TAUNTON, Mass. – Defending state champion Taunton kicked off its title defense on Monday night at Jack Tripp Field against a familiar foe. It is never easy to play a team three times in a season, especially when it is a league rival and annual competitor for the league title.
The Tigers made it a clean sweep against King Philip and earned their third shutout of the Warriors this season, earning a 4-0 victory and getting started on the road to a potential repeat.
“First game of the tournament is always tough,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry about facing an atypical No. 15 seed in the opening round. “We’ve been there before but all the kids were saying they had the butterflies and were a little nervous early on, so get this out of the way and we can move onto tomorrow.”
Senior outfielder Alexa White added, “It’s definitely a relief to have the first one in the books. We have a young team, so we made sure to talk to them yesterday at practice to be prepared that the atmosphere is different, everything’s different, so you need to keep the energy up and you need to relax, at the plate or in the field.”
King Philip (13-9) had been outscored 19-0 in two regular season meetings with Taunton, but the Warriors came into Monday confident that they could pull the upset and had an early chance to get on the board. Raegan Simeone bunted for a hit with one out in the first and then stole second. After a strikeout, Liliana Rolfe walked to put two on base, but Taunton starter Kelsey White snagged a comebacker by her opposite number, Faith Turinese, to end the inning.
The Warriors wouldn’t have another base runner until a one-out single by Rolfe in the fourth. Rolfe was controversially called out on a steal attempt and a pop up to first baseman Tayah DaCosta ended the threat.
“It’s been a struggle against most quality pitchers,” Beauchemin said about the lack of offense. “You’ve got to get that key hit, but we didn’t have many hits to begin with.”
Taunton wasted no time jumping in front. JJaime Brown led off the bottom frame with a double to right center. Abigail McDonough dropped down a bunt to move Brown to third and a wild pitch allowed her to come home with what would turn out to be the game-winning run.
Beauchemin said, “You can’t make any mistakes against this team. They’re as strong as they were last year, if not stronger.”
It stayed 1-0 until the third inning. With one out Brown drew a walk and again McDonough dropped down a bunt to move her into scoring position. Hanna Aldrich, who was robbed of a single in the first by KP shortstop Meghan Gorman, lined a base hit to left to double the lead.
Lewry said, “I just had a feeling it was going to be one of those games, so we want to get runs any way we can, chip away one at a time if we have to and it seemed to work out.”
In the fourth Taunton gave itself a cushion with a two-out rally. Turinese got a pair of fly balls, including one to deep center by Kelsey White, and seemed to be cruising through another inning, but Paige Silvia took a pitch off her thigh. Alexa White followed with a triple that was crushed into the gap in left center. White scored on a double by eighth grader Ava Venturelli.
“It brings the confidence in the next batter up to keep it going and it definitely gets the girls pumped,” said Alexa White about the importance of two-out rallies.
There was one more threat by the Warriors in the seventh, as they tried to keep their season alive. Rolfe was hit by a pitch with one out, reaching base for the third straight time, and Turinese hustled to beat out an infield single. Taunton’s defense made the plays it needed to with Aldrich and Brown grabbing grounders and getting the outs to seal the win.
“I think the kids gave a very good representation today, we played hard,” said Beauchemin. “We’re not young, but we’re inexperienced and I think next year we’re going to be a very formidable team.”
Lewry praised the Warriors and was happy to get through a third meeting with KP. He said, “I think they’re a much better team than they were at the beginning of the season and I thought they played an excellent game tonight. Their defense was good, their pitching was real good, and they just had some trouble hitting Kelsey, which is good for us.”
When asked if things felt any different entering the playoffs defending last year’s title, White said that the Tigers were just trying to focus on the moment rather than the ultimate destination.
“We’ve got a tough road ahead, we know that, but I think we have the talent to do it,” she said. “It’s about pulling everything together with clutch hits and keeping those rallies going. We have the mentality to take every game one step at a time. Just focus on the game you’re playing.”
