Rocketeers Battle But Fall to Top Seed in Semis

North Attleboro softball
North Attleboro’s Sam Courtemanche lays down a bunt against Silver Lake. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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TAUNTON, Mass. – North Attleboro came into Thursday night’s Div. 1 South semifinal against top seed and unbeaten Silver Lake at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field as the heavy underdog. The Rocketeers were the No. 12 seed, had three freshmen in the starting lineup, including a freshman starting pitcher, and were playing their fourth game in seven days.

When the Lakers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning, the game seemed like nothing more than a formality on Silver Lake’s path to the sectional final, but North did not go quietly and continued to battle all the way to the final out, making the top seed work for the win.

In the end, Silver Lake had too much for North Attleboro, pulling out a 12-5 victory and setting up a match-up with No. 2 seed Milford in Saturday afternoon’s South final. Despite the defeat, North coach Bill Wallace was proud of how far his young team had come this season.

“I like how they didn’t give up…and it’s hard,” said Wallace. “Even when it was 11-3, we’re still banging hits and, you know, we had the bases loaded…I’m thrilled with the way the kids played this year.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Lakers looked every bit the top seed with six runs in the first two innings. A two-out single by senior pitcher Jill Richards scored an unearned run in the first and in the second inning the Lakers sent 10 batters to the plate and brought home five runs, including a two-out, two-run single by senior catcher Emily Critch.

Trailing 6-0 and with no hits through two innings, the Rocketeers could have rolled over and called it a spring, but instead North showed signs of life in the third and cut the lead in half.

Freshman Ashley Cangiano (4-for-4) and junior Andrea Miceli started the inning with singles and freshman Abby Gallagher reached on an error to load the bases. The Lakers got the first out at the plate but senior Megan Barlow drew a walk to get North on the board. Senior Liz Morehouse followed with a two-run single off the glove of Silver Lake shortstop Caroline Videtto.

The Lakers responded in the bottom half of the inning with another five runs to break the game open again. After freshman Bella Erti got a comebacker for the first out, the Lakers had five straight hits, including a two-run single by Videtto to make it 11-3 heading to the fourth.

Wallace said of Silver Lake, “That team can rake. They get the barrel on the ball quite a bit.”

Gallagher got one back for North in the fourth with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Cangiano, who had somehow gotten to third on the play before with an unorthodox slide to avoid the tag.

In the fifth, the Rocketeers got a fifth run with a two-out rally. Pinch hitter Amelia Murphy, who has battled injuries all season, reached on an infield single, took second on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single to center by Kristina Murphy.

After a rough start, Erti settled into her start and, despite having pitched a complete game against Marshfield just a day early, seemed to get stronger as the game went on. She retired eight Lakers in a row between the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Bella is a freshman and she just kept gutting it and gutting it and I couldn’t be any prouder of her,” said Wallace. “She’s a tough nut and when you’re a freshman you have the weight of the seniors on your shoulder and all the upperclassmen and she’s handled it great. She’s very coachable and she’s just going to get better.”

In the top of the sixth, North had the chance to make things interesting when Cangiano and Miceli started the inning with singles, but Richards struck out Gallagher, Anna Battista chased down an Olivia Capobianco fly ball in foul territory, and Barlow lined out to second to end the inning.

“The kids just kept battling, but when you’re chasing you can’t do the things that get you there,” Wallace said. “We’re a little bit of a different team when we’re ahead than when we’re chasing runs, but we’ve got more dimensions.”

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Alexandra Ruprecht reached on an error. Two batters later, Hannah Mitchell singled to right center for an unearned insurance run.

In the seventh, North continued to put pressure on the Lakers. Morehouse and Murphy each singled to get things started. Morehouse was forced out at third and Sam Courtemanche lined out to short before Cangiano got her fourth hit of the day to load the bases. Richards closed out the hard-fought win with a strikeout.

