King Philip Knocks Off Wachusett To Earn Spot In State Final

King Philip softball
The King Philip softball team celebrates in the infield at Worcester State after beating Wachusett in extra innings of a state semifinal game. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By Ryan Lanigan || HockomockSports.com Editor

WORCESTER, Mass. — King Philip has knocked off some of the top teams in Massachusetts on its way to the state semifinal. 

You can add another team to that list.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Warriors prevailed in a 10-inning thriller against top-seeded Wachusett, 2-1, to earn their first state championship appearance since 2016. 

Senior Ava Kelley led off the top of the 10th inning with a bloop single to the left side of the infield, and after an errant throw to first, raced all the way around to third. 

Senior Taylor Regan stepped to the plate next and ripped a hard-hit ground ball through the third baseman, who was playing in, to bring Kelley home and give KP its first lead of the game. 

“Ava [Kelley] and I just kind of looked at each other and we both just said we’re going back-to-back when we get up,” Regan said. “She got on and got all the way to third so I knew I just had to put a ball in play. It was a pretty good feeling.

“It could have been any one of us. We were all on her, we were all hitting her, it was just that breakthrough we needed. Jordan [Bennett] had one earlier and I thought we were going to score. We just try to keep fighting. It could have been my last time [at bat] so we just had to get it done, it was now or never. I had the opportunity and I just had to put the ball in play.”

Sophomore McCoy Walsh (10IP, 3H, 1R, 0ER, 5BB, 14K) put the finishing touches on a masterful performance in the bottom half. Walsh induced a grounder to second that was fielded cleanly by senior Jo Bennett. After a one-out walk, the Warriors came up with one of their biggest defensive plays of the game. Isabel Moreno got a small piece of a pitch that blooped in front of the plate. Instead of the ball landing and causing trouble, senior catcher Maddie Paschke jumped up and made a phenomenal diving catch for the second out and kept the runner at first. 

Walsh then induced a grounder to short where shortstop Liv Petrillo (3-for-4, walk) tossed to Bennett for the force at third to clinch the win. 

“What a game,” said King Philip head coach Kate Comeau. “It came down to grit and perseverance, and I’ve seen a lot of that from them over the past two to three weeks. They’ve really kind of found their identity as a team and part of that is the grit they have. They just never give up and they’ve been fighting for everything they want. We’ve been to the dance before but now we get to go to the show. They’ve worked hard for it.”

The sophomore righty battled all night in the circle. The Mountaineers put two runners on in each of the first two innings, but Walsh’s ability to battle back against pressure prevented the runners from getting to third. 
 
Even in extras, Wachusett had a runner on with one out after a hit batter in the bottom of the eighth. But a grounder to Kelley at third and a strikeout ended the frame. In the ninth, Shayna Bakun ripped a one-out double, but Walsh responded with a strikeout. After intentionally walking Caitlin Ciccone, who had a big hit earlier in the game, Walsh got a fly ball to center for the third out. 

“We just had to focus on the task at hand,” Comeau said of the approach and staying poised in the moment. “Just one at a time…one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time.” 

Wachusett got its lone run of the game in the third inning. After a walk and a hit by pitch put two on, the Warriors got a force at second to get two outs. With runners on the corners, KP got a ground ball but a funny bounce with some spin on the ball caused an error and Tiegan Walsh scored to make it 1-0. 

King Philip got the jolt it needed offensively in the fifth inning. Sophomore Ali Gill, who hit one to the warning track in the third inning, got a hold of one and blasted it over the fence in right-center field for a solo home run, her league-leading 12th of the season.  

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“When we needed them to pick us up, they did,” Comeau said when asked about KP’s top players coming through with the big plays. “A solid performance from McCoy in the circle, [Gill] came through at the plate, the top of the order came through. And defensively we were pretty solid. It was just a great game. That’s the type of game you want to play every time you take the field. Maybe not that many hours and maybe not until 11:30 PM but [Wachusett] was a great opponent.”

KP nearly took the lead in the eighth inning. Consecutive two-out singles from Paschke and Petrillo put runners on, and Bennett dropped one into shallow center in the next at-bat but a perfect throw from Moreno in center got the potential go-ahead runner at home on the tag from Walsh. 

King Philip softball (17-9) will play for its first state title since 2016 when it meets a familiar foe in the final. The Warriors will battle three-time defending state champions Taunton in an all-Hockomock Division 1 state championship game. 

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