Taunton (21-2) will host No. 10 seed Marshfield on Tuesday night at Jack Tripp Field.
The Whalers, limited to just three hits through six innings by KP senior pitcher Faith Turinese, suddenly had an offensive surge. Down to the final out and trailing 3-1, New Bedford smacked three consecutive doubles leading to two runs to knot the score and extend the game
But the game didn’t last much longer. The Warriors, seemingly unfazed by the rally from the visitors, had an immediate response in the bottom of the seventh. Destiny Goyco was hit by a pitch to put the winning run on base. Ryann Stagg, the nine hitter, fell behind 0-2 but drilled the third pitch she saw into the gap in left field, and with the outfield playing in, courtesy runner Heather Nix sprinted around the bases and all the way home to give King Philip a 4-3 walk-off win.
“It’s never easy,” quipped KP skipper Norm Beauchemin as the Warriors notched a tournament win for the fifth straight season. “[New Bedford] plays some good competition, they play a lot of people in the South Coast [Conference]. They usually try to play a pretty good schedule.
“They are tough kids, they have a great attitude. They work hard and they play hard, we’re no different than King Philip teams of the past in terms of attitude.”
Of the Whalers’ three hits prior to the seventh inning, two came in the opening frame. After Turinese (7IP, 6H, 1BB, 2ER, 7K) fanned the first batter of the game, New Bedford strung together back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. Turinese got another strikeout, this one on a dropped third strike. With first occupied, the runner was automatically out but the Whalers were aggressive on the bases and the runner on second took off to third.
The throw from home was high, allowing the run to scamper home and just beat out a great throw from left fielder Liliana Rolfe and put the visitors up 1-0 early on.
From that point on, Turinese allowed just two bases runners between the second and sixth innings. After a leadoff walk in the second, Turinese retired eight straight before the Whalers had a pair of runners reach in the fifth on errors.
Meanwhile, senior Meghan Gorman was the catalyst on the offensive side of the ball. She was hit by a pitch in the first and stole both second and third with two outs but was stranded there. She was back at in the fourth inning, lacing a double to drive in Raegan Simeone, who had doubled in the at-bat before.
Rolfe wasn’t credited for an RBI on the next play but was certainly responsible for giving KP the lead. She reached on a bunt single, moving Gorman to third, With the infield in focusing on the bunt, Rolfe took off for second. Although the Whalers made the play at second, the throw allowed Gorman to sprint home for the go-ahead run.
“Two really smart players. You’re not going to find many players more heads up than Meg but Lil is not far behind at all. If you blink, they are taking a base. That’s a decision she made, and we’ve been an aggressive base-running team through the years. If they make the play and you’re out, but it was the right play, I’m good with it. “
An inning after taking the lead, a pair of errors threatened to give it back to New Bedford. Back-to-back mistakes put runners on first and second, and both runners advanced on a ground out to Turinese in the circle. Turinese got a ground ball and the Warriors were able to catch the runner on third off of the bag as Paige Berdos fired to Gorman for the tag. A fly ball to first baseman Anna Bradley ended the inning.
KP tacked on another run just a half inning later, with Gorman coming through again. Berdos got things going with a two-out double and stole third before pinch hitter Madison Kelley drew a walk. Gorman smoked the first pitch she saw off the center field fence for an RBI double, putting the hosts up 3-1.
New Bedford got its first hit of the game since the first inning with a leadoff single in the sixth but the runner didn’t go any further as Turinese got three straight infield fly balls.
King Philip softball (13-9) advances to play at #2 Taunton (20-2) in the First Round of the MIAA D1 South tournament on Monday at 7:00. The Tigers won both regular season games, taking a 7-0 decision at PAL in early April and a 12-0 win at Jack Tripp Field in the regular season finale.
The eighth-seeded Warriors had a handful of chances to either take the lead, tie the game, or move within striking distance throughout Monday afternoon’s D1 South First Round contest with ninth-seeded Marshfield.