While the night ended in defeat for North Attleboro (14-7), there is plenty for the Rocketeers to be optimistic about. Six of the nine starters will be back next season, including Erti in the circle.

“If you could’ve told me at the beginning of the year that we’d be standing here in the semifinal, I’d say that’s great, but not only did they get it but they got to live through the four games to get here.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

North Attleboro Upsets Taunton In D1 South Showdown

North Attleboro softball
North Attleboro catcher Sam Courtemanche tags a Taunton runner out at home in the fifth inning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace knew he had the game plan to beat Taunton, it was just a matter of execution.

All 12th-seeded North Attleboro had to do was play perfect.

Mission accomplished.

Big Red was nearly flawless on the defensive end, came up with timely hitting and walked away from Jack Tripp Field with a 4-1 upset win over fifth-seeded Taunton.

“We played nearly flawless tonight – and that’s how you have to play to beat a team like Taunton,” Wallace said. “You have to play as sound as possible. We got a few breaks and that’s what we needed.”

Freshman Bella Erti pitched a complete game for the Rocketeers, scattering eight hits and one walk and struck out won to earn her second straight postseason win.

“Bella pitched great tonight,” Wallace added. “The good thing was that they didn’t see her the first time around (an 8-1 win by Taunton). That was a new wrinkle coming in. Especially when you draw someone from you own league, you usually see a pitcher you’ve seen before. She made two big plays in the field too.”

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It took Taunton just three batters to take the lead in the bottom of the first. Sophomore Jaime Brown led off with a single, advanced to second on a sac bunt from junior Liane Duarte and scored on an RBI double from junior Kya Enos to put the Tigers ahead early.

The Tigers had at least one runner on base in every inning after that except for the sixth and had a runner reach third in three of those innings but couldn’t get another run in.

“[North Attleboro] played a great game,” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “I told Coach Wallace after the game that they executed everything the way it should be executed. And he said that’s the only way to beat you – to be perfect. And they were damn near perfect tonight. They played a real solid game defensively, they got key hits when they had to and they took advantage of our mistakes. That usually turns the tide, especially in tournament time.”

Big Red took a couple of innings to get its offense in gear. The Rocketeers went down in order in both the first and second inning and had just one hit in the third – an Andrea Miceli single – and just a two-out single from Erti in the fourth.

North finally broke through in the fifth inning. Sam Courtemanche reached after a throwing error to first and took second on the same play. Freshman Ashley Cangiano laid down a bunt and beat the throw to put runners on the corners for Big Red.

With both the infield and the outfield playing in, Abby Gallagher laced a hard grounder up the middle, the ball hitting the edge of the outfield grass and hopping over Taunton’s center fielder. Both runs came in to score and Gallagher took third on the play.

Meg Barlow delivered a single in the next at-bat to plate Gallagher and give North Attleboro a 3-1 lead.

“This place has been a house of horrors for us over the years,” Wallace said. “One reason is that Taunton has had such a great program over the years and the other is that when you get to the state tournament and in the semifinals and finals, you play great teams. This is a great memory for the girls to get the win here.”

Taunton was close to coming up with a big response in the bottom of the fifth. Enos reached on an infield error and went to third on a one-out double to right field from MacKenzie Handrahan. A line drive to center was snagged by Olivia Capobianco and she fired a strike home to get the runner on the tag up, ending the threat.

“That was the play of the game,” Wallace said of Capobianco’s throw.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

North Attleboro pushed an insurance run across in the top of the seventh. Gallagher reached on Taunton’s sixth error of the day and moved to second on a sac bunt from Capobianco. Barlow just just a piece of the ball, putting it in the dirt right in front and the throw from first hit both Barlow and Taunton’s first baseman, allowing Gallagher to score.

“They executed better than we did and they deserved to win the game,” Lewry said. “We hit the ball pretty well most of the night, made good solid contact. But they made the plays, that’s the difference in the game”

Taunton threatened once again in the bottom of the seventh inning with Duarte (error) and Enos (walk) reaching with two outs, but Erti got a line drive to Cangiano in left field for the final out.

