MILFORD, Mass. – In the middle of the season, Milford went through a rough patch, what head coach Steve DiVitto labeled a “lull.” The Hawks followed up a big win against defending state champion St. Peter Marian with a loss to North Attleboro. They beat Sharon but then were beaten 12-0 by King Philip. A win against Foxboro was was followed by a loss to Franklin.
At the beginning of last week, DiVitto spoke to his team and told them it was time to get past the “Dog Days” of the schedule and start ramping up to be ready to go in the tournament.
In front of a huge crowd and with an intensity that felt more like June than the middle of May the Hawks responded on Sunday afternoon with a 7-3 victory over previously undefeated Taunton in a battle of Hockomock League champions.
“We wanted to play a complete game and we knew it would take a complete game to beat them,” said DiVitto. “We wanted to come out and play our brand of softball and compete…and we were fortunate enough to come out on top.
“We said today was a great test to come out and see where we are at and we’re happy with the result.”
Taunton took the lead in its first at-bat. Jordan Wade reached on a fielder’s choice with one out and moved up to second on a groundout. Fellow five-year starter Meghan Navarro provided the big hit with a single to center that brought home the opening run.
While Milford entered the game having scored 171 runs, the Tigers had only allowed nine all season. So, an early one-run deficit felt like a lot more to the Hawks.
In the bottom of the second, they received a jolt of life from one of their seniors. Kaitlyn DeCapua opened the inning with a single to left off Aimee Kistner. Megan Jacques was up next and the catcher blasted a two-run homer over the left field fence (her first home run of the season) to put Milford in front.
“We needed something. Something needed to be ignited,” said Jacques. “Once that happened, I think it trickled down among the team and everyone had a fire lit in them.”
DiVitto added, “That was a big boost for us and it proved to the girls that we can compete and we can come out on top if we play our game.”
Kelley Reichert started the game for the Hawks, who were playing their fourth game in six days, but after Wade led-off the third with a single, DiVitto made the change and brought in Ali Atherton. She would allow only three hits in five innings of relief.
One of those hits tied the game in the third, as Kya Enos lined a double that Maggie Farrell laid out for but missed by inches in left center. Wade came around to score her second run of the game.
It stayed tied 2-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth and the game was being played at a tempo and at a competitive level befitting two teams that have the potential to add to their Kelley-Rex and Davenport division titles.
Enos made a sliding grab of a sinking liner to end the third, after Kistner, Wade and Katie Van Zandt turned a 1-6-3 double play. Navarro was also excellent in the field, creating all three outs in a perfect fourth inning and making a nice pick of a liner to start the sixth. Jill Powers and Emily Piergustavo made similar plays in the field for the Hawks.
The wheels fell off for Taunton in the fifth. With one out, Wade made a rare throwing error to allow Shannon Cormier to reach. Kate Irwin was next and she bunted past the charging Jaime Brown at third for an infield single. Cormier would come in to score on a second Taunton error and an inning that should have already been over continued for the Hawks offense.
Milford made the Tigers pay. Jess Tomaso singled to center and that scored Irwin and two batters later DeCapua cleared the bases with a single that plated a pair of runs and pushed the Milford lead to 6-2.
“We’ve played a lot of great teams and it’s just that; its the team that can capitalize on the mistakes that’s going to win,” said DiVitto.
Taunton coach Dave Lewry remarked, “We haven’t had an inning like that all year, especially where the snowball goes down the hill and it just gets bigger and bigger and it did that.
“Maybe it’s good to get it out of our system and not in tournament time, but they’re a real good team, they hit the ball, and if you give them five, six outs in an inning you’re going to have a tough time.”
With two outs in the sixth, Cormier again provided Milford with punch at the bottom of the order with a triple that landed just inside the line in left. She scored on Irwin’s second infield single in as many innings.
DiVitto explained, “There are no easy outs in our lineup one through nine. Shannon Cormier is a great bat in the nine-hole and turning the lineup over.”
Navarro picked up her second RBI of the game with a single to score Liana Duarte in the seventh, but that was as close as Taunton would get, as Atherton finished the game with her third strikeout.
“This is one of the better teams that we’ve seen this year and even losing I think it’s good for us because we had to play with more intensity,” said Lewry. “Maybe, we just lost a little bit of that edge and this can help us get it back.”
Jacques said, “This is a really great win. Everyone did their job and they did it well and I think that was the ultimate deciding factor between who won and lost.
“I think this gave us a little belief that we can beat anybody. This whole week we’ve been having a playoff mindset and this was the topping to the cake that we’re ready.”
Taunton (18-1, 14-1) can clinch its first outright Hockomock title with a win at Mansfield on Monday. Milford (15-4,12-3) will wrap up the regular season against Stoughton on Tuesday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.