Boston High School: Taunton

Recap: No. 23 King Philip 4, No. 3 Taunton 3

May, 20, 2014
May 20
12:50
PM ET
TAUNTON, Mass. - When King Philip lost four out of five games in one stretch during the middle of the season, including losses to Hockomock rivals North Attleborough and Taunton, it seemed as though the Warriors’ run of league championships would come to an end this spring.

But with wins over the Rocketeers on Sunday and a 4-3 win over Taunton on Monday night at Jack Tripp Field, King Philip (14-4, 14-2) closed out its Hockomock League schedule with nine straight victories and earned at least a share of another Kelley-Rex division title.

“It was gut check for them, but they’ve got tradition and they know all about it,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin, who has won titles in each of his two seasons at the helm. “It was up to them to break the tradition or to carry it on and they stepped up. I’m very proud of them.”

“It’s always great living up to that legacy,” said junior Renee Poirier, who go the final five outs on Monday night. “We have such high expectations to live up to but that’s what we strive for to be more successful than those that came before us. We just left it all out there -- we had nothing to lose.”

The Warriors jumped out early on Taunton (17-2, 13-2) starter Jesse Aleixo and were aided by several uncharacteristic defensive mistakes by the Tigers to build a 4-0 lead after three innings.

“An early lead is always awesome,” said Poirier. “Once you get one [run], it seems like the rest are easier to follow and then it gives more confidence out in the field because you have a little cushion. “

With one out in the first, third baseman Shannon Jones and starting pitcher Kali Magane had back-to-back singles. Aleixo struck out Poirier for the second out but shortstop Ashley Hession stepped up with a base hit to right that slipped under the glove of Kelly Reading to bring home both base runners. Hession would advance to third on the error and would score on a single by Brianna Sebio.

In the third, Poirier led off with a double and would come home to score when Hession’s ground ball found its way past shortstop Jordan Wade. Taunton head coach Dave Lewry credited Poirier for great base running to distract Wade on the play, but admitted that those early mistakes turned out to be the difference.

He said, “We’ve been a good defensive team all year -- it’s been one of our strengths -- and we made a couple of mistakes early on and that amounted to four runs and that’s the ballgame.

After a perfect first three innings, Magane ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fourth. A lead-off single by Kailey March gave Taunton its first hit and base runner of the game and Reading followed with a walk. McKenzie Navarro laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move March to third and Wade hit a sac fly to right to get the Tigers on the board.

In the fifth, a two-out triple to right center by eighth grade catcher Kya Enos led to a run for the Tigers when March beat out a grounder to short. Taunton would claw another one back in the sixth when Wade singled with one out to knock Magane out of the game and Poirier hit Aimee Kistner with a pitch. Two wild pitches later and Wade scored to make it 4-3.

Poirier would escape the jam and preserve the lead by striking out Kim McCone.

“I came in trying to be calm and thinking one pitch at a time,” Poirier said. “I had complete confidence in the defense behind me. There’s always nerves in that situation but that’s what helps you thrive.”

After the game, Beauchemin explained his reasons for making the switch in the sixth, saying, “[Magane] threw a lot of pitches [Sunday] night and it looked like she was running out of gas. It was the third time through the order and they were starting to catch up to her … and we have Renee, who threw well at the beginning of the year, so why not utilize what you have?”

As Taunton was starting to make noise offensively against Magane, Aleixo was settling into a groove. The senior didn’t allow a base runner after the fourth inning and retired the final 11 hitters that she faced.

Lewry said, “None of her pitches were really working and every time we threw a breaking pitch they tattooed it, so the last four innings we went strictly fastballs and located and that seemed to do the trick. She kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win tonight.”

Poirier pitched a perfect seventh to wrap up the victory for KP, which has the chance to avenge its other two losses with games against Coyle-Cassidy and Bishop Feehan remaining in the regular season.

Taunton will face a trip to Mansfield on Tuesday knowing that a win will earn the Tigers a share of the Hockomock title, which would be the program’s first and just the school’s second team title since entering the league.

Lewry remarked, “Not exactly what we were shooting for but at this point it’s our best shot so we have to do what it takes to get it done.”
PLAINVILLE, Mass. – As a tight race has once again formed at the top of the Hockomock League Kelley-Rex division’s standings, the balance of the league regular-season championship will likely be decided by a matter of a few moments.

And, in the case of Monday’s duel between No. 5 King Philip and No. 15 Taunton at the Plainville PAL, the difference came down to just one-half of an inning. The Tigers sent 10 hitter to plate and scored five runs in the top of the fourth inning, en route to a 6-1 win over the Warriors.

