Rico nearly perfect for No. 1 King Philip

PLAINVILLE, Mass. –- Meghan Rico was cruising right along during Monday’s matchup against Central Mass power Shrewsbury.

The King Philip softball pitcher had retired the first 12 Colonial hitters in order to start the game. Then, Rico struck out during her plate appearance in the bottom of the fourth inning and really got mad.

“I know that if I’m not hitting well, I need to pitch well,” the junior hurler said.

Not that wasn’t dominant through the first four innings, but something else kicked in. Painting the corners of the plate and mixing in a healthy dose of curveballs and screwballs, the top-ranked Warriors’ ace bore down and finished the gem she’d started with authority.

Only a hit batsmen to start the seventh inning kept Rico from finishing a perfect game, while spinning a no-hit complete game in a 1-0 win over the 20th-ranked Colonials.

“When you’re in these tight games and you need a little something extra, that’s when you hope that your pitcher comes through,” said King Philip head coach Jim Leonard, who celebrated his 50th birthday with the victory. “[Rico] knows when she needs to bear down a little bit and she’s able to that. She’s very consistent and she’s very composed.”

In a stretch from the second through fifth innings, Rico sat down 11 consecutive Shrewsbury (4-1) hitters via the strikeout while finishing with 15 for the outing.

Meanwhile, Colonials pitcher Erica Armenti was nearly as effective, striking out seven and surrendering four hits in a tough-luck decision.

King Philip (5-0) scratched across the lone run of the game in the third inning. Warriors shortstop Jenn Robillard crossed the plate on a double-steal attempt with what would prove to be the game-winning run.

“They did a good job of knocking down a run at the plate,” Leonard said. “Then we had a first and third in the third, and that’s just a chance that you have to take. That was some heads-up running on Jenn Robillard’s part. We work on that a lot and we were able to score the run there. That was the difference.

“You wish it weren’t always that way, but you have to take the runs when you can get them.”

It looked as though King Philip had broken the scoreless stalemate during the previous inning, when Tori Constantin rounded third toward home on Alyssa Siegmann’s single to right. However, Shrewsbury right fielder Jenna Pickett’s throw was right on the money and catcher Kaci Panarelli anchored her outstretched left heel in front of the plate, blocking Constantin short of the plate

Still, the single run provided by Robillard’s guile on the basepaths was all Rico needed on a special afternoon.

“She likes to paint the black,” Warriors catcher Olivia Godin said. “She likes to paint her pitches and work all of her pitches in there. Once we get ahead, we want them to chase. We don’t want to play around with any batter, we want to go right after them.”

Shrewsbury head coach Phil Chevalier knew what his team was getting into while making the trip to the Plainville Athletic League fields, however, and the path doesn’t get any easier this week with defending Division 2 state champion Hudson next on the slate.

“We asked for this game and we wanted to come down here,” Chevalier said. “You like to always win, but I’d rather play a tough game like this than fattening up against other teams.”