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.”

Pereira Leads King Philip To Big Win Over Milford

King Philip softball
King Philip’s Elise Pereira (27) is greeted at home plate after her third inning grand slam against Milford. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
PLAINVILLE, Mass. – As the warm weather has rolled in, so have the dominant performances from King Philip’s Elise Pereira.

The senior right-handed pitcher has been superb in the circle over the past few weeks for the Warriors and has also shined at the plate as well.

That was the case again on Tuesday afternoon as Pereira earned the win in the circle and highlighted offensive attack with a grand slam in the third inning, helping King Philip pick up its most impressive win of the season, 12-2, over Milford.

The win snapped the Scarlet Hawks’ 43-game win streak dating back to early 2017. It also clinches the second straight Kelley-Rex title for the Warriors.

“Elise has been phenomenal for the last three or four weeks,” said King Philip head coach Norm Beauchemin. “Her bad games were in cold weather at the beginning of the season. We basically weren’t playing great ball anyways. If you look at her earned run average after the second Newton North game, it’s minuscule. Since then she’s been lights out.”

Pereira allowed two runs on five hits and just one walk in a complete game effort, striking out six. Milford had three of its five hits in the fourth inning and scored both of its runs in that frame. Pereira only allowed three base runners in the other six innings.

“Her off-speed has been strong all year,” Beauchemin added. “That was her pitch last year and she threw it too many times. This year she’s got a lot of confidence hitting the corners, her curveball is working, everything is working. She’s using the whole plate – up and down, side to side. She’s just been lights out.”

“Tip your cap to KP, they played a great game,” said Milford head coach Steve DiVitto. “Pereira was excellent, she kept us off balance all game. We were able to put the bat on the some on the second and third time through but you just have to tip your cap, today was their day. It most certainly wasn’t our day but I’m proud of the way the girls continued to battle and fight. They played a full seven and that’s what you look for at this time of the year.

After a quiet first two innings for both sides, King Philip made a big splash in the bottom of the third. Bri Lacy lined a single into right to lead off and Nicole Carter laid down a sac bunt to move courtesy runner Marjorie Guerrier to second.

A single from Sydney Phillips put runners on the corners and Hailey McCasland reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with one out. Meg Gorman drove in the first run with a single, keeping the bases loaded. After an out, Pereira hit a sharp line drive over the center field fence at the PAL fields for a grand slam.

Two pitches later, Jess Bonner got a hold of one and launched it over the fence in left for a 6-0 lead. The Warriors loaded the bases again, all with two outs, but Kelley Reichert induced an infield pop up to escape further damage.

“We hit the snots out of the ball,” Beauchemin said “We had 12 hits today….we don’t have fictitious batting averages, ours are earned. Our batting average against [the Davenport] division is 0.489 as a team. And I don’t think we lowered it today. We bat 0.379 against [the Kelley-Rex] so when you compare apples and apples, and oranges and oranges, we’re not a bad team.

“This team likes being the underdogs because they have the toughness that it takes. [Milford] is a tough team too. This [score] is unusual, but we’ll take it. I’d rather 12-2 than 4-3.”

Milford responded in the top half of the third as Kate Irwin raced around to third for a leadoff triple. A sacrifice fly from Emily Piergustavo put the Hawks on the board, and Jess Tomaso followed with a single.

The Hawks had a player ejected on the next play after a close call at first but Shannon Corier came up with a line drive single to bring Tomaso in to make it 6-2 but Pereira got a strikeout to end the inning.

With the ejection, the Hawks were forced to put a field player at catcher for the remainder of the game.

KP’s Brooke Taute reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning and quickly stole second. Lacy connected on an RBI double to make it 7-2. Nicole Carter reached on an infield error and Phillips loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice.

McCasland connected on a single to bring a run in, Carter scored on a passed ball, and Phillips crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly from Gorman to put the hosts up 10-2.

“That’s what we lacked last year…we had a lot of hits but we didn’t get the hits at the right time,” Beauchemin said of his team putting up runs in bunches. “Now we’re getting them at the right time. We have confidence 1 through 9, every girl can put the bat on the ball. We came into this game with 58 strikeouts on the season, now we’re at 59 in 21 games.

“And I think their [Milford] defense showed a little bit. When the ball is hit hard they have a little trouble catching it. It’s much easier when the ball is hit soft to you.”

The Warriors tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Pereira got things started with a leadoff walk and courtesy runner Liliana Rolfe went to third on a single from Taute, who quickly stole second. A walk to Lacy loaded the bases and Rolfe raced home to score on a passed ball.

“I say this no matter who you’re playing, you’ve got to treat every opponent the same,” DiVitto said. “If you’re too up for KP and not up for other teams, that’s when you’ll get caught. Our girls are up for each game and today was no different. You want to obviously play a great game against a team like KP but you tip your cap, they had a great game and we didn’t have that timely hit and we made a couple of mistakes here or there that cost us.”

Carter brought in another run with a line drive single to center to plate Taute but Milford center fielder Kate Irwin gunned the second runner down at the plate for the third out.

“I told the girls that this game is on me, it’s my fault,” DiVitto said. “It’s my job as a coach to have them prepared to play. They fought and battled but I don’t think they had their ‘A’ game and that’s on me. As their head coach, that’s on me. But I told them that’s not going to happen again. We’ll have a great practice tomorrow and get ready for Senior Day against another great team in North Attleboro.”

