Even more so was the case when the 16th-seeded Hornets hosted the 17th-seeded Bombardiers in an MIAA Division 1 South Preliminary Round game, with each team’s season hanging in the balance.
And with seven of the last 10 meetings dating back to 2015 having been decided by two or fewer runs, its no surprise that Thursday’s contest came down to the final inning.
In a see-saw battle that saw Mansfield take its second lead of the game with three runs in the bottom of the sixth, Attleboro responded with two runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead for the third time and junior Emily Gittle (7IP, 11H, 2BB, 5ER, 13K) struck out the side in the bottom half to give the Bombardiers a 7-6 win.
“It doesn’t matter what the records are, it’s just one of those games,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “It’s a really good rivalry, it was a great game today. You have to be able to come back from things like errors and that’s what good teams do because you can’t play a perfect game. And our big players came through when we needed them.
“The kids persevered. We had the same type of game against Franklin, so we’ve been there before. We’re never out of it, especially when it’s one run. [Mansfield] is a good team, they battle, they find ways to get runs too. Those Bendanillo’s are two really tough outs. Emily Gittle was strong in the circle, a quiet 13 strikeouts tonight. We had some errors but I thought we got some big outs today at the right time.”
The Bombardiers had the first lead in the game after scoring in the first inning, the Hornets seized the advantage with three runs in the fourth, Attleboro jumped back in front with four runs in the fifth before setting up a frantic finish.
“This is how it’s been every time we play them,” said Mansfield head coach Lori Letendre. “I think if you play two more innings, it could have gone the other way. It’s that type of game every time we play Attleboro, unfortunately, they got us all three times this season.
“We hit the ball well today just not when we needed it most. That’s been the story of our season, leaving runners on base and having runners in scoring position and not getting the hit we needed. We had the bases loaded twice, runners on second and third at least once, we had our chances…just couldn’t get it done.”
Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the Hornets struck for three runs to go back in front for the second time. Senior Sydney Woods clubbed a leadoff double and moved to third on a single from sophomore Ella Verheggen. Verheggen stole second but Gittle got a strikeout and a groundout to get the first two outs.
Kara Bendanillo battled to a walk to load the bases and all runners moved up a base with Woods coming in to score to bring the Hornets within one. Senior Megan Letendre drew another walk to load the bases again, bringing the Hornets’ top offensive player in Mady Bendanillo.
The senior delivered, lacing a single through the left side to bring in two runs to put Mansfield up 6-5 and the pressure on the Bombardiers with just three outs left.
Attleboro came up with a big response as freshman Hailey Perry drew a leadoff walk and classmate Meghan Gordon advanced the run into scoring position after Mansfield starter Sarah Cahill (7IP, 7H, 3BB, 6ER, 4K) induced a ground ball out. Freshman Lindsey Perry singled to put runners on the corners with the Bombardiers’ top offensive threat McKenzie Bergdoll coming to the dish.
Bergdoll delivered the clutch hit the visitors needed, blasting a double deep to left to bring in both runs and putting her team back ahead, a lead they’d hold onto for the win.
“It was the best [Bendanillo] against the best [Bergdoll] and we happened to be the last one standing,” Homer said. “That’s the way you want it to be. You come from behind like that, that’s great for the team, it’s good to persevere because we play a very good team on Saturday.”
Bergdoll put the visitors on the board in the top of the first inning. Gordon smacked a double to start the game and then stole third when Lindsey Perry took ball four and was walked. Bergdoll hit a fly ball deep enough to left for a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.
Mansfield’s offense came alive in the bottom of the fourth and used a combination of hits and Bombardier errors to jump in front. Kara Bendanillo led off with hard-hit single to left and took third when the ball was misplayed. An infield error allowed Letendre to reach and Bendanillo to score to tie the game. Senior Caty DeMassi followed with an RBI triple and scored herself when the throw home sailed high, putting the Hornets up 3-1.
The Bombardiers mounted a comeback just a half inning later with four runs on their own. Kayla Battisti led off with a single and Gittle reached on a throwing error, putting runners on the corner. Hailey Perry drove in a run with a single and Gordon followed with a triple to bring two more runs in. A single from Lindsey Perry brought in the fourth run of the inning to put Attleboro head 5-3.
Freshman Hailey Perry, Lindsey Perry, and Meghan Gordon combined for five hits, five runs, and five RBI in the win.
“The bats came alive, and again at the end,” Homer said. “The Perry’s and Meghan Gordon…they are all freshmen. It was huge to get hits from all parts of the lineup.”