2019 Hockomock League Softball Preview

2019 Hockomock League Softball Preview
Taunton won the D1 state title last spring and comes back as one of the favorites for a league title as another competitive Hockomock softball season kicks off. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Hockomock Softball Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 9-12
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Homer

After back-to-back playoff appearances, the expectations are high around the Attleboro program this spring. The Bombardiers return eight of nine starters from last year’s team and the lineup should be loaded with good hitters, as well as multiple players who can step into the circle and produce a good start. With the depth on the roster this season, Attleboro will be eyeing another postseason berth.

Senior McKenzie Bergdoll is one of the top power hitters in the league and will be back for another spring in the heart of the Attleboro lineup. She will be joined by classmates Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti as starters. Junior Makenzie Killough will be back at shortstop and also batting cleanup and providing protection for Bergdoll in the order. Sophomore Lora Woyton returns behind the plate, sophomore Autumn O’Connell will be in center and batting second and junior Ashley Macia will be out in left. Sophomore Brenna Morse will be taking over in rightfield. In the circle, Attleboro has plenty of depth with juniors Emily and Jenna Gittle and Bergdoll all able to step in. The Bombardiers will try to take advantage of their overall team speed and head coach Mark Homer said there are a few freshmen who may see playing time right away.

“The bar was set high from last season,” said Homer. “So the girls are onboard to perform well again this season with high hopes of competing in every game they play. They have set some goals to achieve one a\t a time. I am cautiously optimistic with our chances of winning more games this season than we have in the past. Knowing that there are no easy games on our schedule so we have to come to play every night.”

Canton

2018 Record: 8-13
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Dave Bohane

Canton had quite the turnaround in 2018 under second-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, winning eight games, seven more than in 2017, and making a return to the state tournament. Robillard, last season’s HockomockSports.com Coach of the Year, has moved on to a position at Bentley and football coach Dave Bohane has taken over a team that has seen an influx of young talent and has momentum on its side heading into the spring.

Junior pitcher Caroline Hughes is one of the reasons for optimism in the program, as she is looking to build off a strong sophomore season in which she pitched almost every inning. Hughes was also one of the team’s top hitters and she will be at the heart of the lineup along with sophomore outfielder Liz Bickett, who batted .409 last season. Bickett is just one of several sophomores who the Bulldogs will be counting on, including infielders Olivia Lanci and Sarah Kelly, catchers Steph Trendell and Amanda Vrabel. Junior catcher Jackie Howard and seniors Haley Donovan and Ally Chin will provide leadership for this young group to try and get the Bulldogs right back into the state tournament mix.

“I am very excited to be coaching this team,” said Bohane, who has previously served the program as an assistant coach. “They are extremely hard working and devoted to the program. I think they will set the standard for our future players who come through the program. It’s a very tough league, but we will take it one game at a time and try to improve each game”.

Foxboro

2018 Record: 11-12
2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mark Maguire

Foxboro made a run in the Div. 2 tournament last season, winning a pair of games before being knocked out in the quarterfinals, and the Warriors will hope to build on that exciting finish to 2018 by making a run at the Davenport crown this spring. Even with the loss of catcher Hannah Davis, who was instrumental in the team’s playoff run, Foxboro has a strong returning core and some talented young players stepping in to give head coach Mark Maguire confidence ahead of the new season.

Senior Emma Rohan will be back in the circle for her fourth year as the Foxboro starter and she has the experience of pitching in a number of big games and against the top teams in the league. Senior Cam Willis will play first this season, but can also step in and pitch if needed along with junior Amelia Stowell. The pitchers will have a rookie to throw to, as freshman Allie Willis will be stepping in behind the plate. Sophomore Morgan Sylvestre returns at shortstop after a strong first season on varsity and will be one of the leaders of the infield. Senior Chelsea Gibbons is at third base and freshman Peyton Feldman takes over at second. Sophomore Nicole Theriault will be in centerfield but can play a number of positions, senior Riley Martignetti gives the team pop from the right side of the plate, and senior Jill Finn can play all three outfield positions.