But some self-inflicted mistakes along with timely saves from Rams goalie Gus Kastrud resulted in an 8-6 loss to put a close to King Philip’s season.
“Every time it seemed like we would get some traction like we did to start the second half, then boom they would come right back on us, and pretty quickly too,” said King Philip head coach Hal Bean. “We were just fighting the whole game trying to come from behind.”
Marshfield scored first before senior Colin DeVellis beat his man and finished off the iron while being checked to knot the game at 1-1. The Rams added two more goals before the end of the first, the second coming on a two-man up opportunity.
KP scored on the opening possession of the second when Chris Longobardi won the draw and went down and scored on his own, just 16 seconds into the second quarter to make it 3-2. But the Warriors didn’t register a shot on target for the rest of the frame.
The Warriors’ defense, spearheaded by senior Wes Bishop, held its own and kept the Rams without a shot on goal for the first 10 minutes of the frame. A King Philip turnover with just over three minutes left led to a lengthy offensive possession for the visitors, and finally their first shot which was turned away by KP goalie Andrew McKinney (five saves).
But the Rams kept possession and continued to work the ball around before Gino Luciani was able to sneak a bounce shot across the line to give Marshfield a 4-2 lead at the half.
After only scoring two goals in the opening 24 minutes, the Warriors had a terrific start to the second half. Longobardi battled to win the opening draw and bullied his way past a defender before firing a rocket into the back of the net 22 seconds in while earning a penalty.
On the ensuing man-up chance, Andrew Sajdak ripped a low shot from straight away that tied the game at 4-4 just 1:18 into the period.
Marshfield had a response though when Michael Iafrato found some space and tucked a close shot in to regain the lead for the visitors.
King Philip looked poised to go on a man-up opportunity with 3:38 left in the period and a chance to knot the score, but the Warriors took a penalty after the whistle and had to play 5-on-5 instead of with an advantage. And since KP’s penalty was called second, the Rams got possession of the ball and took advantage, scoring less than a minute later to make it 6-4, which lasted until the end of the period.
A late penalty on Marshfield in the third allowed KP to start the fourth with possession and the Warriors elected to get the ball in the stick of sophomore Sam Mattson. Mattson unleashed his trademark rocket shot that bounced over the goal line to bring KP within one, down 6-5.
The Warriors won the ensuing faceoff and had another chance on goal but Robbie Tartaglia’s shot was somehow kept out by a huge save from Kastrud to preserve the lead.
“Their goalie had some really timely saves,” Bean said. “He was really spot on, which is what we saw of him coming in, but that he had that save on Robbie Tartaglia bounce shot where he stuck out his toe and then caught it with the top of his foot. He stood on his head and that’s what you have to do in the playoffs.
Marshfield pushed the lead to 8-5 with a man-up goal with 8:38 to go but KP had the chance to respond right away from Longobardi come away with the win on the faceoff. However, an errant pass cut the possession short before KP could get a shot off.
After trading possessions, KP junior Kevin Riggs worked his way between a pair of Marshfield defenders and used a nice finish to make it 8-6. KP won the ensuing faceoff with a chance to make it a one-goal game, but once again a self-inflicted turnover cost the Warriors a chance at a comeback.
The Rams went on to kill the final three minutes on the offensive end.
“They knew that we drive through the X a lot with Colin DeVellis, I mean 112 points who wouldn’t utilize someone as talented as him…and Andrew Sajdak is phenomenal too,” Bean said. “Their D poles really neutralized them for the most part. I look at the opportunities we had and some of them we were more compressed and normally we are more open, which helped them with their slides. I don’t want to take anything away from [Marshfield] but I think if we performed a little bit better, we would have had some better opportunities.”
King Philip boys lacrosse finishes the season at 14-5.
