baker will take over full-time in the circle this season and Parker is impressed by the work that she put in during the off-season to get ready. Baker will be throwing to an experienced catcher, as senior Brianna Ferrandiz is back behind the plate for the Black Knights. Junior Lexi Baptista will lead the outfield crew in center and could also be one of Stoughton’s top hitters this season. Freshmen Melody Casna and Sydney Menz will give the Black Knights versatility by playing multiple positions.
“This team has come together so quickly, it is a real tribute to the leadership of our captains,” said Parker. “This team knows what they are playing for this year and we have high expectations going into the season. Softball in the Hockomock League is incredibly competitive but if we continue to work hard, we should have a great season.”
2018 Record: 26-2 2018 Finish: Won D1 State Championship Coach: Dave Lewry
How do you follow up a state championship? For Taunton, it just may be to make a run at a repeat. The Tigers lost the second, third, and fourth hitters in the lineup (including league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Kya Enos), who combined for 88 RBI, but there is a ton of talent coming back from last season, all of whom contributed at one point or another during Taunton’s run to the title.
It starts in the circle where sophomore Kelsey White will be the starter again this season after going 16-2 as a freshman and pitching every inning during the playoff run (not to mention batting .418). Her sister Alexa will also see time at pitcher, along with freshman Olyvia Mendonca, but will also play most of the season in centerfield. The infield will be a strength for the Tigers, with all four players back. Senior Jaime Brown (batted .469) is back for her fifth year at third base and is one of the top hitters in the league, sophomore Hanna Aldrich (.385 average with four homers and 30 RBI) is in her third year at shortstop and was this site’s Underclassman of the Year in 2018, sophomore McKenzie McAloon returns at second base for her third season, and junior Paige Silvia is back at first. Silvia and junior Riley Murphy are also in the running to replace Enos behind the plate, while junior Abbie McDonough takes over in left and eighth-grader Ava Venturelli could start the season in right.
“While we lost three outstanding players to graduation, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “We have a good nucleus of returning players looking to defend our D1 state championship.”
WORCESTER, Mass. – In the bottom of the fourth inning, Wachusett started to hit the ball hard, scoring a run on back-to-back doubles and cutting into the Taunton lead. Although the Tigers still led by three runs, momentum appeared to be shifting to the Central champs and Taunton went to the plate looking for an instant response to take back control.
With one run home, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two outs and up stepped junior Alexa White. Wachusett starter Courtney Lanpher got two strikes on Taunton’s second baseman, but then White turned on a pitch, lifting it to deep left. The Taunton bench was almost holding its breath watching the ball sail towards the fence and almost exploded when the ball cleared it.
White’s grand slam broke Saturday night’s Div. 1 state championship game wide open, lifting Taunton (26-2) to a convincing 13-2 win over the Mountaineers and ending an 11-year wait for the program’s fifth state title.
“It’s almost surreal,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry, who earned his fourth title as coach of the Tigers. “I began to question whether I was ever going to get another one, you know? It just hasn’t sunk in yet, but these kids deserve it. The whole team just worked so hard for it.
“I’m just so proud of them all. They’ve had a great, great season.”
Throughout the playoffs, as a team, the Tigers have talked about trying to win this title for the senior class, which before this year had gotten as far as the South sectional final four years ago. On Saturday, they fulfilled that mission.
“They worked so hard all these years and for us to finally have a chance for it, we really wanted them to have it,” said freshman Hanna Aldrich.
The Tigers jumped in front in the first. Junior Jaime Brown (2-for-3) lined a single to center, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Liana Duarte (3-for-4), and then scored on a single by Kya Enos (2-for-4). All three played on the Taunton team that reached the South final in 2015.
In the third, Taunton got some breathing room. Brown drew a one-out walk and stole second. With two outs, Enos drew a walk and Mackenzie Handrahan knocked a single through the left side of the infield. Brown was able to slide in ahead of the tag. Aldrich (2-for-4) followed with a single of her own, which scored Enos and Handrahan for a 4-0 lead.
