The hosts came out swimming, plating four runs in the bottom of the first inning, highlighted by a three-run home run, and then held off a late surge from the Warriors to earn a 4-3 win.
“I think they definitely ready to play tonight, this was an absolute must win for us when you think about the Hock championship,” said Taunton head coach Dave Lewry. “We came out with four runs in the first but kind of struggled a bit after that. We got some base runners but couldn’t come through with the clutch hit. They are a good team…that shortstop [Meghan Gorman] played a tremendous game for them, just tremendous. We just couldn’t get the base hit when we needed it [for insurance]. But the four runs held up for seven innings so we’ll take that.”
Junior Jaime Brown had a line drive double to lead off the bottom of the first, Kya Enos gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead with an RBI single through the left side, Mackenzie Handrahan took first after being hit by a pitch, and freshman Hanna Aldrich blasted a deep shot to center field for a three-run homer, giving Taunton a 4-0 lead.
“It’s a good spot for her,” Lewry said of Aldrich’s spot in the order. “She’s a clutch hitter for us but I don’t want her any further up in the lineup so there isn’t too much pressure on her. And she’s gotten a lot of big hits for us in the five-hole so I think its a real nice spot for her. And none bigger than tonight. When you hit the ball out to center, you crush the ball. It’s 220 out there, and that cleared by a good 20 feet if possible.”
The Tigers had a chance to add to their lead but KP starter Elise Pereira (6 IP, 8 H, 5 K) settled in nicely, only allowing five hits over the next five innings. And even when Taunton did get a hit, or looked like they might, KP shortstop Meghan Gorman had a handful of highlight reel plays to stall Taunton’s attack.
For example, in the second inning, the Tigers had runners on first (Brown via a walk) and second (Alexa White leadoff double) with just one out. But Pereira induced a pop up to center field and then Gorman robbed Enos of a hit with a diving catch at short.
King Philip got on the board in the top of the fourth inning. Pereira helped her own cause with a one-out double to center and courtesy runner Liliana Rolfe came around to score on an RBI single from Jess Bonner to make it 4-1.
It looked like Taunton was going to add to its lead in the bottom of the fourth when Alexa and Kelsey White had had back-to-back singles to begin the inning but Gorman snagged a line drive and got the tag at second for the force out for an unassisted double play.
Sydney Phillips led off with a double in the fifth and made it to third with two outs, but White once again came up with the right pitch, getting a fly ball that senior centerfielder Liana Duarte tracked down and made the catch over her shoulder just before the fence.
“Liana is clearly our best outfielder, this is her fourth year in the outfield for us, Lewry said. “When a ball is hit to her, I don’t have to hold my breath. And Mack is developing into a real solid left fielder, she keeps the ball in front of her and makes the plays. And Alexa is an infielder who’s learning how to play out there and she’s doing a nice job out there. Liana definitely made some nice plays for us today. A couple of those balls, they could have been trouble and been over her heard but she made the plays.”
But an inning later, King Philip’s offense did cash in, pushing across two runs. Jess Bonner singled and moved to second on a groundout. Lacy reached after an infield throwing error, allowing Bonner to come home to make it 4-2. Courtesy runner Majorie Guerrier stole second and came in to score on a two-out single from Nicole Carter.
Sophomore Jaylin Couto came in to relieve White, inducing a pop up behind the plate that Enos made an acrobatic play on to get the third out.
“It’s hard a decision for me to get used to making because I haven’t had that in the past,” Lewry said of using multiple pitchers. “When you have a pitcher out there, she’s throwing a good game, it’s hard to pull her and put someone cold. You just hope they don’t come in and walk three batters in a row. But Jaylin did her job, she does throw hard, she had some nice stuff. The whole key there was to throw quality strikes and she did that.”
Alexa White picked up her third hit of the day, her second double, with two outs but Pereira picked up a strikeout to end the threat in the bottom of the sixth.
KP threatened in the top of the seventh when Hailey McCasland drew a walk but Brown made a phenomenal play at third, grabbing a hard hit line drive and getting the double play at first. Faith Turinese singled with two outs, and Guerrier stole second to get into scoring position, but Couto got a fly ball to center for the final out.
Taunton softball (10-2 Hockomock, 11-2 overall) moves into a first place tie with the Warriors with the win, though KP has a game in hand. The Tigers are scheduled to be back in action on Wednesday when it hosts Oliver Ames. King Philip (10-1, 12-3) will try to bounce back on Tuesday when it hits the road to take on Franklin.