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.