Wachusett got its first base runner off Kelsey White with two outs in the fourth. Ellie Moore doubled to left center and then Reagan Lowe bounced one off the fence in center to drive her in. Paige Arvidson smashed a line drive right back at White, who snared it to end the inning.
The energy was suddenly much higher from the Wachusett fans and the Mountaineers looked rejuvenated. That lasted only a few hitters.
Duarte started the rally with a one-out single. Enos reached on an error and Handrahan on a fielder’s choice after another error trying to get the lead runner. Aldrich drove in her third run of the game with a bouncer over the pitcher that left the shortstop in no man’s land.
“We kept talking about that,” said Lewry about Taunton trying to stem any momentum from Wachusett. “They made it 4-1 and I said let’s get that four-run lead back and they came right back and got it for me. You just like to keep putting the pressure on.”
After Lanpher got Kelsey White to pop up to the catcher for the second out, the Mountaineers looked like they may just escape the inning having only allowed a single run, but Alexa White stepped in to give her sister, and the team, a lift. The grand slam made it 9-1 and had the Tigers cruising.
“I already had two strikes on me,” Alexa White said, “and I was just expecting the middle pitch and I took it and it was the best feeling I’ve ever experienced. It’s something I’ll never forget. I’m so happy I could rally the team up one last time.”
Emily Todorov started the bottom half of the inning with a solo shot to left, but then Alexa White flashed the leather at second to record the next three outs. Twice she made plays to her left, cutting down grounders in the hole between first and second and then, after a Wachusett single, she tracked one down up the middle and had the presence of mind to tag the base for the force.
“My adrenaline was up and I was like, ‘I’ve got to go every which way to get this ball,’ said White about her play in the field. She moved from the outfield to second base after an injury to starter McKenzie McAloon right before the tournament and it was an adjustment at first. She explained, “Obviously, it was a big surprise to put me there because of an unfortunate injury but I knew I had to step up there and help out the infield.”
Any hope that Wachusett had of a comeback was dashed in the sixth. Taunton continued to stretch the lead and the top of the order continued to come through with big hits. Brown started it with a double to center and Duarte followed by lining a double over the left fielder’s head. She would come around to score again on an Enos single to left and it was 11-2.
In the seventh, Taunton brought players off the bench to give them a taste of the final and extended the lead further.
Freshman Tayah DaCosta, who was pulled up from JV for the postseason, lined a single in her first at-bat of the playoffs. Abbie McDonough, who played right field, followed with a double to put two in scoring position. Hailee Hartung drove in one with a groundout to second and Duarte beat out an infield single to drive in another.
With a strong defense behind her, Kelsey White closed out the game with a clean seventh inning. The freshman allowed only five hits from the Mountaineers and continued a strong tournament run that saw her allow no more than two runs in any of Taunton’s six playoff games.
“She’s really composed,” said Enos about White. “You’ll never see her upset, she’s always within herself. I’m so proud of her. She’s pitched every game of the tournament by herself. It’s emotionally, physically, and mentally tiring and she did it.”
Lewry added, “She’s been amazing all year. She’s a freshman but she pitches like a senior. What a career she’s got in front of her still and she’s already got a state championship.”
With two outs, the ball was hit on the ground to Brown at third and she, as she has done countless times before, fired a strike to first base. Unlike all those other times, this one was for a state championship and to complete a mission that the Tigers had set out on at the start of the season.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Aldrich gushed. “Nothing has ever felt like this before.”
“I’m surprised I’m not crying because I’m so happy,” Alexa White said. “I’m just in shock because this is so incredible and I’m so happy for the seniors and…there are no words, literally no words.
“They are the nucleus of the team,” Lewry said. “What a great combination of seniors. I never had to use the word ‘senioritis’ this season. Usually, we have to talk about it with them being out of school at the end of the season. But we never had to mention it all year and that’s a tremendous credit to those three.
