ATTLEBORO, Mass. – For the past two seasons, Attleboro head coach Marty Crowley has talked about the need for the Bombardiers to be balanced and to get contributions from everyone on the roster. On New Year’s Eve, just 18 hours after beating Cumberland (R.I.), Attleboro showed how dangerous it can be when everyone chips in.
Eight different players scored, three players reached double digits, and eight players had at least three rebounds, as Attleboro beat Mansfield 58-51. It was Attleboro’s first win in the series since 2016, having lost the last seven games against the Hornets.
“People are going to try and take Nyah [Thomas] or Liv [McCall] out of the equation and the other girls stepped up big for us and that was key tonight,” Crowley explained. “We need balance to be successful and tonight they did it. I couldn’t be prouder of my kids. Our defense in the first half was spectacular. It was a total team effort tonight.”
It was a rare early afternoon start and the Hornets looked out of sorts at the opening tip. Mansfield struggled shooting, turned the ball over too often against an aggressive Attleboro defense, and managed only two points in the first quarter and 12 for the half.
“We’re not going to survive too many 12-point halves,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “I don’t know why we can’t shoot in the first quarter, but that’s been our downfall all year. We rallied back and did our best.”
The Bombardiers weren’t exactly shooting the lights out in the first quarter either, scoring only eight points of their own, but things picked up in the second. After Becca Hottleman opened the quarter with a three for Mansfield, Attleboro went on a 12-0 run to take control.
“It has been one of our focuses two days ago at practice,” said Crowley. “We didn’t rebound very well against Feehan, so we were working a lot on securing the ball and being more physical and I thought we controlled the balls in the first half.”
Mansfield tried to keep it close, as Kacey Veiking (10 points and six boards) knocked down a couple of shots, but Lillian Froio answered with her only four points of the night and Nyah Thomas (game-high 15 points and 10 rebounds) hit a tough runner in the lane to make it 26-12 at the break.
The Hornets have been a resilient team this season and have managed to battle back after falling behind early. Last game against Fontbonne, Mansfield managed to make it a two-point game in the fourth quarter after trailing by as many as 16. In the third quarter on Tuesday, Mansfield’s offense woke up, as the Hornets tried to mount another comeback.
Kayla Vine scored seven of her team-high 14 points in the third and also dished out a pair of assists to Veiking. Vine drilled her only three of the game to get Mansfield back within single digits at 34-25 and freshman Abby Wager hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 35-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to bottle whatever we did in the second half and do that from the beginning. We just can’t wait to play our best until we’re down by double digits,” said Redding. “We’ve got to start playing our best from the get-go. I love our heart, we challenged them at halftime to play with pride and they gave us everything they had and made a game of it in the fourth quarter.”
Attleboro was held to just nine points in the third, six of those from Thomas, who twice turned defensive rebounds into coast-to-coast baskets. In the fourth, the Bombardiers got back to spreading the ball around. Thomas hit McCall on an inbound play in the corner for a big three to get the quarter started and extend the lead back to double digits.
McCall added three free throws after a pair of technical fouls against the Mansfield bench and the lead that was once down to eight was stretched back out to 14.
“We responded. Liv, one of our seniors, hit a big shot for us,” said Crowley. “Everybody contributed for us. Mansfield is a formidable foe. It’s the Hock, you have to come ready to play every night.”
Mansfield kept hanging around. Kelly Doherty had a steal and layup to cut the lead to 10, Ashley Santos (nine points and seven rebounds) drilled a pair of threes in the fourth, and Wager (11 points) scored seven in the quarter to keep the game in doubt.
Every time the Hornets hit a big shot, Attleboro seemed to find an answer on the other end. Johnson scored six points in the fourth, Gordon added four, and Thomas kept getting to the basket, including a big and-one that made it 52-39. McCall added a drive down the middle for two that kept the lead at a dozen.
“We did a decent job, but when we made a mistake they made us pay,” said Redding. “Thomas does a good job, even when you’re doubling, to find a way to get it into the paint. They’re a tough combination. Every time you thought we had momentum, Thomas drives or Liv hits a three.”
