NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – After losing star pitcher Meg Colleran and a host of seniors, North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace knew that 2015 would be a rebuilding year for the program. The additional loss of shortstop Mycala Moody to injury only added to a long spring.
Coming into this season, the Rocketeers returned seven starters, including a healthy Moody, and added sophomore KP transfer Amelia Murphy in the circle. The expectation was a for a quick return to the tournament and on Friday afternoon North fulfilled that goal secured its place in the postseason.
Behind a four-hit, three-RBI day from Moody in the leadoff spot and three RBI from No. 2 hitter Jordan Sharpe, North beat Stoughton 13-2 for its ninth win of the season.
“It’s good to be back in,” said Wallace. “The kids are thrilled.”
He added, “They knew last year was going to be a tough year with the amount of seniors we lost, so I think they came in here knowing we had seven starters coming back thinking we’re going to be in the tournament.”
The North offense was clicking with Moody setting the tone in her first at-bat with a hard grounder through the infield that was missed by the right fielder allowing her to take third. Sharpe brought her home with a groundout and North had a 1-0 lead.
The Rocketeers would have 18 hits as a team against Stoughton pitchers Shannon Flaherty and Gina Carafa and every batter in the starting lineup had at least one. In addition to Moody’s 4-for-5 day, Liz Morehouse went 2-for-4, Kaylea Sherman went 2-for-3 with a walk, Amelia Murphy was 2-for-2 with a walk, and No. 9 hitter Gina Miceli chipped in with a 2-for-3 day and reached base three times.
Miceli acts as a second leadoff hitter for North, setting the table for the top of the order, according to Wallace. He said, “I’ve been tempted to move her up but she’s very comfortable. Last year she dealt with injuries and things like that and this year she came out, won the spot and is very happy in the nine spot and we are too.”
Stoughton had seven hits, three of them in the four innings that Murphy pitched, but the Black Knights showed a lot of pop at the plate.
Unfortunately for the visitors, a lot of those line drives went right at North players, including shots to Sherman in center and Sharpe in right in the opening inning and a line drive ripped to Moody at short that she turned into a game-ending double play by picking off a runner at first.
“We’re snake-bitten,” said first-year Stoughton coach Tim Norton. “We’re swinging the bats real well right now. Everything was line drives; I think there was maybe one, two pop-ups. They just made the plays.”
The Rocketeers broke the game open in the third with four runs. Sherman had an infield single to start it and Murphy followed with a singe to left. Kristina Murphy bunted past the charging third baseman to load the bases.
Megan Barlow hit a sac fly to left for the first run, Sam Courtemanche had a squeeze bunt to plate the second, Miceli’s infield single scored the third and Moody lined a single to center for the fourth.
“After the first two innings I was a little frustrated,” Wallace explained, “because we left five runners on base, but then we started mixing in the bunt a little bit, we squeezed one home there. Sometimes that gets teams going and lately it seems to kind of kickstart us.”
The offensive outburst continued in the fifth. North sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven runs to put the game out of reach.
A Morehouse single and an Amelia Murphy double put two in scoring position with one out and Kristina Murphy singled to bring one run in. A fielder’s choice reloaded the bases and a wild pitch scored another run.
After a walk loaded the bases for a third time, Moody doubled down the left field line for a pair of RBI and Sharpe followed it with a single to right center for two more runs. North led 12-0 after four innings.
“It’s a young team,” Norton said. “They’re still learning how to play together. It takes time and I think they’re learning but yeah occasionally we’re going to have those lapses in communication. You don’t need to help a team like that.”
Stoughton did not give up. Abby Warren came in to relieve Murphy in the circle after the starter had to leave for a family event and the Black Knights got on the board.
A walk to Taylor Levine and an infield single by Jenivieve D’Andrea put two on with no outs and Samantha Tullis followed with an RBI single to center. Jordan Lyons reached on a fielder’s choice and Brianna Ferrandiz smacked a single to right center that scored one, but Tullis slipped rounding third and was caught in a rundown for the first out.
North tacked on an insurance run in the sixth with Morehouse’s infield single bringing in Moody who had led-off with a hit and stolen second.
The Black Knights came into the game on a four-game win streak and had already clinched a playoff berth, their first since 2012. Norton was happy to see his team ensure tournament qualification in his first season as head coach.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “The future is bright. I was blessed with taking over a program that had a lot of young talent coming up.”
Stoughton (10-8, 7-7) will travel to Milford on Tuesday. North (9-8, 8-7) will host Attleboro on Monday afternoon.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.