“These kids deserve it. I’m so happy for Kya, Liana, and Mack.”
The three seniors weren’t just strong leaders off the field, they led by example on the diamond as well. Each Duarte (3-for-4), Enos (2-for-4), and Handrahan recorded a hit, drove in at least one run, and scored at least once in the Tigers’ big win.
“Honestly, this team, there is something special about it,” said Enos, who has spent five years on the squad after making the roster in eighth grade. “We’ve worked hard and we’ve just never had chemistry like this. I’m close with every single one of these girls and I believe in every single one of them. I’m exceptionally proud of every one of them.”
It didn’t take long for Taunton to take a lead with Enos responsible for giving the visitors a lead in the first inning. After a leadoff single from Jaime Brown, the junior moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt from Duarte. That brought up Enos, who slapped a base hit up the middle into the outfield to bring Brown home for a quick 1-0 advantage.
Just two innings later, the top of the order helped Taunton increase its lead. Both Brown and Enos walked before Handrahan drilled a hard grounder up the third base line, bringing a run home. Enos and Handrahan came home to score on a single from freshman Hanna Aldrich to make it 4-0 in favor of Taunton.
“They worked so hard all these years and for us to finally have a chance for it, we really wanted them to have it,” Aldrich said of the seniors.
“It’s crazy, it’s an amazing feeling,” Handrahan said. “I’m so happy to do it with my best friends, my seniors. And everyone as a whole, it’s an honor to be on this team, I love everyone so much.”
The three seniors, who combined for half of Taunton’s 12 hits and were responsible for driving in five runs and scoring five runs, were the catalysts of the Tigers’ biggest inning — the fifth inning.
Duarte got things going with a one-out single, Enos reached on an infield error, and Handrahan took first on a fielder’s choice when Duarte beat the throw to third. A base hit from Aldrich brought Duarte home but kept the bases loaded. Junior Alexa White delivered the big blow with a two-out grand slam to put Taunton ahead 9-1.
“We just knew we had to come in and do our jobs,” Handrahan said. “We wanted to hit the ball as much as we could and get runs on the board.”
“We really focused on softball,” said Duarte, who finished her fourth year on varsity. “We knew we had the chance to go far, we worked hard at practices. We didn’t want to waste all the hard work we had this year so it was a great way to end it.”
A solo shot from Wachusett in the bottom of the fifth grave the Mountaineers a tiny bit of momentum but Taunton came back with a big response in the sixth inning. Duarte drove Brown in with a double and Enos sent Duarte home with a single to make it 11-2.
“It’s been a long five years, getting in the top four seeds each season only to lose early or lose an upset,” Enos said. “We’ve beat ourselves in the past but we truly showed what kind of team we are this year. There’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on that Jack Tripp Field. I could not have asked for a better way to end it. Not many people can say they go out their senior year as a state champion. I’m so happy for everyone.”
“Kya and Mack have been my best friends for as long as I can remember and it’s great to have such a bond with the other two seniors,” Duarte said. “We all really worked well together, there were no arguments. We stayed close, we worked hard together and we ended it with a championship.”
Enos admitted that although it’s sad that the trio won’t play together again in a Taunton uniform, it was the perfect ending to a storied career.
“I’m wicked proud of both of them,” Enos said of her two fellow seniors. “Liana has worked really hard. Mackenzie does her job so well, she can really hit. Both of them, neither played outfield before, and look at them now, they were great.”
TAUNTON, Mass. – In the bottom of the sixth inning, Taunton put together a rally to try and regain the lead against King Philip (21-4) in Friday night’s Div. 1 South final at Jack Tripp Field. The first two batters reached and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. An intentional walk loaded the bases for No. 9 hitter Rylie Murphy.