The Hornets closed the game on a 9-0 run but by then the damage was done and Attleboro heads into the new year with momentum.
Crowley said, “It’s huge. It’s a good win to put under our belt. Everyone is doing the same thing, it’s a race to 10, and this gets us one step closer.”
Attleboro (3-3) will be back at home on Friday against Oliver Ames, trying to extend its win streak to three games. Mansfield (1-5) will try to end its three-game losing streak when it hosts unbeaten Franklin.
2018-2019 Record: 8-14 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Martin Crowley
Attleboro was three wins shy of reaching the postseason last year, despite a roster filled with inexperienced players, and the Bombardiers demonstrated the potential in the squad by upsetting Franklin late in the season and handing the Panthers their only league loss. This winter, the Bombardiers will be looking to turn potential into reality and make a jump into the playoff picture.
Six players are returning from last year, including seniors Nyah Thomas and Liv McCall, who give Attleboro a talented backcourt on both ends of the court. Thomas adds length and slashing ability, while McCall is a sharpshooter who will be the team’s primary ball-handler. Sophomore Meg Gordon has taken a big leap from last year and head coach Marty Crowley thinks that she is ready for a breakout season on the wing.
Juniors Gabby Bosh and Emma Reilly will both be back to add some nous to the lineup, while sophomores Hailey and Lindsey Perry add grit and toughness. Junior Ryan Johnson will add size to the frontcourt, while sophomore Lillian Froio and juniors Jackie MacDonald and Laura McVeigh add depth and physicality. Overall, it is a much deeper, more experienced group for Crowley to build lineups with this season.
“For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound,” Crowley said. “Nyah and Liv I am sure are going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone, however, we feel as if we have the players in place who will contribute offensively.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-7 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal. Coach: Jim Choquette
Youth was served for the Bulldogs last season, as a talented trio of freshmen jumped into the starting lineup and helped Canton have one of its most successful seasons in program history, with 14 wins and a return to the state tournament. There were still some learning curves to overcome, but now a more experienced group is play with speed and get out on the break as often as possible to give Foxboro a challenge in the Davenport title race and bring home a postseason win.
Although Canton is still a relatively young team, the talent on the roster is undeniable. Sophomores Kiara Cerruti and Sydney and Fay Gallery all had impressive rookie campaigns, showing off their skills on the wing, from three-point range, and in the paint. They will face even more pressure this season, as teams know what they like to do and will be even more determined to take them out of their games.
Sophomore Carly Fitzgerald will be one of the players stepping into the point guard role vacated by the graduation of Julia Hamilton and will be the facilitator getting Canton into its offense. In the paint, Canton has size and athleticism in senior Lilah Milton and junior Kayla Albert, who are both active rebounders and finishers at the rim and both have shown the ability to knock down the occasional jumper as well. Juniors Angie Elias and Sam Lamarr and sophomore Annie Hoban all have experience from last year to add to Canton’s depth.
Canton coach Jim Choquette said, “Each day we will try to improve as a coaching staff and a program. By the end of the season, our hopes are to be playing at our best.”
2017-2018 Record: 20-3 2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal. Coach: Lisa Downs
The two-time defending Davenport division champions return all but one player from last year’s roster, so Foxboro remains the team to beat for the league title and expectations are very high heading into a new season. After a trip to the Div. 2 South semifinals last season, the Warriors will be aiming for even more this winter, trying to regain the top spot not just in the Hock but also in the South sectional.
Junior Katelyn Mollica was the team’s leading scorer last year and is already closing in on 1,000 points for her career. The team’s primary ball-handler and one of the best shooters in the league, Mollica will be one of the top offensive threats in the league. She will have plenty of help. Senior guard Lizzy Davis and senior forwards Yara Fawaz and Abby Hassman will also return to the starting lineup this season and add athleticism, speed, and tenacity on both ends of the floor, taking some pressure off Mollica with their ability to score in the open court.
Senior Shakirah Ketant came on strong at the end of last season and gives Foxboro a different, more physical look in the paint. Junior Jordyn Collins is a tough on-the-ball defender and has speed to burn. Seniors Jamie DeVellis and Julia Kelley both saw time on the floor last year and will add to Foxboro’s depth. Sophomore center Hannah Blake is a new face that could provide more strength in the post.