North Attleboro softball (13-6) advances to the D1 South Quarterfinals and will take on the winner of #4 Marshfield (15-3) and #20 Mansfield (13-8) on a date and time to be announced. Taunton finishes at 17-5.

North Attleboro Clinches Share Of First League Title

North Attleboro boys lacrosse
North Attleboro’s Zach McGowan (left) is defended by King Philip’s Conor Khung in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Back in April, North Attleboro boys lacrosse saw its second half comeback effort against King Philip fall just short.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon where no come back was necessary. In fact, the Rocketeers were in driver’s seat the entire way, racing out to an early lead and never looking back to pick up a convincing 10-3 win.

With the win, North Attleboro clinched at least a share of its first ever Davenport division title; also the program’s first ever league title.

“I think we worked together as a team, on both ends of the field,” said North Attleboro head coach Kevin Young on the biggest difference between the two games. “It wasn’t just one guy trying to drive the crease and everyone else watch. Everybody out there was pretty conscious of the transition game, both offense and defense. [King Philip’s] Paul Macrina is one of the best outlet goalies in the league so we always had someone high all the time – that seemed to work. It was a great effort on both sides, I was very happy with the guys today.”

While the Rocketeers were limited to just one goal in the first half of the first meeting between the two, it took North just one quarter to find the back of the net three times.

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In the first minute of play, Owen Costello found some space and then found the back of the net to put North up 1-0. The Rocketeers continued its strong start when Zach McGowan found Nick Moore in front for a bounce shot less than four minutes into the game. Big Red’s lead grew to three shortly after with McGowan again assisting. This time the senior connected with Tommy Lindstrom for a man up goal.

King Philip’s Tim Watson found Colin DeVellis with a perfectly weighted pass over the goal and the sophomore finished to bring the Warriors within two by the close of the first quarter.

“They came out a little more intense than us to start,” said King Philip head coach Jamie Stefanini. “And then just mental errors. Guys missing assignments, not communicating on defense, and just throwing the ball away — just simple stuff you can’t do. When you play a quality team like North Attleboro, you can’t throw it away.”

North Attleboro tacked on two more goals in the second quarter with McGowan having a hand in both of them.

First, the senior attack took control of possession, dodged around and defenseman as he raced from behind the net. McGowan released a shot as he curled toward goal and found the back of the net top shelf. Minutes later, McGowan connected with Costello as he eluded his mark in front for a quick goal to make it 5-1 heading into half.

The Rocketeers continued to build their lead into the second half. After neither side scored for the first eight minutes, Colin Young found the back of the net on a feed from Jack Dakin. Moore grabbed his second to put North up 7-1.

King Philip had an answer when Watson recorded his second point of the game, sneaking one in from a tight angle to cut it to 7-2.

If there was any hope for a comeback, it was quickly erased when North scored in transition just one minute in. Freshman Will Yeomans scooped up a loose ball and raced into the attacking zone. When he defense committed, he dropped the ball off to McGowan for an easy finish in close.

King Philip cut it back to five when Aidan Bender converted a feed from John DeLuca, but that would be the Warriors’ last tally.

Young grabbed his second on a nice tic-tac-toe play with passes coming from Moore and McGowan. Dakin then found the back of the net from distance after a simple pass from McGowan.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

McGowan (two goals, five assists) paced North’s offense with seven points.

“He’s controlling our offense,” Young said. “He’s smart, he calls the right plays all the time. If he gets the ball and controls the ball, we’re in much better shape. He’s just calm with the ball.

We have a lot of seniors this year that are getting playing time and you can see the difference. Last year we were losing the one goal games, now we’re winning them or we’re getting up early. We traded blows with KP last game and ti went right down to the wire. We were hoping to get up early and we did.”