The sophomore made her first start of the playoffs, after playing a handful of games and getting fewer than 20 at-bats on varsity in the regular season, and was now up in the biggest moment of the spring against the team’s biggest rival. Taunton coach Dave Lewry admitted that adding Murphy to the lineup was a “hunch.”
Murphy battled to a 3-2 count against KP starter Elise Pereira, who was only a strike away from escaping the jam, before turning on a pitch and smacking a grounder down the third base line. KP third baseman Jess Bonner dove but the ball hit a mound of dirt in front of her, took a huge hop, and bounced into shallow left field, bringing in the game-winning runs.
“It’s like what you have in dreams, two outs, 3-2 count, bottom of the sixth inning and you just hit it and you don’t even know where it goes and all of a sudden your coach is screaming, jumping up and down and you’re so excited,” said Murphy after Taunton’s 4-2 victory, which earned the program’s first South title since 2007.
Lewry was all smiles as he talked about Murphy and the contributions she has made to the team off the field all season. He said, “A kid who sits the bench all year, cheering for everybody, and comes into this game and gets the winning hit, unbelievable.”
He added, “She’s a kid that puts the bat on the ball all the time. You’ve got to put the bat on the ball to get hits. If you swing and miss or take a called third then you’re not going to get anything.”
The Warriors were far from finished. In the top of the seventh, Bonner ripped a hard line drive to third but Jaime Brown knocked it down and made the play for the first out. Brooke Taute and Brianna Lacy were both hit by pitches from freshman Kelsey White to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.
“Probably the most nervous she got all year was hitting two batters in the last inning,” said Lewry of White. He gathered the team in the circle to settle everyone down. “That’s one of her traits, she’s just so composed,” he added. “She’s amazing, I love her demeanor out there on the mound.”
White got a pop-up in foul ground and a soft liner that shortstop Hanna Aldrich made a nice running catch on to end the game. It meant the Tigers won the season series with KP, after splitting two games in the regular season (and losing the Kelley-Rex title to the Warriors) and fulfilled a mission for the team’s three seniors and for Brown, who was an eighth grader when Taunton made the final in 2015 but lost to Silver Lake.
“Since my eighth grade year, being here and losing, we’ve been working for this for so long,” Brown explained. “It gave you that pit in the bottom of your stomach. There was no other option; we knew we were winning today.”
Taunton took the lead for the first time in the second inning. Kelsey White lined a one-out single to left and her sister Alexa, a junior second baseman, drilled a double down the leftfield line to bring in the game’s first run.
As expected in a rivalry that is fast becoming one of the best in the state, one run was not going to be enough. KP battled back in the top of the fourth to jump in front.
Hailey McCasland led-off with a walk and moved to second on a groundout. Faith Turinese singled to right but the runner had to hold at third. After Turinese stole second, KP coach Norm Beauchemin called for a Pereira squeeze bunt, but Kelsey White fielded her position well to scoop the ball to catcher Kya Enos for the second out.
The Tigers nearly got out of the inning unscathed, but Aldrich bobbled a Bonner grounder to extend the inning and bring in the tying run. Taute followed that by crushing a ball to dead center that was inches from being gone. Instead it was an RBI-double to put KP up 2-1.
“We didn’t beat ourselves tonight and that’s what I’m proud of,” said Beauchemin of the Warriors battling back. “We know we’re going to have a tough game and they expect a tough game on their end as well.”
Taunton almost came right back to tie it after Handrahan started the bottom of the fourth with a double, but she was stranded. In the fifth, the Tigers did even the score. Paige Silvia lined a double to left center and moved to third on a sac bunt by Murphy. Brown grounded a ball to KP shortstop Meghan Gorman, who was playing deep enough to allow the run to score.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been more confident in this team in years. Even when we were down, we knew we could pick it up,” said Brown. When asked about the contributions from the bottom of the order, she added, “We’ve been working on it all season and trying to get that whole lineup going and it’s a perfect timing for all of it to come together.”