“The Hockomock League continues to produce teams, which make every night a tough one – there are really no teams that you can take lightly,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “The preparation required to compete in this league really benefits teams that get to the postseason.”
2018-2019 Record: 21-4 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 State Semifinal. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin is coming off its best season in program history and the Panthers have the talent returning to potentially surpass that success this winter. After winning the program’s first sectional title and coming within minutes of reaching the state title game, Franklin returns three of its starters and a host of bench players ready to step into bigger roles this year.
The key to it all is senior Ali Brigham. The George Washington-commit controlled the paint on both ends of the floor last season and remains the league’s most dominant star, as she continues to expand her game to make it even more difficult for the opposition. Teams can’t focus only on Brigham, as senior forward Meghan O’Connell showed in the playoffs the problems she can present with her ability to score and rebound and sophomore Olivia Quinn is another forward with size that teams will struggle to match up with.
Junior point guard Erin Quaile is a tenacious defender and a solid ball-handler, who is developing her outside shot. Senior Sydney Garilli and juniors Elizabeth Wilson, Teagan Collins, and Carissa Alers all saw time last season and will be in the backcourt rotation. Franklin will also add several newcomers, who could step right in and contribute, including juniors Katelynn Taylor and Kaleigh Houlihan and sophomores Emma Sousa and Stefany Padula. On balance, the Panthers look likely to be the team to beat again in the Kelley-Rex.
“I am excited by what I have seen to date,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “They are a very motivated group who have bought into their team motto ‘We Over Me.’ They are good teammates who seek team success over individual glory.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-8 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Dan Nagle
King Philip had a breakout season in 2018-19, winning 13 games and reaching the Div. 1 South quarterfinal. Returning seven players from last year’s roster, new head coach Dan Nagle takes over a program in solid shape and is looking to build on last season’s success and try to challenge Franklin at the top of the league standings this winter.
Senior Faye Veilleux spearheaded KP’s breakout season when she emerged as one of the top post scorers in the league. Her versatility and her ability to get out in transition will be crucial to Nagle’s fastbreaking style. Senior Faith Roy will give the Warriors a clutch outside shooter and classmate Taylor Butler adds physicality to the guard or forward position.
Junior Emma Glaser will be expected to take on a bigger role after a strong sophomore season on the wing and junior point guard Brianna James demonstrated the ability to get into the lane at will and finish even against taller opponents. Juniors Caroline Aaron and Courtney Keswick are also back from last year to provide depth on the wings and 6-foot-3 freshman Emily Sawyer will give KP much-needed size in the post, as they try to combat Franklin’s Ali Brigham. The Warriors are going to try and break teams down with aggressive defending and their speed in transition.
Nagle said, “It has been a great start to the year with this group of kids. From top to bottom our roster is full of girls who love the game of basketball and are enjoying the process of improving day to day here in the early going. I think we will be a fun team to watch this season, and I look forward to the challenge of having our kids compete night in and night out in an excellent league like the Hockomock.”
2018-2019 Record: 17-6 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Mike Redding
Mansfield has consistently been one of the top programs in the Kelley-Rex division but even the best programs are going to need time to overcome the graduation of 10 seniors. The Hornets will lack experience, but head coach Mike Redding will be looking for improvement over the course of the season and will be hoping to have the team playing its best basketball as the tournament rolls around.
Senior Becca Hottleman was recently cleared after knee surgery and will be back at the point for the Hornets. Hottleman is one of only two players that got starts last year. Junior forward Ashley Santos is the other and she will be one of the players expected to see her numbers take a jump, as she should expect to get a few more looks on the offensive end. Senior Kelly Doherty and junior Kayla Vine will jump into starting roles on the wings, while junior Sara Dooling will be a starter at forward.
While there is a lack of varsity playing time on the roster, there are plenty of upperclassmen that will be expected to contribute. Junior Sarah Sacco will back-up Hottleman at the point, while junior Ally Prentis and senior Grace Benton will add depth at the wing. Senior Grace Maher and juniors Brooke Berube and Kacey Veiking will see time in the frontcourt and freshman wing Abby Wager should get opportunities to build experience this season.