Taunton softball dropped just its second game of the season on Friday night, falling behind North Attleboro early and seeing its rally come up short. With one game left to correct things before the state tournament, the Tigers bounced back in a good way.
The defending state champs belted out 12 hits, scoring three runs in each the fourth and fifth innings before exploding for five more in the sixth to earn a 12-0 win over potential playoff foe and league rival King Philip.
The win clinches the Kelley-Rex division title outright for the Tigers, their third ever Hockomock title and second division crown since 2016.
“I don’t take losses very lightly myself but you’d like to think some good can come out of a game like [last night],” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “Cocky is too strong of a word but maybe we were a little overly confident. Hopefully, it let us know we are human, that you have to play the game. Hopefully, we can look back on it and that is the one that propelled us.
“We started the hitting last night and it seemed like it carried over to today. It took us a couple of innings to get going but we started putting the bat on the ball and started looking more like the Tigers that we think we are.”
The hosts took the lead in the bottom of the second inning with a solo run but the offense really got going over the final three innings. Taunton pushed across three runs in the fourth (all with two outs), three more in the fifth, and ended the game via mercy rule with a five-run sixth inning against the Warriors, the two-time defending division champs.
“It’s nice to get the Kelley-Rex, that’s not an easy championship to win,” Lewry said. “There are some really good teams in this league. Franklin had a heck of a year, KP came back and played well…everybody. It feels good to win it. I really didn’t want jackets with co-champs on it.”
Kelsey White got back on track after suffering a loss to the Rocketeers the night before. The sophomore tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits — a two-out grounder up the middle in the first, a bloop single that didn’t reach the outfield in the third, and a dribbler up the third base line in the fourth. She had one walk (in the first inning) and struck out five, retiring the final seven batters in order.
KP had one of its best changes in the opening inning as senior Meghan Gorman drew a two-out walk and Liliana Rolfe singled to put runners on first and second, but White got a chopper back to the circle for the third out.
The Warriors’ biggest threat came in the third when Destiny Goyco hit a bloop single to second. Courtesy runner Kara McWhinnie took second after a nice basket catch from Jaime Brown in foul territory on the third base side and advanced to third on a sac bunt. But White prevented what would have been the tying run from crossing by getting a strikeout for the third out.
“Kelsey pitched much better today, she definitely did,” Lewry said. “She didn’t have all of her good breaking balls but they were good enough and her changeup was excellent tonight, and she was spotting everything. She did a real nice job and she needed that too, she was a little bit shaken by her quick exit last night.”
Taunton took the lead in the bottom of the first inning behind a leadoff walk from Payton Ceglarski. Courtesy runner Kylie Thorpe moved to second on a sac bunt from Kelsey White and came around to score on a two-out bloop single from Alexa White to make it 1-0.
Kelsey White helped her own cause in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out double. Paige Silvia and Alexa White followed suit with back-to-back RBI doubles, and the latter scored on a single from Ava Venturelli up the middle to push the advantage to 4-0.
The Tigers stayed hot in the fifth inning, putting up three more runs. Abbie McDonough showed off her wheels with a leadoff triple and scored on a single from Hanna Aldrich. McKenzie McAloon clubbed an RBI double, Tayah DaCosta advanced the runner with a fly ball, and Kelsey White drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Venturelli got the big sixth inning started with a leadoff walk and pinch hitters Skylar Rheaume and Olyvia Mendonca both walked to load the bases. Aldrich hit a hard ground ball to third and beat the throw at first to bring courtesy runner Haylee Hartung in and keep the bases loaded.
Pinch hitter Kaysie DeMoura brought a run in by drawing a bases-loaded walk and Thorpe, in a pinch-hit situation, drove in two more runs with a hard hit ball through the right side. Kelsey White brought in the final run with a hard hit ball to left that was mishandled, allowing DeMoura to score.
“We swung the bat good, we made good contact,” Lewry said. “We have to hit…we have the pitching and defense but we have to hit to score runs, you’re not going to score many unless you do.”