In the sixth inning, Handrahan again got things started with a single off the glove of Bonner, who was at full stretch going to her left. Aldrich lined a ball off the leg of Pereira and into no-man’s land in front of second base. Kelsey White’s sac bunt moved the runners into scoring position and Beauchemin called for an intentional walk of Alexa White to give KP a force at the plate.
It worked on the next hitter, as Silvia’s grounder to Bonner turned into the second out when the third baseman gunned down the lead runner. Murphy came up next and with the pressure on, she delivered the hit that decided the South title.
“It wasn’t only the lucky break,” said Beauchemin, “they earned the first two runs and of course they got a lucky break, but such is life. I thought it was two evenly-matched teams coming into this game.”
Lewry said, “It took kind of a bad-hop ground ball to make the difference, but we’ll take it all the time. These kids don’t quit. They’ve got a lot of guts and they hung in there and found a way to come back and do the job.”
Murphy tried to reflect on what was going through her mind as she stepped up to the plate in the decisive moment, knowing that this was a chance to not only win the game, but also to give the upperclassman the title that they have been craving since their last final appearance four years ago.
“It’s so overwhelming,” she said. “I’m just so glad that I got to be to be able to be in the game and be around to hit the ball. I just feel so amazing to win.
“I’ve never wanted to win this for them and for everybody so badly in my entire life.”
Taunton (24-2) will face the winner of Methuen and Newton North in the state semifinal on Tuesday night at Martin Field in Lowell.
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.
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.
TAUNTON, Mass. – After losing the first game of the season series to King Philip on a walkoff home run, it didn’t take long to see how ready the Taunton Tigers were to extract some revenge.
The hosts came out swimming, plating four runs in the bottom of the first inning, highlighted by a three-run home run, and then held off a late surge from the Warriors to earn a 4-3 win.
“I think they definitely ready to play tonight, this was an absolute must win for us when you think about the Hock championship,” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “We came out with four runs in the first but kind of struggled a bit after that. We got some base runners but couldn’t come through with the clutch hit. They are a good team…that shortstop [Meghan Gorman] played a tremendous game for them, just tremendous. We just couldn’t get the base hit when we needed it [for insurance]. But the four runs held up for seven innings so we’ll take that.”
Junior Jaime Brown had a line drive double to lead off the bottom of the first, Kya Enos gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead with an RBI single through the left side, Mackenzie Handrahan took first after being hit by a pitch, and freshman Hanna Aldrich blasted a deep shot to center field for a three-run homer, giving Taunton a 4-0 lead.
“It’s a good spot for her,” Lewry said of Aldrich’s spot in the order. “She’s a clutch hitter for us but I don’t want her any further up in the lineup so there isn’t too much pressure on her. And she’s gotten a lot of big hits for us in the five-hole so I think its a real nice spot for her. And none bigger than tonight. When you hit the ball out to center, you crush the ball. It’s 220 out there, and that cleared by a good 20 feet if possible.”
The Tigers had a chance to add to their lead but KP starter Elise Pereira (6 IP, 8 H, 5 K) settled in nicely, only allowing five hits over the next five innings. And even when Taunton did get a hit, or looked like they might, KP shortstop Meghan Gorman had a handful of highlight reel plays to stall Taunton’s attack.
For example, in the second inning, the Tigers had runners on first (Brown via a walk) and second (Alexa White leadoff double) with just one out. But Pereira induced a pop up to center field and then Gorman robbed Enos of a hit with a diving catch at short.
King Philip got on the board in the top of the fourth inning. Pereira helped her own cause with a one-out double to center and courtesy runner Liliana Rolfe came around to score on an RBI single from Jess Bonner to make it 4-1.
The Warriors had a chance to cut into the lead more when Brianna Lacy singled to get runners on first and second but Taunton freshman Alexa White (5.2 IP, 9 H, 3 K) got a strikeout to escape the jam.