“This group has very limited varsity basketball experience overall because we had that large and talented group of 10 seniors last year, but we’re not young and will rely on senior leadership and a deep junior class and all have varsity experience in other sports,” said Redding. “We have good size and depth in the post and all of them can shoot, handle the ball, and play like guards, which should cause some problems for the defense. It will be a work in progress and we’ll have to battle for wins in a very good league but this will be a good basketball team by February when the tourney rolls around.”
2018-2019 Record: 1-19 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Last year was a tough one for Milford. After graduating the bulk of the roster, an inexperienced group struggled through the season, but never lost the work rate and closed out the winter with its first win. The Hawks are still relatively young, but head coach TJ Dolliver is approaching the new year with optimism because of his team’s continued growth.
Four juniors are entering their third varsity seasons and the Hawks will be counting on them to provide necessary leadership on and off the court. Emma Lawrence, Jillian Michelson, Carly Fereira, and Katie Maietta have all gotten plenty of playing time last year and the hope is that experience will serve them well this winter.
This will be a guard-heavy lineup, especially with no player over 5-foot-8. Junior Elise Fauerbach will add some physical play to the frontcourt and sophomore forward Jill Araujo is a newcomer that can add some depth in the paint.
“There is a lot to pay attention to but what I care about the most is how we do this together,” said Dolliver. “I have a great group of girls and a great coaching staff and I believe this season will be very rewarding.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-14 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Nikki Correia
It has been a tough run over the last few seasons for North Attleboro, which won seven games and missed the playoffs for the third straight year, but there are still positives to take away as former assistant Nikki Correia takes over for her first year in charge. North has several experienced players returning to try and push Big Red back up the standings.
The backcourt should be a plus for North with senior point guard Olivia Forbes back to run the show and keep the Rocketeers getting into the transition game that Correia prefers. She will be joined at the guard position by junior Amanda Kaiser, who emerged as not only a threat from deep but also as a tough defender who gets her hands into the passing lane. Juniors Siobhan Weir and Lydia Santos will add to the depth at guard to help with the full-court pressure that North will turn to this year.
North hasn’t had much height in the past few seasons, but there are several forwards who can compete on the glass. Senior forward Eliza Dion is an aggressive defender and can take her defender off the dribble. Senior Regan Fein will add extra depth in the paint. Freshman guard Ava McKeown and sophomore guard Summer Doherty are two newcomers that could make an instant impact.
“I am looking forward to being apart of watching this team and this program grow this year,” Correia said. “There are six returning seniors, so that veteran play will be very helpful, as well as returning a great shooter and adding an athletic sophomore and freshman to the mix.”
2018-2019 Record: 13-9 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames had a lot of new faces last year, but the success was very familiar. The Tigers finished with 13 wins and reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal, giving Wellesley all it could handle on the road. A year of experience and the return of a strong core of players means expectations are even higher for OA this winter.
Sophomore Caroline Peper will be the player that is going to draw the most attention at the start of the new season. As a freshman, Peper was one of the league’s top scorers and its top shooters. Junior Caroline Flynn was also an all-star last year. She runs the point, is one of the top passers on the team, and also one of its top rebounders. Her overall game helps the Tigers control games. Also in the backcourt will be seniors Meg Holleran and Erin Holmberg, who is coming back after surgery cost her almost all of last season.
Senior Tate Hadges will be on the front line, giving OA another strong defender and rebounder. Sophomore Hailey Bourne, while undersized, gives the Tigers a lot of effort in the post even when matched up against some of the best frontcourt players in the league. Junior Jess Erlich and Tori Harney and sophomore Anna Murphy will add to the team’s depth on the wing.
“As always, the Hock will present with a very high level of competition,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We are looking forward to being capable of putting together a variety of strong personnel combinations which will provide us with depth as we face those challenges.”
2018-2019 Record: 9-11 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Sandra Lombardi
Sharon narrowly missed out on its first playoff appearance under head coach Sandy Lombardi, finishing just one win away from a tournament berth. With three returning starters and several younger players who got significant playing time last year, the Eagles will be eyeing that elusive postseason berth.
