NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Heading into the match-up between North Attleborough and King Philip, there was some talk that this might finally be the year that the Rocketeers take the Hockomock League title from the Warriors. Following Wednesday afternoon’s game, it is clear that there is still some work to be done to catch KP.
The Warriors scored four runs in the first three innings and got an impressive pitching performance from senior Anna O’Neill (nine strikeouts) to beat North 6-1 and take an early first step towards another Kelley-Rex division title.
“Obviously, that’s a good team and anytime you play a good team, you want to come out on top,” said King Philip’s first-year head coach Norm Beauchemin. “It was an important game for us because you want to be on top of the league. You don’t want to be chasing someone; you want them to be chasing you.”
The Warriors took the lead on the first batter of the second inning. O’Neill, who drove in a pair of runs in addition to her dominating work in the circle, crushed a 2-2 pitch deep over the fence in straightaway center.
KP broke the game open in the very next inning.
Clean-up hitter Renee Poirier plated Breanna Shaffer with an infield single to make it 2-0. O’Neill followed that with a sacrifice fly on a hard hit line drive to right that brought home Tori Constantin. Casey Hutnyan followed with a single to right that brought home Poirier to make it 4-0.
It was a big inning for the Warriors, but the hardest hit ball off Rocketeers starter Meg Colleran was the line drive out by O’Neill. After the inning ended, North Attleborough head coach Bill Wallace brought his team together and told them that reaching the next level means making those types of plays.
Four runs was enough for O’Neill, who allowed only three base runners (two of them on walks) through the first five innings. Although North started to have better at bats in the later innings, Beauchemin was nonchalant about the effort of his senior.
He explained, “Anna was on. She threw the ball well. If they put the ball in play, hopefully we make the plays.”
The Warriors added a pair of runs with two outs in the sixth inning. Shannon Jones lined a base hit to right that tipped off the webbing of North first baseman Allison Paquin’s glove. That was followed by a triple down the leftfield line by pinch-hitter Christa Wagner. Wagner scored on a single by Shaffer to make it 6-0.
With six runs against North, KP has scored 30 runs in the three wins that followed its shutout loss to Milford. Beauchemin credited the Warriors’ success to a more disciplined approach at the plate.
“We were undisciplined that day and the girls know it,” he remarked. “These girls swing the bat well. They actually like to see pitchers like this, top pitchers; it makes for a more interesting game. Everybody’s level of play goes up.”
North got on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Leadoff hitter Rose Mooney beat out a grounder to third and two batters later advanced to third on a single by Colleran. She came home to score on a grounder up the middle by catcher Meghan Wynn that was bobbled by KP shortstop Ashley Hession but right to Constantin to get the force at second.
Despite the loss, Wallace was proud of how his team battled. North were without middle of the order hitter Jackie Del Bonis, who injured her ankle playing field hockey, and played freshman Mycala Moody at third base for the first time. Also, Colleran made the start despite battling illness.
“We probably had seven or eight 3-2 counts, Marissa Gifford had an 11 or 12-pitch at-bat her first time up, so I thought that was good today,” Wallace remarked. “Those are two of the best pitchers in the league and I thought both teams did a good job with their plate approach.”
He added, “Just a lot of stuff fell in today. Tip your hat to them and move on.”
Both teams step outside the Hockomock League in their next games. King Philip will host Shrewsbury on Friday, while North Attleborough travels to Durfee on Saturday.