PLAINVILLE, Mass. -- On an afternoon where King Philip's ace pitcher Meghan Rico was not her standard, near-perfect self, her teammates made sure it wasn't going to be a problem.
The top-ranked Warriors pushed across five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, highlighted by a three-run homer by UMass-bound catcher Olivia Godin, and then held off a seventh inning rally by No. 7 Mansfield to escape with a 5-4 victory at Watters Field.
Having mustered just two hits off of Hornets ace Trish Hansen through the first four innings, the Warriors (2-0) got to work with the bats in the fifth. Cayleigh McCarthy (two hits) led off the frame with a base hit, Rico reached on a fielders choice two batters later and Hailey Mullen singled to load the bases.
Up to the plate stepped Colgate-commit Meg Carnase, who ripped a two-run double into left to bring home McCarthy and Rico with the game's first two runs. Godin was next, and the senior launched the first pitch she saw well over the fence in left to score Mullen and Carnase ahead of her.
"We came in and really lit a fire under each other," Godin said of the rally. "We were like, 'we've played [Hansen] so many times, we know what she throws, lets go. Lets get it going.' We have our 2-3-4 [hitters] struggling to get on base and we hit better than this so we just wanted to get it done."
NOT A REPEAT OF LAST WEEK
Staring at a 5-0 deficit against the state's reigning Player of the Year, you might as well have just put a "W" next to KP in the Hockomock League' standings column and move on to the next one. Mansfield already found themselves in a similar situation in its season opener, having spotted North Attleborough an early 6-0 lead from which they could not recover.
On this day, the Hornets decided to fight it out. Mansfield opened the seventh with a single by Alexis Stanley and a four-pitch walk by Lauren Boen. Two batters later, Bri Chiusano (two hits) belted a rocket over the centerfield fence to cut the deficit to 5-3.
After an out, Hansen helped her own cause with a base hit and catcher Kelly English brought her all the way around with a double to make it 5-4 before Rico finally retired the last hitter.
"Coming in 5-0 against Rico, you just go in say, 'Alright, rally caps,'" Mansfield head coach Jinneane Sperrazza. "Our left fielder, who got the bunt sign all game, comes up and ropes a single. Our next girl is a sophomore, she got a walk. and we're thinking something's going to happen. Then we have Bri, who I'm thinking is going to rip a single and we'll score a run and instead she hits a 3-run home run. I couldn't be any prouder of these kids."
AN ATYPICAL PERFORMANCE ON AN ATYPICAL DAY
Not only did the sun disappear somewhere around the third inning, leaving nothing but a cool wind breezing through the Plainville Athletic Complex, but both teams also had to deal with the sound of a chainsaw grinding away in the background. A television crew from the National Geographic Network's reality show 'American Chainsaw' was hard at work carving up a tree just behind the Hornets dugout, creating not only unneeded noise but sending ashes of chewed up tree bark wafting through the air.
Rico, who is a threat to toss a perfect game with 15-plus strikeouts every time she takes the mound, seemed to struggle a bit. Mansfield got runners aboard in every inning but the sixth, and got the leadoff batter on five times.
The Hornets made Rico work for this one, consistently getting deep into the count and forcing her throw a staggering 115 pitches through the first five innings. That said, the George Washington-bound standout escaped every tough situation, including inducing a game-ending groundout to squash the Hornets seventh inning rally.
"We're used to having Rico be next to perfect," KP head coach Jim Leonard said. "She's usually a very efficient pitcher and they took her deep in the count. Not the typical performance that we've come to expect from her but when we don't get that we need to make sure that other aspects of our game step up."