TAUNTON, Mass. – Dartmouth twice had the lead in Monday night’s Div. 1 South quarterfinal at Jack Tripp Field, but twice Taunton was able to erase the lead with one swing of the bat. Senior Kya Enos and freshman Hanna Aldrich both hit solo shots that brought the Tigers back after falling behind.
With the momentum back on its side, Taunton put together a five-run rally in the fifth, all with two outs, to take control of the game. The Tigers would roll to a 9-2 victory that books their first appearance in the South semifinal since 2015.
“Finally,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry about the offensive explosion. “We haven’t been hitting the ball the last two, three weeks like we did earlier in the year. It was good to see us start to string hits together as a team. We needed to do that.”
The Tigers had a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first and a chance to get the early lead. A walk to Jaime Brown and a bunt single by Liana Duarte (3-for-4), who beat the throw, put two on for Enos, but she was unable to make contact against Dartmouth starter Sophia Sousa. An infield hit for Mackenzie Handrahan (3-for-4) loaded the bases, but Sousa got a pop up and a grounder to escape.
Dartmouth grabbed the lead with an unearned run in the third. Rachel Pereira drew a two-out walk and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches from Kelsey White. After Sousa drew a walk, a bouncing ball to second was misplayed allowing the run to score.
In the bottom half of the inning, Enos crushed a pitch to left that bounced off the top of the fence and into the trees for a solo homer that energized the Tigers bench.
“That’s the type of leader she is and that’s the type of player she is,” said Lewry about Enos, the Hockomock League co-MVP. “You want to see her up in those situations. That really woke us up, really gave us some life. Now we said, okay we can hit this kid.”
Enos added, “Our number one thing we tried to focus on was getting on top and that didn’t really work out, so after my home run everyone was wicked pumped up.”
The senior catcher is the emotional and vocal leader of the team and her energy was infectious. It is a role that she has welcomed since joining the program as an eighth grader.
“It’s wicked important,” she said. “Since eighth grade, I’ve always been wicked emotional…but this is it for me. It’s all or nothing, so I’m trying to go out with a bang.”
The visitors retook the lead in the next inning. Hailey Camire beat out an infield single on a very close call at first and moved to second on a sac bunt. White induced a bouncer back to the circle for the second out, but Sarah Gioiosa lined a single to center to bring in a run. It was one of only two balls that Dartmouth got out of the infield against White.
In the bottom of the fourth, Taunton quickly evened the score. Aldrich led-off with a blast to left that easily cleared the fence and nestled into the trees.
“Did she crush that thing, my god,” Lewry said of Aldrich’s homer. “Two good swings, two runs, we’ll take it. We’ll take the solo home runs to get us back in the ballgame and get things rolling.”
White settled into her start, limiting the Indians to only two infield singles and a walk over the final three innings. She seemed to get stronger as the game wore on.
Lewry explained, “It took a little while to get all her pitches working. She was hitting her spots and I thought she was throwing the ball hard tonight and then she fielded her position as well as anyone.”
It always helps a pitcher to feel more comfortable when the offense provides some runs and that is what Taunton managed to do in the fifth.
After a pair of groundouts to short, Duarte lined a double to left and Enos followed with a four-pitch walk. Handrahan ripped a ball up the middle that Kayleigh Alonso was able to get a glove on but not field cleanly. As the ball bounced a couple feet away, Duarte scampered home with the go-ahead run.
Aldrich showed a good eye to draw a walk and load the bases for Kelsey White and she helped her own cause with a single to left that scored two. Alexa White brought in two more when she followed with a double over the leftfielder’s head for a 7-2 lead.
Enos admitted that it took the Tigers time to adjust to the Dartmouth pitcher, who relied on changing speeds and movement rather than trying to overpower hitters.
“It’s not what I expected,” she said. “It took a little bit. First at-bat I swung a pitch way over my head, I think it was a little anxiousness, but I think everybody finally found it, started clicking and then it all pulled together and it ended up working out good.”
In the sixth, the Tigers tacked on some insurance that essentially put the game away. Brown lined a one-out single to center, stole second, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Duarte drove Brown in with her third hit of the night, this one a single to right. Handrahan made it 9-2 two batters later with a sliced double down the left field line.
The final score was one-sided, but the Tigers faced adversity, rallying twice before taking control, and Lewry thinks this will benefit his team going forward.
He said, “Tournament ball is totally different than regular season. There’s a lot of pressure and we had to play under pressure, especially once we fell behind. In the long run, hopefully this game will be a good building block for us.”
Taunton (22-2) will face Bishop Feehan in the semifinal on Wednesday at Jack Tripp Field at 7:00.
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