“Preseason is going great as the girls are working very hard to be ready for the season,” said Maguire. “We have a group of girls who work hard. I think team defense should be good with our senior leadership, and the younger players who aggressively look to make plays in the field. I have high expectations for this team, as we look to compete for a Davenport title and gain a state tournament berth.”

Franklin

2018 Record: 9-11
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Kate Fallon

Franklin has consistently been right behind perennial league leaders Taunton and King Philip in the Kelley-Rex division standings but has narrowly missed out on the playoffs by a single win in each of the past two seasons. This year, the Panthers have eight seniors coming back with the goal of getting the team back into the postseason and use a typically tough schedule to prep for a tournament run.

Pitching will be a strength for the Panthers this year with seniors Jackie Cherry and Emily Valentino giving the team depth and different options in the circle. Throwing strikes will be the key for both and limiting opposition base runners. Behind the plate, Franklin has plenty of experience as well with seniors Ally Shea and Maggie Hobby both capable of stepping in and handling the pitchers as well as providing power at the plate. Senior Tara Hartnett will be back at shortstop and provides strong defense up the middle. Junior Anna Balkus will be in centerfield and will set the table for the offense as the lead-off hitter. Junior Maddy White will be at third base and joins Shea and senior Kylie-Jade Bouzan as the team’s primary run producers.

“We are excited to see the Panther players on the field again,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau. “Overall our tough league and non-league schedule will keep us focused for tournament and we will rely on our solid pitching and defense.”

King Philip

2018 Record: 21-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Norm Beauchemin

Every season King Philip loses important players and every season the Warriors seem to be right back in the mix for the league title. This spring should be no different. KP will have several important players to replace in the lineup, but it expects to challenge for a 12th title in the past 13 seasons and also make another tournament run, following last year’s South final loss to Kelley-Rex rival Taunton.

Meghan Gorman is the player to watch for the Warriors this season, as the senior shortstop is one of the top defensive players in the state and also the spark plug at the top of the lineup. Senior Faith Turinese will move from the outfield into the circle and will split time with classmate Heather Nix as the top pitchers for the Warriors. Turinese also batted over .400 last year and will be an important bat in the middle of the order. Junior Destiny Goyco will step in behind the plate, after overcoming an injury from basketball season, and fellow junior Liliana Rolfe will take over at third. Grace Kelley will be at second base and Anna Bradley will be at first. The outfield will be filled with speed, including Kara McWhinnie in left, sophomore Paige Berdos in center, and either Ryan Stagg or junior Reaegan Simeone in right.

“One to nine, everyone hits the ball,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin. “I’m looking forward to another solid season. The league overall is going to be very competitive, so it should be fun.”

Mansfield

2018 Record: 7-13
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lori Letendre

Mansfield is looking to bounce back from a tough 2018 season in which the Hornets struggled in the Hockomock (going 4-12 in league play) and missed the playoffs. This year, Mansfield hopes for a quick turnaround and return to the state tournament with an experienced roster that brings back 11 players, seven starters, and seven seniors from last season.

The battery of senior pitcher Sarah Cahill and senior catcher Caty DeMassi is back and should give the Hornets a good foundation on which to build on this season. Seniors Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo will hold down the left side of the infield and provide pop in the middle of the lineup, while Mady Bendanillo returns in centerfield to give Mansfield a dynamic defensive player and another strong bat. There is an influx of youth as well with two sophomores and a freshman jumping into varsity and having the chance to contribute right away.

“Our goal is to make it back to the tournament this year and with strong leadership from our captains and our seniors, I think we will have a good shot at it!” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre.

Milford

2018 Record: 18-3
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Steve DiVitto

The biggest question for Milford is how do the Hawks move on from a group of 10 seniors that won a combined 79 games, four league titles, and the 2017 state championship? Milford has been the team to beat in the Davenport division for six years and a relatively inexperienced group will have to face a season in which the target for every team in the league is squarely on their backs.