On the flip side, Taunton ace Jesse Aleixo took care of the rest with a complete-game, three-hitter, striking out seven and walking three.

“That’s a nice offensive show for us,” Tigers coach Dave Lewry said. “That’s our best offensive game of the year – might not have been the most runs, but it came against a quality opponent.”

Taunton (8-1, 5-1 Kelley-Rex) took advantage of a pair of lead-off walks from MacKenzie Navarro and Jordan Wade in its pivotal fourth-inning rally. Third baseman Giovanna Diminico got the Tigers on the board with a one-out single dumped into center field off of Warriors starter Renee Poirier. Kim McCone followed with a sacrifice fly to center, before Tigers lead-off hitter Kailey March delivered the big blow of the inning, sending a two-run double to the gap in right-center field.

Right fielder Kelly Reading capped the five-run outburst with an RBI single to right.

“We’re starting to come around offensively,” Lewry said. “We chip away, we get a run here, a run there. Today, it was nice to see us string them together.”

KP (5-4, 5-2) broke up Aleixo’s shutout bid in the home half of the fifth, as shortstop Ashley Hession took a 1-1 offering over the left field fence for a home run.

But the Warriors were unable to establish any consistent traffic on the basepaths, despite striking some soundly-hit outs.

“They all swing a really good bat, it’s just a question of us putting it together,” KP coach Norm Beauchemin said. “There was one inning, we hit three balls right on the nose and they were three outs. That’s the way the game is though. It’s not how many hits you get, it’s when you get them.”

Lewry attributed Alexio’s successful outing to her ability to mix and match pitches, while establishing the inner portion of the strike zone.

“She had everything working today – the screwball, the curve, the rise, early in the game, was working,” Lewry said. “She was working the corners beautifully. If you do that, I don’t care how good the hitters are, you’re in good shape.”

The Tigers tacked on their final run in the sixth, when Diminco scored on an infield error.

Poirier was tagged with the loss, despite pitching effectively and sitting down nine of the first 10 batters she faced. But, as has become a frustrating trend, it just came down to one inning.

“We just can’t seem to keep away from that one inning,” Beauchemin said. “It’s happened I think in three games now, and we’re not scoring enough runs to offset it.”

D1 South: Brookline 84, Taunton 82 (2OT)

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
10:38
PM ET
TAUNTON, Mass. -– This time, Brookline got it right.

After losing their last regular-season game, 79-76 to Franklin in double overtime on February 17, the 11th-seeded Warriors did an about-face and outlasted sixth-seeded Taunton, 84-82, in double overtime Wednesday night in an MIAA Division I South first-round game.

“It’s funny because our last game was double overtime and we lost to Franklin,” Brookline coach Luke Day said. “So it’s nice to get this win here in even more important circumstances.

“We’ve had our ups and downs. But we’re pretty good when we play and we’ve got a chance going forward.”

Taunton (17-5) had a chance to “go forward” near the end of regulation.

Corey Green (17 points) gave Taunton a 65-62 lead with 17.1 seconds left in regulation. But Brookline (14-8) tied it when Elijah Rogers (29 points) converted a three-point play with 4.9 seconds left.

Brookline’s Tyler Patterson insured that the game with go to at least one extra session when, on the ensuing inbounds play, he stripped the ball from Taunton’s Gerald Cortijo (32 points).

Then, in the first extra session, Brookline’s Brett Levey converted one-of-two free throws to give his team a 75-72 lead with 7.5 seconds left. But Taunton’s Truly Kenku buried a 3-point shot at the buzzer to send the game into a second session.

After the teams fought through a trio of ties, the last at 82-82 on a pair of free throws by Obi Obiora (19 points), Brookline went ahead 84-82 on a driving layup by Rogers.

But Obiora left the proverbial door open when he missed both ends of a two-shot foul with 19.4 seconds left.

That left the Tigers with plenty of time to force a third OT. But it didn’t happen because Green’s potential game-tying shot was off-target as the final buzzer sounded.

Tough in the clutch: “We made some plays down the stretch,” Day said. “We were the one that was down going into the fourth quarter (Taunton led 51-48 after three periods). We had to make the comeback and push the game into overtime, originally.

“There was an element of survival but I was pretty pleased with some of the plays we made, also.”

Rogers made enough big plays to fill the Warriors’ gym.

Commencing with his three-point play that forced the first OT, the senior guard reeled off 12 consecutive Brookline points – including another three-point play that gave the Warriors a 74-71 lead with 1:29 left in that extra session.

“All game long, especially down the stretch, it’s either Rogers or Obi,” Day said. “We have other guys who can score. But it’s no secret where our bread is buttered. Both of those guys came up big tonight and that’s why we got the win.”

