PLAINVILLE, Mass. – They could’ve gone all night and there likely wouldn’t have been a resolution.
No. 1 King Philip eventually pulled out a 1-0 win over No. 3 Milford Tuesday night in Plainville with two of the state’s best softball pitchers going head to head. The Warriors’ Meghan Rico and Scarlet Hawks ace Shannon Smith played dueling banjos, placing zero after zero on the board through seven innings.
Milford threatened to score in the top of the eighth, but it was King Philip (19-0) who earned the walk-off win with Tori Constantin laying down a perfect suicide squeeze scoring Hailey Mullen from third, dealing the Scarlet Hawks their first defeat of the season.
“It’s always rewarding to see when all the practice you put in leads to really good execution,” said Warriors head coach Jim Leonard, who led his team to a win over Milford in last year’s Division 1 state title game. “The girls have worked very hard, giving up Sundays and extra time in order to get things done. A team like that, we knew it was going to come down to one play and having them make the right play at the right time.”
Rico started the game on fire, retiring the first 10 Milford (15-1) batters in order via the strikeout. The George Washington commit finished the game with 16 strikeouts and allowing just two hits.
However, she had to rely on her defense to get out of a pickle in the eighth inning.
Softball tie-breaker rules place a runner on second base to start each extra-inning frame. After the first batter struck out, the runner advanced to third. With one out, Milford’s Sam Bonvino laid down a suicide squeeze attempt, only to see the ball pop straight up. Warriors catcher Olivia Godin snared the ball and fired to third to double up the retreating runner, ending the inning.
“They’re great hitters,” Rico said of Milford’s lineup. “I was really nervous coming into this game, but my defense was strong, our hitting was strong.”
KP scratched across the game-winning run thanks to some skillfully executed small ball.
With Mullen on second to start the inning, Godin put down a sacrifice bunt. Constantin followed that with another perfectly placed bunt between Smith and Scarlet Hawks first baseman Caroline Atkinson, who was shading in anticipation of the bunt.
“I knew getting up there that I was going to have to squeeze with Hailey [Mullen] on third,” Constantin said. “I just set in my head that I had to get it done no matter what.”
It appeared the Warriors might come up with the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh. With one on and one out, Meg Carnase lined a single over the second base bag into center. KP center fielder Alyssa Siegmann looked as though she might have the legs to score from second base, but when rounding third, she was met by Leonard who was holding up the sign to stay just there.
“We had good hitters coming up and we have a lot of confidence in our hitters,” Leonard said, explaining his rationale for not waving Siegmann homeward bound. “You don’t want to take the bat out of their hands. You’ve got runners on second and third with [third baseman Anna] Kelly coming up.”
Kelly put a jolt into Smith’s 2-2 offering to the opposite field. However, she didn’t get quite enough as ball fell into the right fielder’s glove, several feet shy of fence.
“She put a few more feet on that ball and it’s all over,” Leonard added.
Smith took the hard-luck loss after striking out 11, while allowing seven hits and three walks.
KP stranded nine runners on base.