Junior Megan Hart is one of the primary options to replace Kelley Reichert in the circle to start the season, with freshman Olivia Morelli showing potential to step in and contribute innings right away. Senior Lucy Creedon can step in at first or in the outfield. Junior April Swain will jump into the outfield along with classmate Taylor Waldrup, while junior Amanda Wenckus can play either position on the left side of the infield and sophomore Carly Ferreira can play either corner infield spot. Sophomore Elise Fauerbach can play behind the plate or in the outfield, while her classmate Natalie Casilli will take an outfield spot. There are a lot of spots to fill this year, but head coach Steve DiVitto is talking about that as an opportunity for a new group of players to step into.

“We understand that lack of experience is something that we will need to combat with, however the bar will continue to be set high!” DiVitto said. “Each year a new page is turned over, and as always the focus is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season. We’re excited for the challenges of playing in the best league in the state!”

North Attleboro

2018 Record: 16-5
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Bill Wallace

Two seasons ago, North Attleboro was a young team that made a surprise trip to the South semifinal, but this year the Rocketeers will have much higher expectations. North is now the experienced team in the Davenport division and has aspirations of unseating Milford and winning a first league title since 1990 and adding to the league’s recent history of strong tournament performances with another deep run.

Junior pitcher Bella Erti will be one of the league’s top pitchers again this season, after a 15-5 sophomore season in which she struck out 137 batters. She also hit .357. Junior Ashley Cangiano is also back for her third year as a starter and is one of the top catchers in the league. Abby Gallagher returns to the North outfield after hitting .500 last season as a sophomore and senior Olivia Capobianco will be back in centerfield and the middle of the North lineup. Freshman Mandi Hanewich and sophomores Emma Bailey and Belle Clarkin will compete for the third outfield spot after impressive preseasons. Senior Katie Daby is at first, while sophomore Emily Nardelli moves from shortstop to second base. Junior Alex Moulson takes over at short and her classmate Annabelle Hebard will be at third. Emily Bedard and Makenzie Nardelli add to North’s infield depth and Alivia Byrne will give Erti a rest in the circle and is another big bat in the lineup.

“We will need to be more multi-dimensional, as late in the year we couldn’t sustain our offensive start to the season,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “This group really wants to make their mark on the league and they know how much work that is going to take.”

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 3-17
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lindsey Allison

Last season was a struggle for the Tigers, with only three wins and head coach Lindsey Allison is hoping that a group of younger players can add to the returning core and make a push to get Oliver Ames back into the state tournament. Allison is confident that the offense will get into the swing of things for the Tigers after scoring only 66 runs last season, second-lowest in the league.

Senior Kayla Georgeu will be back in the circle for OA and in the heart of the lineup. The Tigers will count on sophomore Emma Varella to provide some innings at pitcher, as well as playing in the infield. Senior first baseman Katie Mills is a big bat for the Tigers and junior Katie Abreu can step in at either shortstop or centerfield depending on the game to provide vocal leadership. Sophomore Grace Simone will be behind the plate this season.

“Every spot is open for the taking and there are many young players who are hungry to be on the field,” said Allison. “This group of players seem like a team – not just a group of individuals. They compete with one another for positions, but also support each other. They hold each other accountable and communicate. I am excited to see what hard work can accomplish this season.”

Sharon

2018 Record: 0-20
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Heather Poliferno

It was definitely a rough debut season for Sharon coach Heather Poliferno, but it was also a chance for a number of young players to get experience at the varsity level. This spring, there is renewed enthusiasm with a crop of underclassmen joining the experienced players to give Poliferno and the Eagles confidence for a much better spring.

Freshman Trinity Payne is the player to watch for the Eagles this season as she takes over as the starting pitcher and has already drawn the attention of coaches in the Davenport division. She will be used at a couple of different positions and gives the Eagles versatility in the lineup. Senior Alli Small will be back at shortstop this season, while classmate Jody Goldenberg is back at first, and senior Rebecca Clayman will be the leader of the outfield group. As the program is growing, Sharon is hoping for much different results this season.

“We are very excited for this season!” said Poliferno. “We have many returning players leading our varsity team, as well as the addition of a very talented freshman class. Though we have only had a handful of practices, one of our clear strengths is our desire to be the best on the field.”