King Philip softball finishes the season 18-3 overall and 15-1 in Hockomock play. Milford (18-1 overall, 14-1 Hock) closes the regular season on Thursday when it hosts North Attleboro.

Hawks Outlast Tigers In Offensive Showdown

Milford softball
Milford senior Kelley Reichert delivers a pitch in the third inning against Taunton. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – Milford’s offense exploded for six runs in the fifth inning to create a big lead and then held on after a late Taunton rally to open the season with a win.

The Hawks built a five-run lead in the top of the fifth but the Tigers plated four runs over the next two innings to get within one. Milford, the defending D1 State champions, buckled down in the seventh to earn an 8-7 win in the season opener for both teams.

“This group is writing their chapter for 2018,” said Milford head coach Steve DiVitto. “This game wasn’t going to make or break our season…it’s a great test against an outstanding program, extremely well coached. They have some incredible talent and we’re fortunate to battle and come out with a win.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Milford’s big inning all started with its No. 9 hitter, senior Antonia Bonina. In her first start, Bonina faced 10 pitches in the at-bat, getting enough contact on the final pitch to beat Taunton’s infield, which was pulled in.

“That’s Antonia’s first varsity start, and she’s a tough kid, a tough player,” DiVitto said. “She’s been waiting her turn, she’s had some injuries. I was really happy for her to have a great game today, and that at-bat was huge. It really got the inning going and we really started rolling. I think it gave us some life there.”

Senior Kate Irwin just beat out the throw for a bunt single, and senior Emily Piergsutavo loaded the bases after being hit by a pitch. Senior Jess Tomaso drove one to the outfield to score two runs. Two batters later, senior Shannon Cormier laced one to left field for an RBI single and a 5-3 lead.

Senior Maddy Bonvino reached after an error at second allowed Cormier to beat the fielder’s choice throw to second. On the first pitch of the next at-bat, senior Kelley Reichert belted a deep hit to center for a double, clearing the bases and giving Milford an 8-3 advantage heading to the bottom of the fifth.

“We knew we can swing the bat, that’s definitely no secret that it’s a strength of ours,” DiVitto said. “The girls kept battling, kept putting good at-bats on, and kept communicating with each other, which I think is big. [White] had us off balance there early on but we were able to put some good swings on it in the middle innings and put some runs up.”

Taunton senior Kya Enos started the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single and took second on a passed ball. A ground out allowed Enos to advance to third and freshman McKenzie McAloon plated Enos with an RBI single.

Tigers sophomore Jaylin Couto, who came in in relief to get the final out of the fifth, picked up two strikeouts in a quick sixth inning.

“I give my kids a lot of credit,” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “We kind of had a nightmare inning there in the fifth and things unraveled on us and we fell behind by five, yet there was no quit in them. They felt like we could come back and win, and they showed it. We made a nice comeback and had a shot there, just had a couple of opportunities to score some runs and we couldn’t get the hit.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Taunton was able to rally with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Junior Jaime Brown (2-for-3, two runs) connected for a single, took second on a passed ball, and senior Liana Duarte walked to put two runners on. Enos (2-for-4, three runs) then delivered with a hard line drive home run over the fence in left center field to cut the deficit to one, 8-7.

“She’s a five-year starter on this team, she wants to lead,” Lewry said of Enos. “She’s been a leader for the last three years. That’s the kind of hitter she is. She had kind of a rough day at first, hadn’t made great contact and then she turned on that pitch with great contact and got us right back into this game.”

Couto (2.2 IP, 7 K) struck out the side in the top of the seventh to give Taunton some momentum heading into the final half inning.

“She did a heck of a job,” Lewry said of Couto. “I thought [starting pitcher] Kelsey [White] (4.2 IP, 7 ER, 6 K) pitched real well too. But she was getting tired, she was starting to leave the pitches up. Jaylin came in and struck out seven batters. She can pitch, she has a lot of nice movement on her pitches and she throws hard. She threw strikes today which is a big thing for her.”

Freshman Hanna Aldrich led off with a single but Reichert (7 IP, 6 ER, 4 K) notched a strikeout and got a force out at second on a fielder’s choice. Reichert then ended the game by inducing a ground ball right back to herself.

“Kelley’s an outstanding pitcher, now she has the opportunity to really take the team and throw them on her back,” DiVitto said. “She hit a bit of a wall there in the middle innings but she dug deep and she did a great job of continuing to battle and finding a way to win.”

The Hawks opened the scoring in the top of the first behind an RBI single from Cormier that played Piergustavo.

Taunton responded right away in the bottom half of the inning. Brown (walk) and Duarte (error) both reached but Brown was forced out at third on Enos’ fielder’s choice. Senior Mackenzie Handrahan (2-for-4, three RBI) hit a grounder through the left side to bring Duarte home, and in the next at-bat, Aldrich connected to bring Enos home to make it 2-1.

Milford knotted the game in the top of the third behind a one-out double from Tomaso. A single from Emily Hartman moved Tomaso to third, and the senior scored on a sacrifice fly from Cormier.