Friday’s game marked the lowest offensive output of the season for King Philip. Defensemen David James, Tom Lockavitch and Brett LaBonte, along with LSM Max Fontes and midfielders Nick Moore and Paul Yeomans prevented the Warriors from building any momentum. Goalie Dan MacDonald registered 14 saves for Big Red.

“My assistant coach John Hensey has been working on some defensive schemes that are really working well,” Young said. “There’s no one that doesn’t have a job. All the slides were set. We have a couple of different sets based on who we play and who is carrying the ball. The defense can play with confidence because Danny is in net and he’s killing it.”

North Attleboro boys lacrosse (11-2 overall, 8-1 league) is back in action against Attleboro in a non-league game. The Rocketeers can win the Davenport title outright with either a win over Mansfield or Stoughton, or a loss from Foxboro. King Philip (10-5, 7-2) is back in action on on Saturday, hosting Walpole.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

King Philip Outduels North In Non-League Clash

By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip escaped a jam in the top half of the fourth and scored three runs in the bottom half to pick up a 4-1 non-league win over North Attleboro on Tuesday afternoon.

Pitching dominated the game early on as both North’s Nick Sinacola and KP’s Stephen Murray pitched 1-2-3 first innings. Through three innings, the only hit of the game was a second inning single single by North Attleboro catcher Zach DeMattio, who paced North’s offense with a 2-4 day, including an RBI triple.

After DeMattio’s single, Nick Crowley got hit by a pitch which set North up with first and second and nobody out, but Murray got a pop out to third and then a fly out to Patrick Limerick in left field, then doubled off DeMattio at second after he left early. Nick Sinacola set down the first nine KP batters he faced, striking out three.

In the fourth, both teams got their offense working, as North loaded the bases after back to back singles from Nick Crawley and Matt Iaconis and a two out walk by John Brennan, but Murray got out of the bases loaded jam by getting a hit back to the mound for a 1-3 put out.

“That’s what Steve does. He’s been with me for three years now, and when he gets in a jam I don’t get nervous, I get worked up, but not nervous because Steve’s gotten out of situations like that so many times now,” said KP coach Pat Weir about Murray’s ability to get out of jams.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Warriors took advantage of that momentum. Kyle Guenther became KP’s first base runner with a single into center, and Will Weir connected on a one-out single, which set up first and second with only one out. Sinacola got his fourth strikeout of the game for the second out but walked Ben Furfari to load the bases.

Collin Cooke then drew a walk to score Guenther, and Sinacola just barely hit Jack Webster with a pitch which allowed Weir to cross the plate. Chris Wing drew KP’s second bases loaded walk of the inning, which brought home Furfari and gave KP a 3-0 advantage. After Wing’s walk, Peter Cohen came in to relieve Sinacola, and he induced a grounder to Brennan, who stepped on second for the force out to end the inning.

In the top of the fifth, North answered back with a two out rally of their own. Nate Pearce hit a two-out double into the gap and DeMattio crushed a ball deep into right for a triple to bring home Pearce and get North on the board and cut the KP lead to 3-1.

In the bottom half of the 5th, Guenthner drew a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Limerick. Will Weir singled home Guenther, and advanced to second on an error on the throw home. Murray was then hit by a pitch, and with Furfari at the plate, Murray and Weir executed a perfect double to steal to set up second and third with only one out.

However Furfari’s ensuing flyout was not deep enough to score Weir, and a ground out to short to end the inning.

After walking Iaconis to start the top of the sixth, Murray was pulled from the game, but he still had a very impressive outing, striking out three in five inning of work while only allowing one run. Jackson Shiebler replaced Murray, and induced a pair of fielder’s choice outs and then got a force out to end the inning.

Cohen set down the Warriors in order in the bottom of the sixth. In the seventh, Shiebler got a fly out to center and a ground out, but after walking Nate Pearce, North had one last chance. After a tough at-bat with DeMattio fouling off a couple of pitches, Shiebler ended the game with a strikeout.

