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.
2017 Record: 9-10 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Homer
Attleboro made a return to the state tournament last spring thanks to a no-hitter from McKenzie Bergdoll in the final game of the regular season and now the Bombardiers, who lost only three players from last year’s roster, are looking to build on that success to make another run at the postseason this year. Bergdoll, a junior, will be back in the circle again this season as well as one of the big bats that Attleboro will rely on to make it back-to-back playoff appearances.
Senior rightfielder Casey Whelan will add experience to a relatively young outfield unit and fellow seniors Vanessa Dancer and Adrianna Elel will provide leadership. Juniors Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti are back to contribute to the Bombardiers playoff challenge and there are high expectations for a talented group of sophomores that includes Makenzie Killough, Ashley Macia, and twin sisters Emma and Jenna Gittle.
“With the loss of only three seniors last year, our season has several impact returning veterans along with some new freshman that will fill the holes quite nicely,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “This season’s early player roster looks very promising but it will be the leadership of the team that will determine our direction and state the facts at the end of the season.”
2017 Record: 1-19 2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Jennifer Robillard
Canton is coming off a difficult 2017, after winning one game under first-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, but both the coaches and players have a year of experience to build on and an infusion of young talent, with five freshmen being added to the varsity roster, has the Bulldogs looking at 2018 as a year to get the program heading in the right direction.
Sophomore Caroline Hughes will be the starting pitcher and will bat third this season and the coaches are confident that she can provide a lift to the team. Senior Hannah Jerrier will also be back in the middle of the order, after missing almost all of last season after breaking her hand during basketball, and should give the Bulldogs some added pop in the lineup. Senior Katie Halloran will be back in the middle of the infield and senior Evelyn Carrington returns in center. Unfortunately, injuries have struck again with sophomore Jackie Howard lost for the season, but Robillard believes that several of the new faces can come in and contribute right away.
“As a first-year varsity coach, last year was a learning experience for both myself and the girls,” Robillard said. “I am confident that we will make great strides towards success this season.”
2017 Record: 5-16 2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Maguire
Foxboro earned a playoff berth through the Sullivan Rule a season ago, despite 15 losses in the regular season, but the Warriors were much better than their overall record and No. 20 seed may have suggested. Out of the 16 games that Foxboro lost in 2017, six were by two runs or less, including a 2-0 loss to Ursuline Academy in the tournament, and those close games are what head coach Mark Maguire is hoping his team can turn into wins this year to make a run at the playoffs.
The Warriors will be looking to senior catcher Hannah Davis to provide the offensive punch, as the perennial league all-star has been among the Hockomock’s best hitters for the past three seasons. Classmate Lexi Buckner will also add some offense in the middle of the order and the lefty will be moving from second base to first this year. Senior Kelly McCarthy will be back in center and at the top of the order, while Chelsea Gibbons will be at third and Camryn Willis will be back at shortstop. Foxboro also has experience in the circle as third-year starter Emma Rohan will get the ball again for the Warriors.
“We have good senior leadership,” said Maguire about the team’s strengths. “Right down the center of the field we have vocal leaders to help the defense. We’re a good hitting team and I think fielding and pitching should be even better this year.”
2017 Record: 10-12 2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Kate Fallon
Franklin missed the playoffs a season ago and have a relatively young roster this season, with just one senior in the squad, so the Panthers are flying under the radar as the season gets underway, but they don’t mind if teams overlook them at the start of the season as they try to get back into the postseason.
While there are a number of new faces for Franklin this season, the battery of junior pitcher Jackie Cherry and junior catcher Ally Shea are back, which gives the Panthers a strong foundation on which to build. Junior shortstop Tara Hartnett is also back to give Franklin strong middle of the infield defense and sophomore Anna Balkus will be in center. Senior Meg Caron, the lone upperclassman on the team, will add versatility playing at third and some outfield this season.
“We’re looking to make it back to the tournament this season,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon. “Ally Shea and Meg Caron will provide excellent leadership for our up and coming athletes and no doubt in my mind they will be an integral part of our successes this season!”
Despite a lot of turnover in the lineup last spring, King Philip followed up its 2016 state championship by winning the Kelley-Rex division title and reaching the quarterfinal of the Div. 1 South sectional. With 10 returning players this season, KP has typically high expectations and one of the state’s perennial powers seems poised to make another run at a league title, which would be its 11th in the past 12 seasons, and to go deep in the state tournament.
The biggest change for the Warriors this season will be in the circle where senior Elise Pereira takes over as the primary starter after the graduation of Jenn Hutnyan. Pereira saw plenty of action last year too, but will have to shoulder the majority of the innings this season, backed up by Faith Turnese. Brianna Lacy will be behind the dish, returning as one of the league’s top defensive catchers. Senior Hailey McCasland returns at second base and junior Meghan Gorman is back at shortstop after a breakout sophomore season. Jess Bonner returns at third and senior Sydney Phillips will once again be in centerfield.
It is a loaded lineup with a ton of speed and a strong defensive unit, according to KP head coach Norm Beauchemin. He added, “This is a very hungry team that should compete for the Kelly-Rex and make a strong run in the playoffs.”
2017 Record: 13-9 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Lori Letendre
After booking a return to the state tournament last spring, Mansfield returns 10 players, including five starters, to try and make it four playoff appearances in a row. The Hornets are relatively young with only three seniors on the roster and have some holes to fill, including two-thirds of the outfield, but there is a lot of confidence that the program will be able to compete with the best in the league.
Sarah Cahill took over as the starter during the season last year and she will be back in the circle again this spring trying to build on an impressive debut. Cahill will be throwing to her battery mate, as Caty DeMassi is back behind the plate. While the corner infield spots are open this year, Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo are back to fill the other infield spots and give the Hornets strength up the middle. Junior Mady Bendanillo is also back to patrol centerfield and fill one of the middle of the order spots, as one of the league’s most dangerous hitters. Freshman Elle Veheggen joins the team this spring as a newcomer to keep an eye on.