Taunton took the lead back in the bottom of the third, sparked by back-to-back singles from Brown and Duarte. Handrahan drove a one-out shot to left for an RBI single to make it 3-2. DiVitto elected to intentionally walk Aldrich to load the bases and the plan worked as Reichert induced consecutive groundouts to escape without further damage.

“I told the kids, [Milford] is the defending state champs, that’s the team a lot of people are picking to repeat,” Lewry said. “I think they have eight senior starts, they are still one heck of a team. To be able to play with them the way we did today, I think we can play with anybody. We just have a few things to iron out and we’ll be good to go.”

Taunton (0-1, 0-1) will look to bounce back on the same day when it hosts Mansfield.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

2018 Hockomock League Softball Preview

2018 Hockomock Softball Preview
Milford won the Div. 1 state championship in 2017 and brings back six starters to try and repeat, but the rest of the Hockomock League will be aiming to take down the Hawks this season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018 Hockomock Softball Preview

Attleboro

2017 Record: 9-10
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Homer

Attleboro made a return to the state tournament last spring thanks to a no-hitter from McKenzie Bergdoll in the final game of the regular season and now the Bombardiers, who lost only three players from last year’s roster, are looking to build on that success to make another run at the postseason this year. Bergdoll, a junior, will be back in the circle again this season as well as one of the big bats that Attleboro will rely on to make it back-to-back playoff appearances.

Senior rightfielder Casey Whelan will add experience to a relatively young outfield unit and fellow seniors Vanessa Dancer and Adrianna Elel will provide leadership. Juniors Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti are back to contribute to the Bombardiers playoff challenge and there are high expectations for a talented group of sophomores that includes Makenzie Killough, Ashley Macia, and twin sisters Emma and Jenna Gittle.

“With the loss of only three seniors last year, our season has several impact returning veterans along with some new freshman that will fill the holes quite nicely,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “This season’s early player roster looks very promising but it will be the leadership of the team that will determine our direction and state the facts at the end of the season.”

Canton

2017 Record: 1-19
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Jennifer Robillard

Canton is coming off a difficult 2017, after winning one game under first-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, but both the coaches and players have a year of experience to build on and an infusion of young talent, with five freshmen being added to the varsity roster, has the Bulldogs looking at 2018 as a year to get the program heading in the right direction.

Sophomore Caroline Hughes will be the starting pitcher and will bat third this season and the coaches are confident that she can provide a lift to the team. Senior Hannah Jerrier will also be back in the middle of the order, after missing almost all of last season after breaking her hand during basketball, and should give the Bulldogs some added pop in the lineup. Senior Katie Halloran will be back in the middle of the infield and senior Evelyn Carrington returns in center. Unfortunately, injuries have struck again with sophomore Jackie Howard lost for the season, but Robillard believes that several of the new faces can come in and contribute right away.

“As a first-year varsity coach, last year was a learning experience for both myself and the girls,” Robillard said. “I am confident that we will make great strides towards success this season.”

Foxboro

2017 Record: 5-16
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Maguire

Foxboro earned a playoff berth through the Sullivan Rule a season ago, despite 15 losses in the regular season, but the Warriors were much better than their overall record and No. 20 seed may have suggested. Out of the 16 games that Foxboro lost in 2017, six were by two runs or less, including a 2-0 loss to Ursuline Academy in the tournament, and those close games are what head coach Mark Maguire is hoping his team can turn into wins this year to make a run at the playoffs.

The Warriors will be looking to senior catcher Hannah Davis to provide the offensive punch, as the perennial league all-star has been among the Hockomock’s best hitters for the past three seasons. Classmate Lexi Buckner will also add some offense in the middle of the order and the lefty will be moving from second base to first this year. Senior Kelly McCarthy will be back in center and at the top of the order, while Chelsea Gibbons will be at third and Camryn Willis will be back at shortstop. Foxboro also has experience in the circle as third-year starter Emma Rohan will get the ball again for the Warriors.

“We have good senior leadership,” said Maguire about the team’s strengths. “Right down the center of the field we have vocal leaders to help the defense. We’re a good hitting team and I think fielding and pitching should be even better this year.”

Franklin

2017 Record: 10-12
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Kate Fallon

Franklin missed the playoffs a season ago and have a relatively young roster this season, with just one senior in the squad, so the Panthers are flying under the radar as the season gets underway, but they don’t mind if teams overlook them at the start of the season as they try to get back into the postseason.

While there are a number of new faces for Franklin this season, the battery of junior pitcher Jackie Cherry and junior catcher Ally Shea are back, which gives the Panthers a strong foundation on which to build. Junior shortstop Tara Hartnett is also back to give Franklin strong middle of the infield defense and sophomore Anna Balkus will be in center. Senior Meg Caron, the lone upperclassman on the team, will add versatility playing at third and some outfield this season.

“We’re looking to make it back to the tournament this season,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon. “Ally Shea and Meg Caron will provide excellent leadership for our up and coming athletes and no doubt in my mind they will be an integral part of our successes this season!”

King Philip

2017 Record: 18-7
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Norm Beauchemin

Despite a lot of turnover in the lineup last spring, King Philip followed up its 2016 state championship by winning the Kelley-Rex division title and reaching the quarterfinal of the Div. 1 South sectional. With 10 returning players this season, KP has typically high expectations and one of the state’s perennial powers seems poised to make another run at a league title, which would be its 11th in the past 12 seasons, and to go deep in the state tournament.