KP (5-1) will get back at it on Thursday at noon when they take on Taunton (4-0) at home.

North Attleboro (3-3 for tournament purposes) will return home to Community Field on Thursday where they’ll do battle with Stoughton (4-2).

2017 Hockomock Softball Preview

2017 Hockomock Softball Preview
With a deep and experienced lineup and both pitchers returning, Milford will once again be the favorite to retain the Davenport division title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017 Hockomock Softball Preview

Attleboro

2016 Record: 2-18
2016 Finish: Missed Postseason
Coach: Mark Homer

Attleboro struggled through a difficult 2016, the first season under new head coach Mark Homer, winning only two games while giving up a league high 177 runs and scoring a league-low 46. Heading into this spring, the Bombardiers will be counting on a group of young players to try and turn things around and it seems to be working so far, as Attleboro has played two games and already matched last year’s win total.

One of the true bright spots from last season was freshman pitcher McKenzie Bergdoll, who showed flashes of the potential to be an ace for Attleboro, and this season she will be counted on to keep the Bombardiers in games and to provide big hits from the three-spot. Julia Woyton will be behind the plate this year while senior Ilea Caverley and junior Casey Whelan (outfield) and Jordyn Lako (second base) are the few returning players on the roster.

The Bombardiers are going to turn to youth this spring with freshman MacKenzie Killough taking over at shortstop. Freshmen twins Emma and Jenna Gittle will add depth to the Attleboro pitching staff and classmate Ashley Macia will take over in centerfield. Homer also said that there were underclassmen who would provide speed off the bench.

“The expectations are to play hard, be committed and get excited with every game and practice that they take part in,” said Homer. “With the added depth in each position this year, the girls hope to gain advantages from the previous year and reach their set goals for the season.”

Canton

2016 Record: 3-17
2016 Finish: Missed Postseason
Coach: Jennifer Robillard

Former King Philip and Sacred Heart University shortstop Jennifer Robillard takes over the Canton program this spring with the hope of bringing some of the success that she enjoyed playing for two state champions and a Division I college to the Bulldogs, who are coming off a three-win season.

The Bulldogs will be looking to their experienced players to help turn things around in 2017, including seniors Molly Loughran, Taylor Carrington, and Julia Ezepik and junior Hannah Jerrier, who are all captains this spring. Jerrier and Ezepik will start the season injured, but Robillard is hoping that other players can step up until they return. Canton will have depth in the circle, as both junior Caitlyn Cahill and freshman Caroline Hughes will see action at pitcher.

Lillian Carrington and Samantha Keefe are two other players that will be counted on to contribute and both provided home runs in a loss to Mansfield in the second game of the season. Robillard is excited about the opportunity to get back into the Hockomock League and she sees a team that “wants to learn.”

“This team has a lot of potential. If we can tap into this potential, I truly believe that we are going to take teams by surprise,” Robillard said. “I am here to share my passion for and knowledge of the game I love with these girls. It is important to me that these girls learn how to be strong, independent and respectful young women.”

Foxboro

2016 Record: 9-13
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round
Coach: Mark Maguire

In 2016, Foxboro finished 6-10 in the Hockomock League but got its chance to play in the postseason and took advantage with a preliminary round win over Westwood and a near-upset of Abington in a nine-inning classic. The Warriors will hope to build on that experience this spring with a number of key players returning.

League all-star Hannah Davis is back behind the plate for the Warriors and will be one of the top hitters in the Hockomock. Davis will likely be in the three-spot in the lineup and right behind her will be senior Kelly Fisher, who head coach Mark Maguire called one of the best first basemen in the league. Kelly McCarthy will try to set the table for the power hitters in the lead-off spot.