Flying above the radar: While Rogers and Obiora tend to grab the bulk of the headlines for Brookline, the same can’t be said about Jack Moyer.

Moyer, a junior guard, wedged his way into the headline for this game by scoring 14 points including 11 in the last 4:10 of the first half which ended with Brookline leading 39-30.

During this run, Moyer buried two of his overall 3-point shots. He also nailed another trey with 1:40 left in regulation that gave Brookline a 61-60 lead.

“We have a lot of good players and Jack’s one of them,” Day said. “He’s gotten better and better and has gotten more and more confident as the season’s gone on. He’s gone on stretches like that before.

“We were over at Newton North and he went on a stretch like that. He made a huge shot last week against Newton North. He’s been really, really effective for us all year.”

Brookline also received eight points from Patterson plus a 3-point basket from Levey which helped the Warriors grab an early lead.

“There have been several guys that have played roles for us over the course of the year,” Day said. “I’ve said before that Obi and Elijah is kind of where our bread is buttered. But that does not mean we’re a two-man show at all.”

Good point.

Recap: No. 7 Mansfield 73, Taunton 57

February, 8, 2014
Feb 8
1:37
AM ET
TAUNTON, Mass. - The forecast outside was clear skies, but inside the Taunton High field house it was pouring — raining three's to be exact.

Mansfield and Taunton combined for 23 three-pointers, but 14 of them in favor of the Hornets, who hit half of those in the third quarter, expanding a nine point halftime lead in a 73-57 rout of Taunton.

With the win, Mansfield (18-1) claims the Hockomock's Kelley-Rex Division title outright for the second straight year.

After converting just three three-pointers in the first half, Mansfield came out and hit seven shots from beyond the arc in the third quarter alone, outscoring Taunton 25-16 and expanding their 32-23 halftime lead into a 57-39 lead headed into the final quarter.

"We wanted to win the third quarter, call it a 0-0 ball game and win the third quarter," said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. "I told the guys the only way Taunton is getting back into this game is if they come out and play straight up man to man with no help, so we have to get three or four passes. If we can get them, we'll get uncontested shots. I thought we did a great job getting into that third or fourth pass in a possession and it was really the big difference for us."

Mansfield junior Michael Boen hit the Hornet's first three of the third frame to expand their lead to 10 at 37-27 before classmate Ryan Boulter hit one of his own. After Taunton's Shaq Davis drained a three of his own, Hornet seniors Kyle Wisnieski and Rocky DeAndrade hit consecutive three's. Taunton scored a field goal but on their rebuttal, DeAndrade hit two more threes.

"That's kind of been the key to our season," Vaughan said. "On any given night, different guys step up. In the third, Boutler hit a couple early, then Rocky hit a couple and then Boen comes and finishes up and then Kyle sprinkles in two in the middle that were kind of daggers. It's just kind of been the way we've been playing all year.

The Hornets didn't let up on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, hitting four three's on their first six scoring players. Boulter opened the fourth by draining a three and a couple of plays later, Boen hit back-to-back threes before DeAndrade's final three made it 73-44 before Mansfield's starters exited.

"When you play defense like that and encourage the three, you better do something to take it away from them," said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. "We didn't do much to take it away from them. Any scouting report in the state says that they can shoot. Our inability to find the shooters and close our properly killed us. It's not like we don't work on it every single day because we do. I don't know where our minds were in too many minutes in this game. Mansfield was at a different level then us tonight."

The first quarter was a back and forth affair, with the largest lead five points in favor of the Hornets but ended with Mansfield up 18-14. Mansfield opened the second frame on a 6-0 run to extend the lead to 10, but Taunton responded with a 7-0 run to bring it within three, but Mansfield closed the quarter outscoring the Tigers 6-2 to go into halftime up 32-23, having hit just three three-pointers but out rebounded Taunton 8-3 on the offensive boards.

"We missed some early and I was little worried the depth perception was going to get to us," said Vaughan. "I thought defensively they did a good job of closing out but I thought we did a good job rebounding the ball early, especially on the offensive glass, keeping it alive and almost getting free shots."

The Mansfield defense - which entered the game allowing the least points against in the Hockomock - was stout again, forcing 20 turnovers and made it very difficult to score against the Hornets when they were in their set.

"I thought we did a good job blocking out and rebounding and neutralizing their size," Vaughan said. "We spread the floor so well so size doesn't bother us a lot of the time I thought our perimeter defense was pretty solid. A kid like Boen helps because he can play Shaq and his length neutralizes Shaq's size. Shaq is a special player, he's a veteran. He plays the game like an old man when it comes to being crafty and getting touches inside and then he can hit the three. He just lets the game to him and that's why he's one of the better players in the league."

