HOPKINTON, Mass. -- On paper, it was a marquee match-up. It was a meeting of the champions of the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex division and the Tri-Valley League, as well as two teams in the Top 25 in the state.
But, on the field, the game was more about two teams closing out busy weeks and long regular seasons with all eyes on potentially deep postseason runs. In the end, King Philip (16-4) had just a little more gas in the tank and a little more depth.
The No. 10 Warriors cruised to a 6-0 victory on the road at No. 16 Hopkinton (17-3) behind six innings of relief from freshman pitcher Kali Magane. The Warriors No. 3 starter struck out eight Hillers while giving up only two hits. At the plate, she also added a pair of hits and drove in a run.
“She hasn’t been on the mound in three or four weeks so to come in and perform that way goes to show you how tough she is. She’s got a lot of good years ahead of her,” Warriors head coach Norm Beauchemin said.
Magane entered the game in the second inning after starter Anna O’Neill, who has been KP’s ace all season, complained of tightness in her arm. This was O’Neill’s third start of the week and second in as many days (an eight-inning loss to Taunton on Monday and 3-1 win over Coyle on Wednesday) and Beauchemin did not want to take any chances with his top pitcher with the tournament looming.
He remarked with a chuckle, “Anna was a little sore from last night’s game. She pitched Monday and she pitched yesterday and said she had a little stiffness. So, with playoffs coming, we can’t ruin our horse.”
Magane struck out the side in the second inning and the Warriors offense responded in the top of the third.
Lead-off hitter Bre Shaffer began the inning with a walk and shortstop Ashley Hession reached on an error by catcher Erica McBride. With runners at second and third, senior Tori Constantin lined an RBI single to left. Sophomore first baseman Renee Poirier followed with the game’s big hit – a three-run homer that was crushed to right center.
Beauchemin marveled, “She’s been killing the ball all year. She probably has the most extra-base hits for us. She’s a great hitter.”
He added with a laugh, “She struck out for probably the fourth time all season tonight. So, she’s probably more upset about that than happy about the homerun.”
Prior to the game, Hopkinton head coach Dennis Baker Jr. admitted that he was struggling to put together the line-up because of injuries and the fact that the Hillers were playing their fourth game of the week. Hopkinton clinched the TVL title on Wednesday night with a win over Westwood (in conjunction with Bellingham’s win over Norton) and Baker gave a rest to several of his starters.
King Philip essentially put the game away in the top of the fourth when Hession doubled home Shaffer and was then brought home by a Magane single. Hannah Engstrom ended the inning with a perfect throw to the plate to nail Constantin trying to score from second. The Warriors took advantage of the 6-0 lead to use some of the substitutes that have not seen playing time in recent weeks.
It was a comfortable road win over a tough opponent for King Philip but, for both the Warriors and the Hillers, all eyes are on next week and the start of state tournament play.