“We are a young team,” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre. “The girls have been working hard in the off-season and came into tryouts well-prepared.”
2017 Record: 25-1 2017 Finish: Won D1 State Championship Coach: Steve DiVitto
The defending Div. 1 state champions look loaded for another run at the title with nine returning players, including six starters, back from last season’s tournament run. Kelley Reichert will take over for Ali Atherton in the circle after seeing time as a reliever and starter in each of the past three seasons. The lineup looks just as potent as last year with senior shortstop Emily Piergustavo back after being named HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and league MVP.
Senior first baseman Jess Tomaso is back to add power in the heart of the order and senior Kate Irwin, fresh off reaching 1,000 points in her Milford basketball career, will return to set the table as the lead-off hitter and emotional spark plug. Senior second baseman Maddy Bonvino, senior rightfielder Shannon Cormier and junior catcher Emily Hartman will add depth to a fearsome lineup that features lots of power and speed.
“This year’s team is focused on the here and now and not the past,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “Each year a new page is turned over, and the focus this year is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season.”
2017 Record: 14-7 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal Coach: Bill Wallace
The Rocketeers had a young squad last season but managed to surprise a few people by reaching the Div. 1 South semifinal, including an upset of league rival Taunton, and after that year of experience North Attleboro is expecting to be competitive again this spring. Sophomore pitcher Bella Erti is back in the circle after a strong freshman campaign and will be throwing to classmate Ashley Cangiano with the hope of improving on her breakout season.
Olivia Capobianco is back in centerfield after turning in a strong season and she will also be one of the table-setters for the lineup. Abby Gallagher and Katherine Munley will join Capobianco in an experienced outfield for the Rocketeers. Annabelle Hebard, Katy Daby and Abby Warren will play the corner infield positions, while Andrea Miceli is back at second base after a strong year at the plate and in the field. Stephanie Inglese and freshman Emily Nardelli will compete for the shortstop position.
North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace said, “If we want to repeat the success of last year we will need to find some power in the middle of the lineup lost to graduation last year.”
Oliver Ames will have plenty of experience this spring as it makes a run at a return to the state tournament. The Tigers have 10 players back from last year’s roster, including six seniors, highlighted by junior pitcher Kayla Georgeu, who will take the ball as the primary starter again this spring and who head coach Lindsey Allison thinks is ready to “come into her own” both in the circle and at the plate.
The strong senior class includes infielder Alexis Campbell, who will also chip in as a pitcher this year, outfielders Sarah Tetrault and Marissa Guarino, infielders Caroline Mahoney and Rachel Han, and catcher Antonia Peretti. Sophomore Katie Abreu had a strong rookie campaign and is expected to have an even better second season with the Tigers.
“The best thing about this team is their heart and determination – they show up to practice excited to work together and work hard every day,” Allison said. “They are coachable and strive to get better at every opportunity.”
There is a change at the top for Sharon this spring and Heather Poliferno takes over for the Eagles, replacing Deb Parker after her move to league rival Stoughton, and the new staff is confident that the experienced players on the roster will set the tone for the team and give the Eagles a chance at booking a place in the state tournament.
Seniors Jamie Kessler and Jenika Patel and junior Rebecca Clayman are the captains this season and will provide leadership that Poliferno called “key to our success this season.” Junior Alli Small and freshman Julia Earley are players to keep an eye on this season for the Eagles as they could be big contributors in the field and at the plate. Junior outfielder Courtney Sollis brings an accurate arm and consistent contact at the plate.
“Our passion for the game and drive to compete is why we will be a strong contender in the Hock this year,” Poliferno said.
2017 Record: 10-11 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Deb Parker
After back-to-back playoff appearances, Stoughton welcomes a new coach this spring to take over a roster filled with experience and talent. Deb Parker has made the move across the Davenport from Sharon to take over the Black Knights with an eye at another run at the postseason and with senior pitcher Gina Carafa back in the circle and the middle of the order there is plenty of optimism for a strong spring.
Joining Carafa in the Stoughton lineup is junior Jordan Lyons, who Parker called a “standout” third baseman. Lyons is one of a group of talented juniors that Stoughton will be counting on this season, including second baseman Nikki Coppola, shortstop Karly Estremera, and catcher Brianna Ferrandiz. Sophomore Lexi Baptista will add versatility to the lineup and Parker is excited about the freshmen class and expects that they will be able to contribute as well.
“The energy of this team is infectious!” said Parker. “ I am looking forward to this season and have very high expectations about what this team will be able to accomplish.”
2017 Record: 17-5 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Dave Lewry
Even with a host of underclassmen in the lineup, this is an experienced Taunton roster that will be trying to put together a run not only at a league title but also at a deep tournament run, after seeing the last couple of seasons end earlier than expected. With 10 returning varsity players, including seven starters, the Tigers will have high expectations and the key to reaching those goals will be replacing pitcher Courtney Fisher, as freshman Kelsey White and sophomore Jaylin Couto will step into the circle as regular starters this season. Junior Alexa White will also see time at pitcher.
The lineup is loaded again this spring, starting with senior catcher Kya Enos, who added power to her game last year. Junior Jaime Brown is in her fourth year on varsity and is coming off a season in which she was named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Freshmen Hanna Aldrich and McKenzie McAloon stepped right in at the middle infield positions last year and will be building on that experience this year. Senior Lianna Duarte is back in center and senior left-fielder MacKenzie Handrahan will bring power to the middle of the lineup as well.
“I think we should have a solid infield defense,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “Offensively we have the capability of putting runs on the board with a deep and experienced lineup.”