Sophomore pitcher Emma Rohan is back in the circle and Maguire expects that she will compete every game and build on her rookie campaign. Behind Rohan, Cam Willis will moved from second base to short and Chelsea Gibbons will provide good ‘D’ and a solid bat at third. Lefty Lexi Buckner could grab the second base spot and senior Jamie Gorham could provide an unexpected boost as a first-year player in the outfield. Mandy Ryan and Kayla Wheatley are two of the players coming up from JV that Maguire is hoping will step in to provide depth.

“They’re all working hard and they’re ready to build together as a team,” said Maguire. “The expectations are really to compete every game.”

Franklin

2016 Record: 12-11
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Kate Fallon

Once the rains go away for a few days, Franklin will be able to open its new field and make official its move back to the high school after a couple seasons playing at Dean College. The Panthers are excited about the new facility and about the team’s potential for success this spring with seven returning starters from last year.

Leading the way is third baseman, and four-year starter, Olivia DiGiacomo, who has been a mainstay at the hot corner and provides leadership for the infield. To her left is shortstop Alyssa DaSilva, a three-year starter with two years of experience at short. Sophomore Allie Shea is back at first base and senior Clara DeCarvalho is back behind the plate and poised for a “breakout season,” according to head coach Kate Fallon. The outfield is also filled with veterans, including seniors Rachel Cousineau in left and Olivia Haba in center.

The seventh starter is senior Alex Niss, who started as a pinch hitter last season before taking over the DP role and turning into one of the top power hitters in the Hockomock League. The Panthers should be solid defensively and at the plate and Fallon is hoping that sophomore pitchers Jackie Cherry (who carried a shutout into the seventh in the season opening loss to North Attleboro) and Emily Valentino can make an instant impact in the circle.

“Win 11 games and make the tournament again,” said Fallon when asked about the expectations for the team this season. “I expect the seniors to provide leadership and be role models for the underclassmen. It’s always a dogfight in this league…but I think we are a good team.”

King Philip

2016 Record: 24-4
2016 Finish: Won Div. 1 State Championship
Coach: Norm Beauchemin

King Philip comes into 2017 on the back of its third state title in the past six years and, while expectations remain high for one of the region’s top programs, there are key pieces from last year’s team that need to be replaced in order for the Warriors to get back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and in the state.

The biggest absence this season is, of course, pitcher Kali Magane, who is now in the circle for Boston University and who was dominant during KP’s playoff run a year ago. Senior Jenn Hutnyan will step in to be the team’s starting pitcher after several starts and relief appearances in the past two seasons. Hutnyan will also be an important bat in the lineup. Junior Brie Lacy will be back behind the plate to help Hutnyan and head coach Norm Beauchemin noted that junior Jessica Bonner will be a solid defensive third baseman.

KP rarely rebuilds and almost always reloads for another title push. This year should be no different with a lineup that features several familiar names from last season’s title run, including sophomore Meghan Gorman and juniors Brooke Taute, Elise Pereira, and Hailey McCasland. Each of those players had important roles last season and will be ready to step up for the Warriors this spring as KP tries to regain the league title after Taunton ended its nine year run in 2016.

“Though it’s hard to replace last year’s seniors,” said Beauchemin, “we have a solid core of returning players ready to represent King Philip and its proud softball legacy.”

Mansfield

2016 Record: 13-9
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Lori Letendre

Mansfield is coming off a 13-win season that included a tournament win against Notre Dame Academy, but after four years of being able to count on Maddie Letendre in the circle the Hornets will be handing the ball over to a new pitcher this spring, although as it turns out only the first name will be changing.

Megan Letendre, who played shortstop as a freshman, will take over in the circle for the Hornets and her development as the No. 1 pitcher will go a long way to determining if Mansfield can repeat last year’s success. Pitcher is not the only position that needs to be replaces, as the Hornets will have a new catcher and three new infielders. Still, with nine returning players, there is plenty of experience on the roster.

Kara Bendanillo will move from third base to second, according to head coach Lori Letendre, and Megan Letendre will sometimes see time at second when not pitching. Liz Mackin will take over at first base, while Marissa Staffier and Amanda Giambanco will take the corner outfield positions. Mady Bendanillo will be back in center after an impressive first season for the Hornets.