Stoughton

2018 Record: 7-13
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Deb Parker

Stoughton struggled to find a groove in 2018 and ended up missing the playoffs under first-year head coach Deb Parker, who had made the switch from Sharon before last season. This year, the Black Knights bring back starters in key positions and once again have the potential to make a run at a state tournament berth and even challenge for the Davenport title.

Seniors Nikki Coppola (second base) and Jordan Lyons (shortstop) give Stoughton a strong combination up the middle and senior Karly Estremera brings plenty of experience at third base. Sophomore pitcher Nicole Baker will take over full-time in the circle this season and Parker is impressed by the work that she put in during the off-season to get ready. Baker will be throwing to an experienced catcher, as senior Brianna Ferrandiz is back behind the plate for the Black Knights. Junior Lexi Baptista will lead the outfield crew in center and could also be one of Stoughton’s top hitters this season. Freshmen Melody Casna and Sydney Menz will give the Black Knights versatility by playing multiple positions.

“This team has come together so quickly, it is a real tribute to the leadership of our captains,” said Parker. “This team knows what they are playing for this year and we have high expectations going into the season. Softball in the Hockomock League is incredibly competitive but if we continue to work hard, we should have a great season.”

Taunton

2018 Record: 26-2
2018 Finish: Won D1 State Championship
Coach: Dave Lewry

How do you follow up a state championship? For Taunton, it just may be to make a run at a repeat. The Tigers lost the second, third, and fourth hitters in the lineup (including league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Kya Enos), who combined for 88 RBI, but there is a ton of talent coming back from last season, all of whom contributed at one point or another during Taunton’s run to the title.

It starts in the circle where sophomore Kelsey White will be the starter again this season after going 16-2 as a freshman and pitching every inning during the playoff run (not to mention batting .418). Her sister Alexa will also see time at pitcher, along with freshman Olyvia Mendonca, but will also play most of the season in centerfield. The infield will be a strength for the Tigers, with all four players back. Senior Jaime Brown (batted .469) is back for her fifth year at third base and is one of the top hitters in the league, sophomore Hanna Aldrich (.385 average with four homers and 30 RBI) is in her third year at shortstop and was this site’s Underclassman of the Year in 2018, sophomore McKenzie McAloon returns at second base for her third season, and junior Paige Silvia is back at first. Silvia and junior Riley Murphy are also in the running to replace Enos behind the plate, while junior Abbie McDonough takes over in left and eighth-grader Ava Venturelli could start the season in right.

“While we lost three outstanding players to graduation, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “We have a good nucleus of returning players looking to defend our D1 state championship.”

Dramatic Win Keeps Franklin Playoff Hopes Alive

Franklin softball
Franklin players race to celebrate with senior Meg Caron (26) after she drove in the game-winning run in the 10th inning to beat North Attleboro and keep Franklin’s chance to reach the tournament alive. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin came into Monday’s Memorial Day matinee with North Attleboro needing a victory keep alive hopes of reaching the postseason. After punching in a run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, throwing a runner out at the plate to stay tied in the ninth, and escaping a bases loaded jam in the top half of the 10th, the Panthers were just 60 feet from the win.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Senior Meghan Caron, the lone Panther player celebrating senior night before the first pitch, stood at the plate with Tara Hartnett poised at third. Caron hit a chopper towards the left side of the infield and North shortstop Emily Nardelli had to come home with it, but Hartnett was off on contact and slid in ahead of the throw.

Franklin pulled out a 4-3 victory that split the season series against the Rocketeers and also sends the Panthers into the season finale knowing that a win will clinch a spot in the state tournament.

“I’m so pumped for her,” Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau said of Caron. “They call her ‘Meg Money’ because she was so clutch when she was younger, growing up, and I’m just glad she was the one that was clutch today.”

It was a back-and-forth game from the start. The Panthers took the lead in the bottom of the first thanks to an unearned run. Allie Shea (3-for-5) got it started with a single to left and Anna Balkus beat out a bunt single. Nardelli made a diving stab of a Maddy White grounder up the middle to get a force at second but a bobble on a grounder off the bat of Hartnett brought Shea home.