The biggest change for the Warriors this season will be in the circle where senior Elise Pereira takes over as the primary starter after the graduation of Jenn Hutnyan. Pereira saw plenty of action last year too, but will have to shoulder the majority of the innings this season, backed up by Faith Turnese. Brianna Lacy will be behind the dish, returning as one of the league’s top defensive catchers. Senior Hailey McCasland returns at second base and junior Meghan Gorman is back at shortstop after a breakout sophomore season. Jess Bonner returns at third and senior Sydney Phillips will once again be in centerfield.

It is a loaded lineup with a ton of speed and a strong defensive unit, according to KP head coach Norm Beauchemin. He added, “This is a very hungry team that should compete for the Kelly-Rex and make a strong run in the playoffs.”

Mansfield

2017 Record: 13-9
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Lori Letendre

After booking a return to the state tournament last spring, Mansfield returns 10 players, including five starters, to try and make it four playoff appearances in a row. The Hornets are relatively young with only three seniors on the roster and have some holes to fill, including two-thirds of the outfield, but there is a lot of confidence that the program will be able to compete with the best in the league.

Sarah Cahill took over as the starter during the season last year and she will be back in the circle again this spring trying to build on an impressive debut. Cahill will be throwing to her battery mate, as Caty DeMassi is back behind the plate. While the corner infield spots are open this year, Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo are back to fill the other infield spots and give the Hornets strength up the middle. Junior Mady Bendanillo is also back to patrol centerfield and fill one of the middle of the order spots, as one of the league’s most dangerous hitters. Freshman Elle Veheggen joins the team this spring as a newcomer to keep an eye on.

“We are a young team,” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre. “The girls have been working hard in the off-season and came into tryouts well-prepared.”

Milford

2017 Record: 25-1
2017 Finish: Won D1 State Championship
Coach: Steve DiVitto

The defending Div. 1 state champions look loaded for another run at the title with nine returning players, including six starters, back from last season’s tournament run. Kelley Reichert will take over for Ali Atherton in the circle after seeing time as a reliever and starter in each of the past three seasons. The lineup looks just as potent as last year with senior shortstop Emily Piergustavo back after being named HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and league MVP.

Senior first baseman Jess Tomaso is back to add power in the heart of the order and senior Kate Irwin, fresh off reaching 1,000 points in her Milford basketball career, will return to set the table as the lead-off hitter and emotional spark plug. Senior second baseman Maddy Bonvino, senior rightfielder Shannon Cormier and junior catcher Emily Hartman will add depth to a fearsome lineup that features lots of power and speed.

“This year’s team is focused on the here and now and not the past,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “Each year a new page is turned over, and the focus this year is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season.”

North Attleboro

2017 Record: 14-7
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Bill Wallace

The Rocketeers had a young squad last season but managed to surprise a few people by reaching the Div. 1 South semifinal, including an upset of league rival Taunton, and after that year of experience North Attleboro is expecting to be competitive again this spring. Sophomore pitcher Bella Erti is back in the circle after a strong freshman campaign and will be throwing to classmate Ashley Cangiano with the hope of improving on her breakout season.

Olivia Capobianco is back in centerfield after turning in a strong season and she will also be one of the table-setters for the lineup. Abby Gallagher and Katherine Munley will join Capobianco in an experienced outfield for the Rocketeers. Annabelle Hebard, Katy Daby and Abby Warren will play the corner infield positions, while Andrea Miceli is back at second base after a strong year at the plate and in the field. Stephanie Inglese and freshman Emily Nardelli will compete for the shortstop position.

North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace said, “If we want to repeat the success of last year we will need to find some power in the middle of the lineup lost to graduation last year.”

Oliver Ames

2017 Record: 4-16
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lindsey Allison

Oliver Ames will have plenty of experience this spring as it makes a run at a return to the state tournament. The Tigers have 10 players back from last year’s roster, including six seniors, highlighted by junior pitcher Kayla Georgeu, who will take the ball as the primary starter again this spring and who head coach Lindsey Allison thinks is ready to “come into her own” both in the circle and at the plate.

The strong senior class includes infielder Alexis Campbell, who will also chip in as a pitcher this year, outfielders Sarah Tetrault and Marissa Guarino, infielders Caroline Mahoney and Rachel Han, and catcher Antonia Peretti. Sophomore Katie Abreu had a strong rookie campaign and is expected to have an even better second season with the Tigers.

“The best thing about this team is their heart and determination – they show up to practice excited to work together and work hard every day,” Allison said. “They are coachable and strive to get better at every opportunity.”

Sharon

2017 Record: 6-14
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Heather Poliferno

There is a change at the top for Sharon this spring and Heather Poliferno takes over for the Eagles, replacing Deb Parker after her move to league rival Stoughton, and the new staff is confident that the experienced players on the roster will set the tone for the team and give the Eagles a chance at booking a place in the state tournament.

Seniors Jamie Kessler and Jenika Patel and junior Rebecca Clayman are the captains this season and will provide leadership that Poliferno called “key to our success this season.” Junior Alli Small and freshman Julia Earley are players to keep an eye on this season for the Eagles as they could be big contributors in the field and at the plate. Junior outfielder Courtney Sollis brings an accurate arm and consistent contact at the plate.