Both Taunton (14-2 Hockomock, 20-2 overall) and King Philip (11-5, 12-8) will now await seeding for the MIAA D1 South Sectional tournament. The Tigers are likely to be a top four seed while the Warriors could potentially host a preliminary game.
From the beginning of the season to the end, there is more growth in volleyball perhaps more than any other sport. That improvement was on full display for the Warriors, who are in the midst of their first season at the varsity level.
Two months ago, the in a season-opening loss to Medfield, King Philip struggled at times to consistently serve in bounds.
Now, the third-seeded Warriors are headed to the MIAA Central Quarterfinals after a 3-0 (25-12, 25-11, 25-13) sweep over #14 South High in the program’s first-ever playoff game.
“They’ve come a long way,” said King Philip head coach Emily Tkowski, “When we started, we were running two simple plays at the beginning of the season, that was it, that was all we could do with our passing and hitting ability. Now we’re running a lot more, back twos, stacks…just that alone, being able to run those plays shows how far we’ve come with our passing, hitting, everything.”
After dropping the opener (3-1) to Medfield, the Warriors rattled off six straight wins and finished with a 14-3 record, only losing to Milford (18-3) and Taunton (defending D1 South Finalists) the rest of the way.
“It shows they love the sport, they want to do well,” Tkowski said. “Anytime we want to introduce something new in practice, their faces light up, they are excited for something different. They’ve been looking at the other teams all season, looking up records, checking out opponents. They are really into it so I hope we can make a good run at it.”
Over those next 16 games, the Warriors improved in all facets of the game, and it showed with one of their best games of the season in the postseason opener against South High.
After committing seven unforced errors in the opening set, King Philip had just seven combined over the next two.
“That’s been tough for us, all season long those unforced errors have really killed us against teams we could have played better against,” Tkowski said. “I thought tonight, this was one of the best games I’ve seen them play as a whole. There were few errors, it was a great game to watch.”
The Warriors spread it around offensively in the opening set as five players recorded a kill. Leading by one early on, King Philip embarked on a 9-2 run that created the necessary separation in the first game. Mike O’Brien (seven kills) had two of his seven total kills in the run while Billy Hughes came up with a key block to put KP ahead 15-7.
King Philip turned to outside hitter Eric Altobello (six kills) to help put the first game to bed. The senior had three kills inside a 5-1 burst that put KP ahead 20-10, and O’Brien added back-to-back kills — the latter a nice tip to find an open spot in the defense — helped give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
The second set belonged to senior Jimmy Peterson (12 kills, six aces), who got it done both offensively at the net with his attacks and also at the service line with a strong jump serve. With South up 5-2 in the second set, he put down a big kill and then had three aces in the next four points to put the hosts ahead 7-5 — a lead they never relinquished the rest of the set. It also sparked an 11-2 run that forced a timeout from the visitors, down 13-7.
Peterson got back to the net and put down a kill on a quick set from setter Cam Corey (23 assists), O’Brien had back-to-back nice swings, and Peterson shut down an opposing attack with a big kill for a 20-9 lead. King Philip’s Max Armour (four aces, four digs) had two aces late to help punctuate the win and a 2-0 lead.
Two early aces and a block kill from Peterson helped the Warriors jump ahead to a 6-1 lead in the third set. Peterson, Altobello, and Hughes all had multiple kills in the third set, one from Peterson on a set from Aidan Lindmark (eight assists) putting the hosts up 14-7. Peterson once again used a kill and three aces in four points to push King Philip’s lead, and Hughes added a late kill to help seal the win.
“Especially in the tournament, having multiple guys offensively is huge,” Tkowski. “If you have one guy, the other team can just set up a block on him and that’s the game. Having options, like Billy hit great tonight from the right side, having that is going to help us keep teams off balance.”
King Philip boys volleyball (15-3) will host #6 Natick (13-4) on Monday evening at 5:00.