It looked like Taunton was going to add to its lead in the bottom of the fourth when Alexa and Kelsey White had had back-to-back singles to begin the inning but Gorman snagged a line drive and got the tag at second for the force out for an unassisted double play.
Sydney Phillips led off with a double in the fifth and made it to third with two outs, but White once again came up with the right pitch, getting a fly ball that senior centerfielder Liana Duarte tracked down and made the catch over her shoulder just before the fence.
“Liana is clearly our best outfielder, this is her fourth year in the outfield for us, Lewry said. “When a ball is hit to her, I don’t have to hold my breath. And Mack is developing into a real solid left fielder, she keeps the ball in front of her and makes the plays. And Alexa is an infielder who’s learning how to play out there and she’s doing a nice job out there. Liana definitely made some nice plays for us today. A couple of those balls, they could have been trouble and been over her heard but she made the plays.”
But an inning later, King Philip’s offense did cash in, pushing across two runs. Jess Bonner singled and moved to second on a groundout. Lacy reached after an infield throwing error, allowing Bonner to come home to make it 4-2. Courtesy runner Majorie Guerrier stole second and came in to score on a two-out single from Nicole Carter.
Sophomore Jaylin Couto came in to relieve White, inducing a pop up behind the plate that Enos made an acrobatic play on to get the third out.
“It’s hard a decision for me to get used to making because I haven’t had that in the past,” Lewry said of using multiple pitchers. “When you have a pitcher out there, she’s throwing a good game, it’s hard to pull her and put someone cold. You just hope they don’t come in and walk three batters in a row. But Jaylin did her job, she does throw hard, she had some nice stuff. The whole key there was to throw quality strikes and she did that.”
Alexa White picked up her third hit of the day, her second double, with two outs but Pereira picked up a strikeout to end the threat in the bottom of the sixth.
KP threatened in the top of the seventh when Hailey McCasland drew a walk but Brown made a phenomenal play at third, grabbing a hard hit line drive and getting the double play at first. Faith Turinese singled with two outs, and Guerrier stole second to get into scoring position, but Couto got a fly ball to center for the final out.
Taunton softball (10-2 Hockomock, 11-2 overall) moves into a first place tie with the Warriors with the win, though KP has a game in hand. The Tigers are scheduled to be back in action on Wednesday when it hosts Oliver Ames. King Philip (10-1, 12-3) will try to bounce back on Tuesday when it hits the road to take on Franklin.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Milford’s offense exploded for six runs in the fifth inning to create a big lead and then held on after a late Taunton rally to open the season with a win.
The Hawks built a five-run lead in the top of the fifth but the Tigers plated four runs over the next two innings to get within one. Milford, the defending D1 State champions, buckled down in the seventh to earn an 8-7 win in the season opener for both teams.
“This group is writing their chapter for 2018,” said Milford head coach Steve DiVitto. “This game wasn’t going to make or break our season…it’s a great test against an outstanding program, extremely well coached. They have some incredible talent and we’re fortunate to battle and come out with a win.”
Milford’s big inning all started with its No. 9 hitter, senior Antonia Bonina. In her first start, Bonina faced 10 pitches in the at-bat, getting enough contact on the final pitch to beat Taunton’s infield, which was pulled in.
“That’s Antonia’s first varsity start, and she’s a tough kid, a tough player,” DiVitto said. “She’s been waiting her turn, she’s had some injuries. I was really happy for her to have a great game today, and that at-bat was huge. It really got the inning going and we really started rolling. I think it gave us some life there.”
Senior Kate Irwin just beat out the throw for a bunt single, and senior Emily Piergsutavo loaded the bases after being hit by a pitch. Senior Jess Tomaso drove one to the outfield to score two runs. Two batters later, senior Shannon Cormier laced one to left field for an RBI single and a 5-3 lead.
