Rico edges Hansen in duel of aces

PLAINVILLE, Mass. -- King Philip pitcher Meg Rico is regarded among the best softball pitchers in the state, let alone the Hockomock League.

But Mansfield’s Trish Hansen proved she’s every bit a gamer as her counterpart during Wednesday’s battle between the Hockomock rivals.

Still, the top-ranked Warriors prevailed on the scoreboard, sweeping the season series with a 1-0 win and the loss came in the most unfortunate of ways for Hansen and her Hornet teammates.

“She was relentless,” Mansfield head coach Jinneane Sperazza said of Hansen’s effort. “She had them off-balance all game long. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

King Philip (14-0, 11-0) scored the lone run of the game in the second inning on a throwing error by Hansen. Rico hit a one-out single to left and advanced to second base on a miscue in the outfield. Kelsey Gray tried to bunt pinch runner Hailey Mullen over to third, but popped it straight up. Hansen made a diving play to snare the ball for the second out, but her attempt to double-up Mullen returning to second sailed into center field.

Mullen gathered herself and blazed around the base paths ahead of the return throw, scoring what would prove to be the game-winner.

“Hanson’s a quality pitcher and some of these games are determined by one play or one error,” Warriors head coach Jim Leonard said. “Fortunately, I think we put a little pressure on them to force that. I think that’s what good teams do, they put pressure on and then capitalize on the mistakes.”

Sperazza couldn’t help but feel for her pitcher.

“She made an aggressive play and it was a good play,” she said of Hansen’s throw. “It’s just unfortunate.”

Meanwhile, equipped with a one-run cushion, Rico went about shutting down the Hornets (11-2, 9-2). The junior hurled a complete-game shutout with 15 strikeouts while surrendering two hits and three walks.

Hansen was tagged with the tough-luck loss while going the distance, striking out two and scattering five hits.

The win marked King Philip’s 55th straight win in the Hockomock and all but assured them of the league title, handing Mansfield their second loss of the season.

“It was one play today that was going to make us or break us,” Sperazza said. “[Rico] is a great pitcher, but were right there with them today.”