MILFORD, Mass. -- Milford softball accomplished more than just handing King Philip its first loss since the 2010 season with a 2-0 Patriot’s Day matinee win over the Warriors.
The Scarlet Hawks proved KP’s road to a potential third state Division 1 title might just run through them.
Milford pitcher and University of Kentucky commit Shannon Smith dazzled again, striking out 17, including a streak of nine straight in the fourth through sixth innings. More than that, the Scarlet Hawks scratched out five hits against Meghan Rico – a prodigious amount against the reigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball.
“I preached to them in practice that you have to put the ball in play against Rico, you have to make them make plays,” Milford head coach Brian Macchi said.
The Scarlet Hawks (5-0) struck for both of their runs in the second inning, catalyzed by Caroline Fairbanks’ lead-off single.
After a sacrifice bunt by Sam Bonvino, freshman catcher Taylor LeBrun put Milford on the board with an RBI single to right. After LeBrun advanced to second on a wild pitch, she came around to score on Elizabeth Stallone’s double.
The Warriors (4-1) managed just two hits off of Smith, but both came as lead-off hits in the fourth and seventh. Rico’s hit off her counterpart in the fourth would be the last ball KP put into play until the seventh, when Hailey Mullen singled to center to start the final frame.
However, a caught-stealing and two final strikeouts from Smith finished out her fourth shutout of the season.
“She’s just gotten stronger and stronger as the season’s gone on,” Macchi said.
The Warriors’ last loss in 2010 also came against Milford and the experience of bouncing back from one hasn’t occurred to many of KP’s players.
So the true test for Warriors then will be in what happens next.
“What we need to learn is how to respond in a situation like this,” KP head coach Jim Leonard said.
The Scarlet Hawks have been without their usual starting catcher, ESPN Boston All-Stater Taylor Archer during the last couple weeks, but LeBrun hasn’t lost a stride.
LeBrun showed her ability both behind the plate and at bat in Monday’s win.
First, she did it with the bat, with a slashing, run-scoring single.
“It was an outside pitch, right where I wanted it,” LeBrun said. “We’d been working on slashing in practice all week, so I felt I was very well prepared to do it, so I was confident in the box.”
Then, in the seventh inning, LeBrun popped up and fired a strike to cut down KP’s lead-off runner attempting to steal second.
“We told our catcher, Taylor LeBrun, to keep on her toes,” Macchi said. “You never know what they might try to do to try to get us a little on our heels. But she made a very nice play on the throw down and Lindsey Read made a terrific play on the pick and tag.”
Macchi continued, “It’s been seamless behind the plate [with LeBrun] and offensively she’s coming along and seeing the type of pitching we’re going to see.”
ON TOP OF HER GAME
Smith had all her pitches working, in addition to a particularly punchy fastball which cracked the mitt throughout the afternoon.
Even for one of the state’s premier pitchers, it was an exceptional performance. Smith kept the Warriors guessing throughout the game, changing their eye level with a steady stream of rise balls. More than that, Smith was able to work the corners and paint it with strikes.
“Sometimes batters get excited in the box and their hands move a little bit faster than they want them, too, and that makes it hard for hitters to get that outside pitch, so I was trying to work that outside corner.”