“Our passion for the game and drive to compete is why we will be a strong contender in the Hock this year,” Poliferno said.

Stoughton

2017 Record: 10-11
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Deb Parker

After back-to-back playoff appearances, Stoughton welcomes a new coach this spring to take over a roster filled with experience and talent. Deb Parker has made the move across the Davenport from Sharon to take over the Black Knights with an eye at another run at the postseason and with senior pitcher Gina Carafa back in the circle and the middle of the order there is plenty of optimism for a strong spring.

Joining Carafa in the Stoughton lineup is junior Jordan Lyons, who Parker called a “standout” third baseman. Lyons is one of a group of talented juniors that Stoughton will be counting on this season, including second baseman Nikki Coppola, shortstop Karly Estremera, and catcher Brianna Ferrandiz. Sophomore Lexi Baptista will add versatility to the lineup and Parker is excited about the freshmen class and expects that they will be able to contribute as well.

“The energy of this team is infectious!” said Parker. “ I am looking forward to this season and have very high expectations about what this team will be able to accomplish.”

Taunton

2017 Record: 17-5
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Dave Lewry

Even with a host of underclassmen in the lineup, this is an experienced Taunton roster that will be trying to put together a run not only at a league title but also at a deep tournament run, after seeing the last couple of seasons end earlier than expected. With 10 returning varsity players, including seven starters, the Tigers will have high expectations and the key to reaching those goals will be replacing pitcher Courtney Fisher, as freshman Kelsey White and sophomore Jaylin Couto will step into the circle as regular starters this season. Junior Alexa White will also see time at pitcher.

The lineup is loaded again this spring, starting with senior catcher Kya Enos, who added power to her game last year. Junior Jaime Brown is in her fourth year on varsity and is coming off a season in which she was named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Freshmen Hanna Aldrich and McKenzie McAloon stepped right in at the middle infield positions last year and will be building on that experience this year. Senior Lianna Duarte is back in center and senior left-fielder MacKenzie Handrahan will bring power to the middle of the lineup as well.

“I think we should have a solid infield defense,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “Offensively we have the capability of putting runs on the board with a deep and experienced lineup.”

Milford Rallies in Final and Returns to Softball Summit

Milford softball
Milford softball players get set to celebrate with the Div. 1 state championship trophy after beating Wachusett at Worcester State. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WORCESTER, Mass. – While the Hawks had not trailed at all in their playoff run and rarely trailed over the course of the season, Milford coach Steve DiVitto insisted after each game that his team knew how to bounce back and overcome a deficit to win.

Milford (25-1) waited until the final game of the season to prove him right.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Despite falling behind by three runs in the second inning of Saturday evening’s Div. 1 state championship game at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field, the Hawks’ confidence never wavered. Senior pitcher Ali Atherton retired 16 of the final 19 batters she faced and the prolific Milford offense found its swing to pull out a 7-3 victory and earn the program’s first state title since winning the second of two straight titles 2013.

“They came out early and threw the first knockout blow,” said DiVitto, “and we responded and that’s what championship teams do. In big spots and big moments, you respond.”

He added, “You’ve got to be able to ride those peaks and valleys as this game goes on and they did just that and we’re back on top.”

Atherton said, “After the second inning, I said that I really didn’t want to lose my last game wearing a Milford uniform, so that’s what pushed me through the last innings. I didn’t want to lose my last game at Milford High.”

Milford had gone 15 innings without allowing a run (since the seventh inning of the South semifinal against Hopkinton) before the Mountaineers came to bat in the top of the second. The Central champions, making their first state title game appearance, seemed to figure out Atherton.

A single and an error put the first two hitters in scoring position and senior catcher Lizzie Miles drove a single to right that scored both runs. Kiana Lloyd followed with a hit to left, but Maggie Farrell fired to the plate and Emily Hartman just hung on to cut down Miles trying to score. Lloyd moved up to second on the throw and then to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Paige Arvidson infield single.

Atherton explained, “In the second inning, they adjusted. They were crowding the plate and hitting my curve ball so hard. That hadn’t happened to me all season, but I realized I needed our catcher to set up more outside and my curveballs were more effective off the plate.”

Milford bounced right back in the bottom half of the inning. Hartman was hit by a pitch to lead-off and Kelley Reichert beat out an infield single. With one out, Shannon Cormier reached on an error to load the bases for Kate Irwin and the energetic centerfielder got the Milford bench going with an infield hit to score one. Hockomock League MVP Emily Piergustavo drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and the lead was down to one.

DiVitto said, “We told the girls, let’s not panic, let’s stay within ourselves and play our game. We know what we’re capable of doing, we’ve done it for 25 straight games, and they’re just a team that competes.”

Atherton allowed only two Wachusett hits over the final five innings, as she started to look more like the pitcher that had thrown back-to-back shutouts to reach the final.

When asked about Atherton’s performance in the final, DiVitto said, “Today? How about Ali for the last six games of the playoffs? She has been outstanding. She has been a rock.”

“Once probably the fourth inning came, I felt like I was in a groove but I had to stay up and stay focused,” Atherton explained. “I knew that the mentally strong pitcher was going to come out on top today, so I had to stay grounded.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Milford took the lead. Cormier worked a one-out walk and two batters later Piergustavo drove a ball that one-hopped the centerfield fence for a game-tying double. Farrell, another of the team’s three seniors, followed with a single that plated Piergustavo with what turned out to be the game-winning run.