“This is one of the hardest working teams I have had at Mansfield and they have been putting in a lot of effort to get ready for the season,” said Coach Letendre.

Milford

2016 Record: 17-5
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Steve DiVitto

Milford has been the class of the Davenport division for the past four seasons and the Hawks come into 2017 with the expectations of being heavy favorites for another league title, but, with three seniors and nine juniors on the roster and eight starters returning, head coach Steve DiVitto is hopeful that the talent will translate to a deep run in the state tournament.

The Hawks are one of the few contenders to return not just one but two starting pitchers from last season. Senior Ali Atherton is back to be the primary option in the circle and the Southern New Hampshire-commit has been dominant at times in her career. If Atherton gets into trouble or needs a rest, junior Kelley Reichert has demonstrated that she is more than just a fill-in but can also shut down opponents. They will be pitching to sophomore Emily Hartman, who will step into the starting lineup this season.

There are very few question marks in this year’s lineup with junior Emily Piergustavo moving from second to short to replace Jill Powers, which is Piergustavo’s natural position and one she has played several times in the past year. Junior Jess Tomaso is back at first base and in the heart of the lineup where she will be joined by senior outfielder Maggie Farrell and senior third baseman Kaitlyn DeCapua. Junior Kate Irwin will try to be the table-setter at the top of the order and juniors Maddy Bonvino (second base) and Shannon Cormier (outfield) will also be contributors.

“This has been a focused and driven group ever since the end of last season,” said DiVitto. “They have worked hard in the off-season and that was very apparent in the early stages of the season. We are excited to compete in the best league in the state, which will hopefully prepare us for a long run into June.”

North Attleboro

2016 Record: 11-10
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Bill Wallace

North Attleboro returned to the postseason in 2016 and for the Rocketeers to get back to the tournament this spring it will be the younger players that will lead the way. Head coach Bill Wallace knows that his team will be “green” (with only four seniors on the roster), but he is excited about North’s athleticism and versatility.

Pitching may be North’s biggest strength this season with five players in the rotation, led by freshman Bella Erti, who won her first career start, and last year’s starter Amelia Murphy. Juniors Olivia DesRoches, Jaclyn Buckley and Abby Warren could also step into the circle to help out. Senior Sam Courtemanche will be behind the plate to help the pitchers.

Senior Liz Morehouse returns at first base and Andrea Miceli will be at second. Megan Barlow moves in from the outfield to take over at short (and provided the walk-off hit in North’s season opening win), while Murphy will see time at third when she’s not pitching. Olivia Capobianco will play center with Katherine Munley and Kristina Murphy in left and right with freshmen Ashley Cangiano and Abby Gallagher getting playing time.

“With only four seniors on the roster, I am hoping the learning curve will be brief!” said Wallace. “This may be the year we see a lot of pinch hitting and pinch running! For a young team, they are very focused between the lines!”

Oliver Ames

2016 Record: 10-11
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Lindsey Allison

Oliver Ames finished in second in the league in 2016 and qualified for the postseason, but that will be an even tougher task now that the Tigers have made the move to the Kelley-Rex division. Even with facing the likes of defending state champion King Philip twice this spring, head coach Lindsey Allison is optimistic that the 10 returning players have the experience to get back into the playoffs.

Senior Victoria Ziner will be the spark on offense for the Tigers this season, but OA also has a number of juniors that Allison said can “do some damage at the plate.” Among those players is Caroline Mahoney, whose bat “is still as dangerous as ever,” according to Allison. Freshman Katie Abreu will be a newcomer to watch for the Tigers as her versatility will make her a valuable member of the lineup.

The Tigers will bring back sophomore Kayla Georgeu in the circle and will be hoping that she continues to develop and keep OA competitive against the league’s top teams. Junior Alexis Campbell will be a second pitcher and also help out at second base.