Three seniors will be counted on to lead the team at both ends of the floor. Point guard Ally Brown will be expected to get the Eagles into their offensive sets and is a strong defender on the other end, keeping pressure on the perimeter. Shooting guard Kaitlyn Wallace is the team’s top outside threat, stretching the defense with her range and also being a strong passer off the dribble. Forward Telishya Herbert led the team in scoring last year and is a matchup nightmare in the paint with her aggressive play going to the basket.
The starting lineup will be rounded out by junior Leah Fandel and sophomore Trinity Payne, two athletic forwards that will give Sharon decent size on the front line. Senior Nicole Teven, juniors Julia Early and Gaby Cabral and freshman Tess Letendre will all see plenty of playing time this season and will look to contribute to the team’s success.
“Ally, Kaitlyn, and Telishya have the most varsity experience and I expect great things from them this year,” Lombardi said. “We have a young team and I am hoping some of the younger players are able to step up this year as well.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-13 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
A new era will begin this winter, as Stoughton moves into its brand new gym with a lot of new faces on the roster, hoping to get the Black Knights back into the playoff race this season after missing out on the tournament last year.
The key for the Black Knights will be its senior leadership. Although Sydnee Hyacinthe has moved on to Milton Academy, they still return a strong core led by senior Aliyah Wright. The point guard can be a dominant presence on both ends of the floor, sparking Stoughton on defense and breaking down the opposition off the dribble. Senior Shyanne Trinh is healthy to start the season and will be the team’s top outside threat, with the ability to knock down shots off the dribble. Senior forward Lexi Baptista is an athletic post threat who can also step back and knock down the mid-range jumper.
Senior Hannah Pagano and juniors Brooke Bulger, Mackenzie Manning, and Catherine Downey will add to the team’s depth, especially in the backcourt. Sophomore Makaiyah Singleton Rivera and freshman Kyla Sheedy-Goff will be two of the newcomers to the roster that could make a name for themselves this season.
“Despite being somewhat young this season this group of ladies worked really hard in the off-season,” said Stoughton coach Charmain Steele Jordan. “The sky is the limit this season and our Black Knights are going compete hard until the final whistle blows.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-15 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Amy Siggens
After a number of seasons under coach Walter Harrigan, Taunton has turned to former King Philip coach Amy Siggens this year and she has brought plenty of energy into her first preseason with the Tigers, trying to push the program back into the playoff hunt.
As Siggens and the players become more comfortable with each other, the Tigers will count on their returning starters to get things off to a good start. Juniors Sonya and Jaelyn Fernandez and Kelsey White will be the players to watch this season after strong sophomore campaigns. All three have good size, with both Sonya and Jaelyn providing strong presences on the boards and out on the break and White causing match-up issues on the perimeter. All three will need to step up on the defensive end and keep the Tigers running.
Taunton also has depth, although it will be relatively inexperienced. Seniors Liz Crisman and Jaylah Chaves and junior Tori DaRosa will add more depth in the backcourt. Sophomores Braeley McDonald and Abby Souza (who has helped out on varsity since she was an eighth-grader) and freshman Kameron St. Pierre will also chip in this season.
“Any coaching change brings lots of challenges and, this season, we will be faced with our share,” said Siggens. “I am very encouraged from what I’ve seen thus far. Our bench is young and talented but how quickly a good group of less experienced players develop, will determine the degree of our progress and we are off to a good start.”
In a see-saw battle that saw Mansfield take its second lead of the game with three runs in the bottom of the sixth, Attleboro responded with two runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead for the third time and junior Emily Gittle (7IP, 11H, 2BB, 5ER, 13K) struck out the side in the bottom half to give the Bombardiers a 7-6 win.
“It doesn’t matter what the records are, it’s just one of those games,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “It’s a really good rivalry, it was a great game today. You have to be able to come back from things like errors and that’s what good teams do because you can’t play a perfect game. And our big players came through when we needed them.