“Our mentality was to bounce back,” said Piergustavo of the comeback. “If you get punched, then punch back harder. There’s no better feeling than the way we came back.”

Wachusett tried to put together a rally of its own in the sixth inning. Brigid Griffin singled to left just past the dive of Piergustavo, but was forced out at second on Courtney Lanpher’s grounder. Lanpher then went first-to-third on a grounder back to the pitcher to put the tying run only 60 feet away with two outs.

A fly ball to Cormier in right ended the threat and allowed Milford to breathe a sigh of relief. In the bottom half of the inning, the Hawks broke the game wide open and calmed nerves both on the field and in the bleachers.

Cormier, Irwin, and Piergustavo each singled to start the sixth and load the bases. Farrell drove in her second run with a sac fly to left and junior Jess Tomaso brought in another with a single to right. Senior Kaitlyn DeCapua made it 7-3 with another sac fly and the trophy felt like it was in Milford’s grasp.

A comebacker to Atherton and a leaping grab on a line drive by Cormier put the Hawks on the brink and fittingly it was DeCapua who would record the final out, pulling in a foul pop fly to seal the championship that she and the other seniors had been dreaming about for four years.

“I knew one day we’d make it here,” DeCapua said. “I remember being a seventh and eighth grader watching the state championship and I just knew one day I’d be here. It’s amazing; words can’t describe it.”

Piergustavo, whose sister Allie was a starter on the 2013 championship team, added, “It’s amazing. We had wristbands that said ‘Rise Together’ and we rose together to win this championship. There’s no better feeling right now. Words can’t describe how proud I am of this team.”

The seniors were not the only newcomers to the team four years ago. DiVitto also took over as the new head coach that spring and immediately had to answer questions about how to replace a class that won three state titles. He had his answer on Saturday.

“Four years ago, this journey started with these four seniors,” DiVitto remarked, “and four years ago it was the question of where is this program going to go because of the great graduating class in 2013 and how are you going to replace all of them?

“Take a look at the scoreboard and that’s how you replace them; by a team that sticks together, by a team that believes in each other and that’s what it’s all about.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Milford Beats Newton North to Advance to State Final

Milford softball
Milford’s Ali Atherton tosses a pitch in the first inning against Newton North. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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TAUNTON, Mass. – On Saturday afternoon, Milford played a near perfect game to hand Silver Lake its first loss of the season and win the Div. 1 South title. On Tuesday night in the state semifinal, back at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field, the Hawks showed that even when not at their best, they have enough grit to come out on top.

Despite Newton North putting runners in scoring position in five of the seven innings, Milford escaped unscathed each time and scored a pair of unearned runs to grind out a 3-0 victory and advance to the state championship game for the first time since winning the Div. 1 title four years ago.

“It’s great to know that maybe the bats aren’t at their best and our defense at times wasn’t at its best and Ali [Atherton] in a couple of innings maybe wasn’t at her best, but when push came to shove, man did they step up,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto, who joined the program along with this senior class and will be making his first state final appearance this weekend.

Atherton, the senior pitcher, tossed a one-hitter in the South final against the Lakers, but the Tigers beat that total in the top of the first. With runners at second and third and two outs, Atherton struck out her opposite number Madison Schaefer to get out of the jam.

The Hawks took the lead in their first at-bats. Emily Piergustavo drew a one-out walk, followed by a Maggie Farrell single to right. Jess Tomaso lined a single to right that brought in the opening run and moved Farrell to third. Schaefer avoided a big inning by getting a bouncing ball right back to her and a strikeout to end the threat.

The Tigers put the lead-off runner on in the second on a rare Milford error. After a strikeout and a sliding catch by centerfielder Kate Irwin on a sinking line drive, the Tigers loaded the bases with back-to-back singles. Again, Atherton was able to bear down and get a fly ball to end the inning.

Milford doubled its lead in the bottom of the second. Maddy Bonvino drew a one-out walk and, after a fly ball out, stole second to get into scoring position for Irwin. The junior lead-off hitter singled to center and the ball bounced by the fielder to allow Bonvino to score easily.

“It’s nice to be in the lead,” DiVitto said. “It’s better than the other way around because the nerves settled in a little bit and it was big for our girls to get those runs early. But, we’ve been behind a couple times this year and been able to battle back, so ahead, behind, they just have a great mindset.”

Atherton settled down with the lead and allowed only one hit over the next three innings. The Hawks added a crucial insurance run in the fifth. Irwin reached on an error and stole second. Piergustavo popped it up in foul territory near the Tigers bench and, after making the grab, the first baseman attempted to pick off Irwin at second, but the throw got away.

Irwin flew home with the third run and her energy fired up both her teammates and the traveling Milford support in the bleachers.

“She was huge for us tonight,” said DiVitto of Irwin. “That play at second base, we work on that all year. Take a couple jab steps and force a throw and she forced a throw and that’s a huge insurance run going into the seventh inning; 3-0 is a big change from two.”

Holding a three-run lead in the seventh, Milford had one foot in the state final, but the Tigers would not go quietly.