North took its lone lead of the game in the third inning. Olivia Capobianco singled with one out and stole second. Abby Gallagher followed with a walk and then Ashley Cangiano lined a double into right center than scored one. North coach Bill Wallace held up Gallagher, as the Franklin relay got the ball in quickly, but Bella Erti helped her own cause with a single that drove in both runners for a 3-1 advantage.

Franklin cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning. Balkus and White singled to start the inning and, after a force at third to get the lead runner, Hartnett singled to right to drive in White and make it 3-2.

After the third both pitchers settled into their starts. Erti retired 12 straight Franklin hitters from the third to the seventh inning and finished the game with eight strikeouts. Cherry kept the Rocketeers off-balance, moving the ball around and although she walked eight hitters, she also struck out 15 and didn’t allow a run over the final seven innings.

“She settled in nicely,” Fallon-Comeau said of her starter. “She found the pitch that worked for her and, you know, she just pounded parts of the zone that they didn’t seem to be hitting hard.”

North had its chances to extend the lead, stranding a pair of runners in the fourth and one each in the fifth, sixth, and seventh. “We did [get the hits] early to go up 3-1,” Wallace said, “but then we had runners in scoring position all day but we left a small village on base.”

The inability to tack on insurance runs came back to haunt the Rocketeers in the seventh. A one-out walk to the nine-hitter Gabby Colace got the rally started. Shea followed with a single to left and both moved up into scoring position on a groundout to first by Balkus. White hit a bouncer to short that Nardelli bobbled for a split second before firing to first. It was a bang-bang play at the bag and White was ruled safe, allowing the tying run to score.

“It’s either now or never, so get it done. If you want your season to continue then you need to get a run here, two would be nice,” said Fallon-Comeau of her message to the team before the seventh. She added, “They’ve been that way all season. They don’t get down. They really rise up for the competition.”

North nearly broke the deadlock in the ninth. A one-out walk to Gallagher was followed by a blast to center by Cangiano that one-hopped the fence. This time, Wallace elected to send the runner, but the relay from Balkus to Hartnett to catcher Maggie Hobby was perfectly executed to cut down the go-ahead run at the plate.

Fallon-Comeau explained, “I can’t tell you how many balls we’ve hit off the fence and say okay get the fastest kid in our program out at home. We do it all the time because it comes down to get the ball and perfect throw and perfect throw. If you don’t have that, then it’s a run.”

Franklin put two on in the ninth as well, with one-out singles by Shea and Balkus but Erti got a pop on the infield and a strikeout to end the threat.

“She grinded and that’s typical of her that she gets better as the game goes on,” Wallace said of Erti. “She’s not the least bit tired right now. In her eyes, she’d rather be out there throwing two, three more innings.”

The Rocketeers threatened again in the 10th. Katherine Munley drew a walk and with two outs Andrea Miceli lined a single to left. After Abby Warren drew a walk, the bases were loaded but Cherry was able to bear down and struck out Capobianco to keep the game tied.

“Little things win games like that and we didn’t do enough of the little things to win,” said Wallace, who added that this was good preparation for his team before the tournament. “We’ve got to do a better job situationally hitting, things like that, and these are things we can point out at practice.”

In the bottom of the inning, Hartnett singled to start the inning and moved up to second on a wild pitch. She failed to move up a base on a hard grounder to the right side by Kylie-Jade Bouzan but went to third on a second wild pitch. That gave Caron the chance to be the hero on senior night.

“We did it. I don’t know how we did it, but we did it,” said Fallon-Comeau. “Bill and I, since probably back when I was in high school because he was the coach when I played, have always had these barnburner games. It goes back-and-forth, back-and-forth all the time and I’m just glad it swung back in our direction this time because we needed it.”

Franklin (9-10, 8-8) will have one last game against Bridgewater-Raynham on Wednesday night. If the Panthers win, then they are in the playoffs. North Attleboro (15-3, 11-3) will face Davenport division champ Milford on Thursday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.