“The kids persevered. We had the same type of game against Franklin, so we’ve been there before. We’re never out of it, especially when it’s one run. [Mansfield] is a good team, they battle, they find ways to get runs too. Those Bendanillo’s are two really tough outs. Emily Gittle was strong in the circle, a quiet 13 strikeouts tonight. We had some errors but I thought we got some big outs today at the right time.”
The Bombardiers had the first lead in the game after scoring in the first inning, the Hornets seized the advantage with three runs in the fourth, Attleboro jumped back in front with four runs in the fifth before setting up a frantic finish.
“This is how it’s been every time we play them,” said Mansfield head coach Lori Letendre. “I think if you play two more innings, it could have gone the other way. It’s that type of game every time we play Attleboro, unfortunately, they got us all three times this season.
“We hit the ball well today just not when we needed it most. That’s been the story of our season, leaving runners on base and having runners in scoring position and not getting the hit we needed. We had the bases loaded twice, runners on second and third at least once, we had our chances…just couldn’t get it done.”
Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the Hornets struck for three runs to go back in front for the second time. Senior Sydney Woods clubbed a leadoff double and moved to third on a single from sophomore Ella Verheggen. Verheggen stole second but Gittle got a strikeout and a groundout to get the first two outs.
Kara Bendanillo battled to a walk to load the bases and all runners moved up a base with Woods coming in to score to bring the Hornets within one. Senior Megan Letendre drew another walk to load the bases again, bringing the Hornets’ top offensive player in Mady Bendanillo.
The senior delivered, lacing a single through the left side to bring in two runs to put Mansfield up 6-5 and the pressure on the Bombardiers with just three outs left.
Attleboro came up with a big response as freshman Hailey Perry drew a leadoff walk and classmate Meghan Gordon advanced the run into scoring position after Mansfield starter Sarah Cahill (7IP, 7H, 3BB, 6ER, 4K) induced a ground ball out. Freshman Lindsey Perry singled to put runners on the corners with the Bombardiers’ top offensive threat McKenzie Bergdoll coming to the dish.
Bergdoll delivered the clutch hit the visitors needed, blasting a double deep to left to bring in both runs and putting her team back ahead, a lead they’d hold onto for the win.
“It was the best [Bendanillo] against the best [Bergdoll] and we happened to be the last one standing,” Homer said. “That’s the way you want it to be. You come from behind like that, that’s great for the team, it’s good to persevere because we play a very good team on Saturday.”
Bergdoll put the visitors on the board in the top of the first inning. Gordon smacked a double to start the game and then stole third when Lindsey Perry took ball four and was walked. Bergdoll hit a fly ball deep enough to left for a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.
Mansfield’s offense came alive in the bottom of the fourth and used a combination of hits and Bombardier errors to jump in front. Kara Bendanillo led off with hard-hit single to left and took third when the ball was misplayed. An infield error allowed Letendre to reach and Bendanillo to score to tie the game. Senior Caty DeMassi followed with an RBI triple and scored herself when the throw home sailed high, putting the Hornets up 3-1.
The Bombardiers mounted a comeback just a half inning later with four runs on their own. Kayla Battisti led off with a single and Gittle reached on a throwing error, putting runners on the corner. Hailey Perry drove in a run with a single and Gordon followed with a triple to bring two more runs in. A single from Lindsey Perry brought in the fourth run of the inning to put Attleboro head 5-3.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Both teams had already qualified for the postseason and Sunday morning’s matchup felt like preparation for the upcoming state tournament. It was a game in which both teams battled back multiple times and both learned what they will need to work on to make a playoff run.
In the end, Franklin made enough plays to pull out a 7-6 victory over Attleboro. Senior Emily Valentino came off the bench to pitch 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief and drove in the game-tying run with a fifth inning single.
“Emily Valentino came in and kind of slammed the doors, so to speak,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon. “She did a nice job out there.”
She also praised the Bombardiers for being aggressive and putting pressure on the Panthers. Fallon said, “They put a lot of pressure on us today. They came here swinging and trying to take some names. They put up a nice performance against us today and redeemed themselves from the first game (a 14-0 Franklin win).”