With one out, Holly Chin singled and an error brought the tying run to the plate. Atherton reached back for a little extra to get a strikeout, but then walked the next hitter to load the bases and bring a potential go-ahead run up to bat. With the Tigers faithful as loud as they had been all night, Atherton induced a comebacker to put an end to the rally.

When asked what he was thinking as the Tigers loaded the bases, DiVitto responded, “Ali was going to find a way to get three outs. I have a lot of confidence in her. Four years of her in the circle, she is a warrior and she has been for four years.”

He added, “That’s what a winner does. That’s what a girl who’s got guts does. [Ali] was great on Saturday, no girls on base, she was cruising. Tonight she ran into a little trouble but the same demeanor on the mound. She was locked in.”

The Hawks have had a target on their backs since the beginning of the season, as they entered as heavy favorites in the Davenport division and as one of the favorites in Div. 1 South. DiVitto tried to explain what carried the Hawks to this point.

He said, “These girls play for each other and they’re excited for each other. Whenever anything happens with their teammates, they’re excited for them. A girl could go 0-for-4 but still be excited we won and that’s big.”

Milford (24-1), riding a 24-game win streak, will face Central champion Wachusett on Saturday at Worcester State University (time to be determined).

Milford Beats Hopkinton To Advance To D1 South Final

Milford softball
Milford players greet Emily Hartman (left) after her two-run home run in the sixth inning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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TAUNTON, Mass. – The mark of a great team isn’t necessarily how good it performs on its best day, but rather how it perseveres on an off day.

Despite being out-hit by third-seeded Hopkinton and connecting for just seven hits themselves, the second-seeded Hawks came up with the big plays when they needed to and walked away with a 6-3 win.

Milford advances to the D1 South Sectional Final and will take on top-seeded Silver Lake (25-0) on Saturday at 4:00. It marks the Hawks first appearance in the sectional final since 2013.

“We knew we were going to have our hands full here today,” Milford head coach Steve DiVitto said. “We’ve said this to the girls: Great teams can not play play their best and still be successful. And today we felt like we didn’t play our best but it was enough to come out on top. We tip our hats to Hopkinton, they are a great team.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Hawks had a strong start to the game, but battled the rest of the way. Ali Atherton (6.1 IP, K, 3 ER) retired the Hillers in order in the top of the first.

And in the bottom of the first, junior Emily Piergustavo launched a solo shot just over the left field fence at Jack Tripp Field to give Milford an early 1-0 lead.

While Piergustavo was far from done with her day, Milford’s defense was forced to escape a couple of jams over the next three innings.

In the top of the second, Hopkinton had a lead off double but Milford got a force out at third, a pop up to first and a ground out to third to escape without any damage.

In the top of the third, Kaitlyn Holly reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and took third on a single from Maille Bennett. A two out walk loaded the bases but Atherton bounced back with a big strikeout to keep Hopkinton scoreless.

And in the top of the fourth, the Hillers loaded the bases once again. Singles from Julia diBenedetto and Lillian Morningstar and a walk to Holly loaded the bases with two outs. But once again, Atherton delivered in the clutch, getting a loft line drive to short for the final out.

“She’s driven, she’s playing with a purpose,” DiVitto said of Atherton. “She has been focused since last June when we lost to Silver Lake. She’s been focused to get herself to this point to play for a sectional championship. We’re excited for the opportunity, no matter who we play we know it will be a good challenge.

“We’ve been very fortunate to play great defense all year. We work on it every day in practice…we harp on our hitting and our defense. We know Ali and Kelley [Reichert] are great pitchers so we know we’re going to get a good performance from either when they are out there. Ali battled today and Kelley came in and shut the door for us.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

While Milford was escaping danger on the defensive side of the ball, it added to its lead in the bottom of the third. Junior Maddy Bonvino (2-for-3) led off with a single and took second on a passed ball. Kate Irwin then beat out a bunt for an infield single, moving Bonvino to third. Piergustavo drove in her second run with a sac fly, the throw home allowing Irwin to take second.

With two outs, Maggie Farrell’s hustle down the line on an infield grounder forced a high throw, allowing Irwin to scamper home to make it 3-1.

“When you’re in this type of setting, you want to get the pressure off you and put it on the other team,” DiVitto said. “When you get can get a lead, that’s important. Emily did a great job in that at-bat. There was an illegal pitch, but we’ll take the home run over the pitch. She had three at-bats today and three RBI, that’s why she’s the MVP of the Hockomock League because she’s been doing that all year long.”

Milford added another run in the fifth inning. Bonvino once again led of with a single and moved into scoring position by stealing second. This time, Irwin’s sacrifice bunt moved Bonvino to third and Piergustavo stroked a single – her third RBI – to make it 4-1.

Atherton retired the Hopkinton side in order in the top of the sixth and the Scarlet Hawks added some insurance in the bottom half.

Senior Kaitlyn DeCapua reached on a one out single and sophomore Emily Hartman launched a two-run home run to left field to give Milford a 6-1 lead.

“It’s great to have insurance and obviously today it didn’t hurt to have that insurance,” DiVitto said. “She’s just a sophomore, coming into a big spot here, she doesn’t play like a sophomore. Those were two big insurance runs.”

Hopkinton didn’t go quietly as Kaitlyn Holly left off with a single, moved to second on a ground out and scored on an RBI double from Heather Holly. Heather Holly moved to third on a single from Lindsay Whittles.