Boen finished with a game-high 21 points while DeAndrade added 19 points, Boulter finished with 16 points and Wisnieski chipped in with 14 points. Taunton junior Matt Midouin led the Tigers with 14 points, Davis added 13 points and freshman Jordan Galloway scored 10 points, all in the fourth quarter.

For Dacey, there really wasn't much to say in terms of how the game went.

"I don't have much to offer other than that was a very poor defensive performance obviously," he said. "There's no sugar coating it. We certainly were prepared physically to do it but mentally just way too many mistakes. You make a mistake and they score."

Mansfield will wrap up their league schedule with a trip to North Attleborough on Tuesday while Taunton (14-4) will look to bounce back on Sunday when they host North Attleborough.

MIAA Boys Hoop Countdown: Nos. 25-21

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
3:41
PM ET
To kick off the start of the MIAA basketball season, ESPNBoston.com will spend the next five days counting down the teams in our Preseason MIAA Top 25 Poll, starting with Nos. 25 through 21 today and concluding with the state’s top five teams on Friday.

Today’s previews include Hockomock members Taunton and Sharon, a Bishop Feehan squad who is moving up to Division 2 with a solid core coming back, and Central Mass. foes South and Wachusett, along with our “Last 10 out”.

For a refresher on how the final 2012-13 poll ended up, CLICK HERE.

Be sure to check back each day this week for the latest in the boys basketball top 25 countdown.

Last 10 out: Braintree (13-10), Doherty (14-7), East Boston (11-7), Fitchburg (13-9), Franklin (16-8), Lynn Classical (15-9), Milton (15-9), North Quincy (18-6), Quincy (14-7), Watertown (13-8)

25. WACHUSETT
Coach: Tom Gibbons
2012-13 results: 19-5, reached Division 1 Central Semifinals
Key players: Tyler Dion, Justin Bowker, Kevin Durkin, Brian Quinn
Analysis: The Mountaineers lost a lot of leadership off of last year’s team, including graduated seniors Zack Berman, Jesse Maresca, Trevor MacNeil, Zach Knapp, and Alex Cooper, but Coach Tom Gibbons returns what may be the biggest frontcourt in Central Mass. in juniors Kevin Durkin and Justin Bowker. At 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-5, respectively, the Mountaineers’ twin towers will man the post, while sophomore point guard Tyler Dion, who picked up plenty of big-game experience last year, will be expected to fill Berman’s shoes at point guard.

24. BISHOP FEEHAN
Coach: Matt Freeman
2012-13 results: 18-4, Division 3 South quarterfinals
Key players: Mike Nelson, Frank Oftring, Austin Burlone
Analysis: Feehan has to be one of the favorites in Division 2 following their run in last year’s playoffs. The Shamrocks return senior Austin Burlone, junior Frank Oftring, and sophomore star Mike Nelson in hopes of building off an 18-win season last year. With games in the opening few weeks against Archbishop Williams, Westford Academy, and Martha’s Vineyard, we’ll find out soon enough just how far this Feehan squad can be expected to go this year.

23. WORCESTER SOUTH
Coach: Pat Williams
2012-13 results: 14-7, lost in Division 1 Central First Round
Key players: Kasheen Cunningham, Nate Mensah, Khalil Bryan-Robinson, Aaron Maday
Analysis: The Colonels will be living life without last year’s star Rod Milton, but the cupboard is far from bare for South coach Pat Williams. South returns three of their top four scorers from last year, including point guard Kasheen Cunningham, combo guard Nate Mensah, and forwards Khalil Bryan-Robinson and Aaron Maday. As has been the case for the last three years, the top dog in the Inter-High will likely come down to South or Doherty, a fierce rivalry that has been a must-see matchup every time the two meet.

22. SHARON
Coach: Bruce Jackman
2012-13 results: 15-8, Division 2 South semifinals
Key players: Brian Mukasa, Jimmy Firtzson, Erik Kushner, Ade Bright
Analysis: There aren't many backcourts in the area that are going to be stronger than the pair of seniors Brian Mukasa and Jimmy Fritzson. Both finished in the top 10 in scoring in the Hockomock last year and both have the chance to eclipse the 1,000-point mark this season. The biggest question will be down low, were the Eagles graduated Kevin Bartas and Ian Beach, but they will rely heavily on Erik Kushner and players from last year's JV squad, who only had one loss last season.