Attleboro was playing its third game in the span of 24 hours. The Bombardiers completed a rain delayed game with Taunton on Saturday morning and then drove 90 minutes to play Marblehead. Attleboro beat the Magicians to qualify for the tournament and carried that momentum to Franklin.
“They could’ve laid down coming into this one but they didn’t,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer about his team’s attitude on Sunday morning. “We’ve had some pretty bad injuries, so we had three freshmen out there today. They’ve been doing a good job up and down the lineup.”
Meghan Gordon led off with a single to right, followed by a swinging bunt from Lindsey Perry that turned into an infield hit. After a groundout moved both runners into scoring position, Lora Woynton brought in a run with a deep sac fly to center and Natalie Mansur singled to left and drove in a second.
The Panthers cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first. A one-out triple by Gabby Colace was followed by a sac fly to left by Ally Shea. Gordon made a nice running grab for the out, sliding past the foul line, but it allowed Colace to come home without a throw.
There were no clean innings on Sunday. Even scoreless frames included at least one base runner. Franklin starter Jackie Cherry pitched out of trouble in the second and third innings to keep the Panthers within one. Colace turned a double play when she snagged a line drive at second and tagged the runner to end the third.
Franklin grabbed its first lead in the bottom of the third. Anna Balkus bunted her way on to lead off and stole second. A passed ball moved her to third and Colace reached when her bunt was unable to be fielded cleanly. An error brought in the first run of the third to tie it and Maddy White lined a single to put Franklin in front. Sarah Jackson added a third run with an RBI-groundout.
Attleboro starter Jenna Gittle managed to limit the damage with a strikeout and a pop up to first, but the Panthers were up 4-2.
The lead was short-lived. The Bombardiers rallied for three runs in the fourth. Autumn O’Connell got it started with a single and, after Cherry retired the next two batters, Perry drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive for power hitter McKenzie Bergdoll. She crushed a three-run homer over the fence in left-center to put the visitors back on top.
“That’s what McKenzie Bergdoll’s got to do,” said Homer. “That’s her job. She’s one of the better hitters in the league, she’s a power hitter, but it’s also the set up before that getting people on base. We weren’t doing that earlier in the season.”
In the bottom half of the inning, Franklin bounced back again to tie it. Maggie Hobby walked and advanced to third after a pair of passed balls. Balkus hit a sharp grounder to short but the throw to the plate was not in time and the game was evened up at 5-5.
The back-and-forth game continued to ebb and flow with the Bombardiers grabbing the edge in the fifth. Colace threw ahead of the lead runner to get a big second out for the Panthers and it looked like they may escape the jam but Hailey Perry singled to right to bring in Kayla Battisti. Valentino came in with runners at second and third and got a strikeout to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Valentino helped her own cause. With one out, he dropped a single into right that scored White to tie the game again. Battisti kept the game tied when she was able to field a Hobby bunt and flip to Woynton at the plate to cut down the potential go-ahead run. Gittle got a big break when Balkus’ two-out single to left, which scored two runs, was nullified by the home plate ump saying she stepped out of the box as she hit it.
Valentino managed to get out of a jam in the sixth and Franklin scored the eventual game-winner in the bottom half. Battisti made another play at third to get a runner at the plate, but with two outs a grounder was mishandled and the go-ahead run scampered home.
After an error put the lead runner on in the seventh and a sacrifice bunt moved the runner into scoring position, Valentino got a pop up to Hobby behind the plate and then a fly ball to herself in the circle to close out the win.
“We came out on top,” said Fallon. “We pulled it together and we also learned a few things that we need to clean up, to work on heading into the tournament.”
Despite the loss, Homer was also positive about his team’s performance. He explained, “This was a great game for us, in this part of the season, because they battled all week. It would’ve been great to win, it always is, but I like where we’re at right now. For us to go to the distance and battle them right to the end, I’m okay with that because we’ll probably meet one of those six other [Hockomock League] teams in the tournament.”
Franklin (13-5, 12-3) has two more games this week to prepare for the tournament, starting with Canton on Tuesday. Attleboro (9-10, 8-7) will close out the regular season on Tuesday against North Attleboro.