“We have a solid 10 players returning from last year’s roster,” said Allison, “and we are looking to fill holes behind the plate, in the outfield and at first base this year. Definitely hoping to use some of the speed we have on our team to our advantage this year.”

Sharon

2016 Record: 4-16
2016 Finish: Missed Postseason
Coach: Deb Parker

Sharon is coming off a four-win season in 2016 but head coach Deb Parker believes that the Eagles have the potential to be a contender in the Davenport division this spring as long as the players continue to develop over the course of the season.

Although the Eagles are a relatively young team, Parker is counting on senior captains Clara Cook and Sam Marglous to provide the leadership needed to keep the team on the right track. Cook will be back in the circle for Sharon, while Marglous will be back behind the plate. Parker said, “Both have been solid contributors for their entire high school careers.”

Sophomore centerfielder Rebecca Clayman and shortstop Ally Small, who Parker referred to as “standouts,” will be the anchors of the defense. Freshman Shoshanna Lowe will step in to play third base and should have a positive impact in the lineup as well.

“I believe we have the right combination of experience, talent and drive to be a contender in the Hock,” said Parker. “This is a team that works hard every day to be better than they were the day before. They have great chemistry and our captains have done an excellent job leading them into the season.”

Stoughton

2016 Record: 10-11
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Tim Norton

The Black Knights made a return to the state tournament in head coach Tim Norton’s first season in charge, and nearly pulled out a win against Braintree, and Stoughton will be counting on last year’s freshmen to continue developing and keep the program heading in the right direction.

One of the sophomores that the team will be leaning on is third baseman Jordan Lyons, who brings a strong bat to the hot corner and her leadership skills had her named a captain for this spring. Brianna Ferrandiz will take over behind the plate for Sam Tullis and Karly Estremera will move into the infield and continue to be the table-setter as the leadoff hitter.

Norton is excited to have depth in the circle with Shannon Flaherty and Gina Carafa both capable of racking up innings and “setting great examples on and off the field.” Stoughton will also have depth in the outfield with first-year starters Krista Michienzi, Val Whalen and Alessandra Loffredo.

“We were extremely fortunate in Stoughton last year to have such a strong freshman class with great senior leadership,” Norton explained. “This year that sophomore class is going to have to come into their own. While this team is young they got a taste of the post season last year and are hungry for more.”

Taunton

2016 Record: 22-2
2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Dave Lewry

Last season, Taunton won its first outright league title, ending King Philip’s nine-year reign atop the Hockomock. It was a fitting coda to the impressive careers of Taunton’s senior class, but this spring the Tigers will now have to move forward with six new faces in the starting lineup, including at pitcher and the middle infield positions. Taunton typically reloads quickly and head coach Dave Lewry believes this year’s team has a plenty of potential.

Senior Courtney Fisher will step into the circle hoping to make a seamless transition from 2016 Player of the Year Aimee Kistner. Fisher tossed three shutout innings and had three hits in the season opener and got several opportunities to pitch in the past two seasons. She will be pitching to junior captain Kya Enos, who is making the move back to catcher after two seasons in the outfield. Other starters coming back include first baseman Katie VanZandt, junior outfielder Liana Duarte, and sophomore Jaime Brown, who is in her third year at third base.

The Tigers have always found young players who can step right in an make an impact at the varsity level and this year could be a breakout season for eighth grader Hannah Aldrich, who will take over from Jordan Wade at short. Sophomore Alexa White looks ready to step in at second, while senior Rebekah Lajoie and junior Hailey Medeiros are in line to start in the corner outfield places. Taunton could also get contributions at pitcher from eighth grader Kelsey White and freshman Jaylin Couto.

“While we lost six starters from last season, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Lewry. “I expect there will be some growing pains with six new starters in the lineup, but with some seasoned veterans and good young talent we are optimistic that we’ll be competitive this season.”