Senior Maddy Bonvino reached after an error at second allowed Cormier to beat the fielder’s choice throw to second. On the first pitch of the next at-bat, senior Kelley Reichert belted a deep hit to center for a double, clearing the bases and giving Milford an 8-3 advantage heading to the bottom of the fifth.
“We knew we can swing the bat, that’s definitely no secret that it’s a strength of ours,” DiVitto said. “The girls kept battling, kept putting good at-bats on, and kept communicating with each other, which I think is big. [White] had us off balance there early on but we were able to put some good swings on it in the middle innings and put some runs up.”
Taunton senior Kya Enos started the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single and took second on a passed ball. A ground out allowed Enos to advance to third and freshman McKenzie McAloon plated Enos with an RBI single.
Tigers sophomore Jaylin Couto, who came in in relief to get the final out of the fifth, picked up two strikeouts in a quick sixth inning.
“I give my kids a lot of credit,” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “We kind of had a nightmare inning there in the fifth and things unraveled on us and we fell behind by five, yet there was no quit in them. They felt like we could come back and win, and they showed it. We made a nice comeback and had a shot there, just had a couple of opportunities to score some runs and we couldn’t get the hit.”
Taunton was able to rally with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Junior Jaime Brown (2-for-3, two runs) connected for a single, took second on a passed ball, and senior Liana Duarte walked to put two runners on. Enos (2-for-4, three runs) then delivered with a hard line drive home run over the fence in left center field to cut the deficit to one, 8-7.
“She’s a five-year starter on this team, she wants to lead,” Lewry said of Enos. “She’s been a leader for the last three years. That’s the kind of hitter she is. She had kind of a rough day at first, hadn’t made great contact and then she turned on that pitch with great contact and got us right back into this game.”
Couto (2.2 IP, 7 K) struck out the side in the top of the seventh to give Taunton some momentum heading into the final half inning.
“She did a heck of a job,” Lewry said of Couto. “I thought [starting pitcher] Kelsey [White] (4.2 IP, 7 ER, 6 K) pitched real well too. But she was getting tired, she was starting to leave the pitches up. Jaylin came in and struck out seven batters. She can pitch, she has a lot of nice movement on her pitches and she throws hard. She threw strikes today which is a big thing for her.”
Freshman Hanna Aldrich led off with a single but Reichert (7 IP, 6 ER, 4 K) notched a strikeout and got a force out at second on a fielder’s choice. Reichert then ended the game by inducing a ground ball right back to herself.
“Kelley’s an outstanding pitcher, now she has the opportunity to really take the team and throw them on her back,” DiVitto said. “She hit a bit of a wall there in the middle innings but she dug deep and she did a great job of continuing to battle and finding a way to win.”
The Hawks opened the scoring in the top of the first behind an RBI single from Cormier that played Piergustavo.
Taunton responded right away in the bottom half of the inning. Brown (walk) and Duarte (error) both reached but Brown was forced out at third on Enos’ fielder’s choice. Senior Mackenzie Handrahan (2-for-4, three RBI) hit a grounder through the left side to bring Duarte home, and in the next at-bat, Aldrich connected to bring Enos home to make it 2-1.
Milford knotted the game in the top of the third behind a one-out double from Tomaso. A single from Emily Hartman moved Tomaso to third, and the senior scored on a sacrifice fly from Cormier.
Taunton took the lead back in the bottom of the third, sparked by back-to-back singles from Brown and Duarte. Handrahan drove a one-out shot to left for an RBI single to make it 3-2. DiVitto elected to intentionally walk Aldrich to load the bases and the plan worked as Reichert induced consecutive groundouts to escape without further damage.
“I told the kids, [Milford] is the defending state champs, that’s the team a lot of people are picking to repeat,” Lewry said. “I think they have eight senior starts, they are still one heck of a team. To be able to play with them the way we did today, I think we can play with anybody. We just have a few things to iron out and we’ll be good to go.”
Taunton (0-1, 0-1) will look to bounce back on the same day when it hosts Mansfield.