Kelley Reichert came on in relief for Milford, getting a ground ball (a fielder’s choice for a run) for the second out and then a grounder to second for the final out of the game.

The Scarlet Hawks will take on Silver Lake in the D1 South Sectional Final on Saturday at 4:00 at Taunton High. The Lakers are no stranger to Milford softball, having ended the Hawks season the last two seasons in the quarterfinals.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Taunton Rides Late Inning Offense Past Milford

Taunton softball
Kya Enos (left) and teammates celebrate Jaime Brown’s (25) first career home run in the sixth inning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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TAUNTON, Mass. – One of the biggest challenges that all teams have faced so far this Spring has simply been getting outside and playing on an actual softball field.

Taunton entered Friday’s showdown with top-ranked Milford with two games under its belt. Meanwhile, this was the Hawks first game of the season.

That experience paid off the Tigers, overcoming a one-run deficit with four unanswered runs between the fifth and sixth innings to beat the Scarlet Hawks, 4-1.

“I’m proud of my team,” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “We’ve got a lot of new starters this year and they haven’t played in any pressure games yet, and this was the first one. They didn’t get down on themselves [after Milford scored], we hadn’t done anything for the first four innings but they stayed focused and started coming through. We played a very solid game against a real good team.”

The Scarlet Hawks were the home team despite playing at Jack Tripp Field on the campus of Taunton High School. After senior Ali Atherton retired the side in order in the top half of the first, Milford’s offense looked like it was going to get off to a big start in its first at-bats of the season.

Emily Piergustavo and Jess Tomaso earned back to back one out walks and Maggie Farrell reached on an infield error to load the bases with one out. But Taunton’s Courtney Fisher (CG, 2 hits, 7 strikeouts) settled in, inducing a grounder to third for the force out at home.

Fisher then got a three pitch strikeout to escape the situation unscathed.

Both Atherton and Fisher continued to deal through the second and third innings. Only Milford’s Kate Irwin was able to get a hit in either inning, beating out a throw for an infield single.

The Scarlet Hawks finally cashed in in the bottom of the fourth inning when junior Maddy Bonvino launched a 2-0 pitch just over the fence in left center field to give Milford a 1-0 lead.

While the Hawks grabbed the lead, the Tigers seemed to wake up at the plate themselves.

MacKenzie Handrahan led off the top of the fifth with a line drive single and two batters later, Katie Van Zandt hit one up the middle just over the head of Piergustavo at short to push pinch runner Kelsey White to second.

“I don’t want MacKenzie’s been a surprise, we knew about her from previous seasons but so far, she’s hitting the ball well,” Lewry said. “We were hoping should get make a step up for us this year and so far she’s exceeded my expectations with the way she’s hitting the ball. She’s absolutely crushing it.”

A passed ball pushed both runners up a base and on the next pitch, Rebekah Lajoie hit a fly ball to right field. White came in to score on the sac fly and Van Zandt moved to third, but the throw to home to try and get white got past the catcher and out of play, allowing Van Zandt to come home to give Taunton a 2-1 lead.

Fisher capitalized on the momentum, retiring the Hawks in order in the bottom of the fifth.

“That’s a pretty typical Courtney game,” Lewry said. “She’s not going to ‘wow’ you with a lot of strikeouts but she just keeps throwing that drop, and the changeup and hitting her corners. She gets the job done, I thought she threw an excellent game today.”

Taunton’s bats continued to produce in the top of the sixth. Sophomore Jaime Brown, in her third year starting at third for the Tigers, roped a 0-1 pitch into left field. Brown originally stopped at third as the ball sat at the base of the fence, causing the umps to halt play. But after a quick check, the ball was deemed to have cleared the fence, giving Brown her first ever home run – at any level of softball.

Liana Duarte followed with a four pitch walk and two batters later, Handrahan doubled in the run to give Taunton a 4-1 lead.

Fisher retired the order in both the sixth and seventh to finish the game. Eighth grader Hannah Aldrich made an impressive back handed play at short to get the first out in the sixth.

“I was pretty impressed with our defense, I thought we played great,” Lewry said. “Our eighth grader there at shortstop [Hannah Aldrich] played like a seasoned pro. She made that backhand play in the hole in the sixth inning to get that first out, that was a huge play. I’m pleased with the way the kids are playing at this point.”

For Milford, expectations are still high for a club with plenty of experience. The fact is, the Hawks still have an entire season to go.

“First game, tough opponent, tough place to play, they’re a great team that’s well coached,” said head coach Steve DiVitto. “It was a battle of the pitchers early on. Atherton and Fisher were spectacular early. We were able to go up on that home run and it almost seemed to wake them up a little bit. We had some opportunities early in the game, especially in the first inning. As the year goes on you hope you’re going to capitalize on those. But its the first game, you’re not going to win anything game one, you’re not going to lose anything game one.

“You learn from your mistakes and hopefully if we see them down the road, we’ll be better off. We just hope to get better every game. When we get back to practice on Sunday, we want to be better than we were today. And then we’ll get ready to go for Stoughton in the Davenport opener on Monday.”

Taunton softball (3-0, 3-0) will travel to Mansfield on Monday to open up its Kelley-Rex schedule while Milford (0-1, 0-1) will host Stoughton in both teams’ Davenport opener.

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.”