21. TAUNTON
Coach: Charlie Dacey
2012-13 results: 16-7, reached Division 1 South semifinals
Key players: Gerald Cortijo, Shaq Davis, Corey Green.
Analysis: Taunton had a strong first campaign in the Hockomock League last season, and will look to try and upset Mansfield as the top team in the Kelley-Rex this year. Shaq Davis, who has been making plays for Taunton for some time now, will be back with another year of experience under his belt as. Sharpshooter Gerald Cortijo and Corey Green, who is just a junior, will also be big playmakers for the Tigers.

Recap: No. 19 KP 41, Taunton 6

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
11:47
PM ET
TAUNTON, Mass. -- Every game, each team is looking to come out and set the tone early on.

King Philip accomplished that by recovering their own kick off at the Taunton 11-yard line and, two plays later, Joe Johnston ran it in from eight yards out for a quick 7-0 lead 16 seconds into the game.

The No. 19 Warriors continued to roll, beating Taunton, 41-6, in the Hockomock opener for both sides.

"It was huge," Johnston said of the opening kick recovery. "As we were running out there, coach said 'you've got to capitalize on these opportunities.' We had two plays and just punched it in. Right then we weren't going back from there."

Things didn't start much better for the Taunton offense, who looked to be mounting some momentum on their first drive, but after an illegal shift on a third and 2, Jason Wholly intercepted Kyle Medeira to give the ball back to the Warriors (3-0, 1-0). Taunton's defense was able to make a stand but again the offense flustered, this time Andrew Hayward was able to come up with a strip and recovery on Taunton's Domingo Jenkins.

King Philip's ensuring drive went 70 yards on 14 plays, capped off with a J.J. Dillon quarterback keeper from inside the 1-yard line.

"Turnovers are just a huge part of the game," KP head coach Brian Lee said. "You break down the statistics on turnovers and wins. If you can force a turnover, things are going to do your way. You get the ball and it’s uplifting for your team and its disheartening for the other team."

The Tigers (2-1, 0-1) responded with their best play of the game on their next drive. After a run play went for negative yards, Madeira used play action to draw the defense in and then launched a deep ball to a wide open Gerald Cortijo for a 66-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 13-6.

But that would be the lone tally for the Tigers as King Philip went on to score four more touchdowns, including a backbreaker for Taunton right before half. The Tigers defense were able to stop KP three times in a throw from inside the 10, but on fourth and goal, Dillon found Johnston out on a flat for a touchdown. The extra point made it 19-6 with just 30 seconds to go in the half.

"The beginning of the season everything was falling our way," Taunton head coach Chris Greding said. "We had one turnover on offense at the beginning of the season. The wheels came off in the first half. We're not good enough to allow that to happen especially against a great team like King Philip. With the penalties and the turnovers, and the opening kick off, we just couldn't respond."

KP scored three more times in the third quarter: Johnston’s 28-yard run, Christian Flaherty’s 1-yard run, and Mark Glebus’ 39-yard run.

Johnston finished with 157 yards, two rushing touchdowns, and a 6-yard touchdown reception. Both Johnston and Lee credited the KP offensive line for their offensive play.

"We get a lot from those guys," Lee said. "They're not humongous, they're not particularly angry they're very nice boys. But they do what they're told to do and they work hard and they're a good unit."

Johnston took a step further to credit not only his offensive line, but the fullbacks and tightens.

"They were great," Johnston said. "Offensive line, fullbacks, tight ends. We needed them to be great because they're stout up front. Last year we didn't have this much success up front. Once we figured out what they were doing on defense we couldn't be stopped."

JOHNSTON A STUD: By halftime, Johnston had already amassed for over 75 yards, a rushing touchdown, and a receiving touchdown. On the second play of the second half - a first and 20 for KP - Johnston took a play action pass for 21 yards. He then took the handoff three times in a row, and on the third try, burst through the right side, hurdling over Taunton defenders for a 28-yard touchdown run.

The run had a high degree of difficulty, but Johnston made it seem like it was a walk in the park.

And Johnston's philosophy behind his runs is even more elementary.

"I don't like to be tackled," Johnston laughed. "I try to run angry, I'm generally a really happy kid. Once I get on the football field, something gets into me and I like to run angry."

Even as King Philip seemingly was trying to run out the clock in the second half, Johnston broke off a 45-yard run that brought the ball down to the Taunton 6 yard line.

"Twenty-eight -- that kid's a stud," Greding said referring to Johnston's number. "He's real good."

THINGS DON'T GET EASIER: One game down, four more to go for both KP and Taunton against their Kelley-Rex opponents. But with each week, there will be more challenges.

The Warriors will now host four straight games against their divisional opponents, starting with North Attleborough, who are coming off a loss against Mansfield. Taunton will travel to Franklin, a team that they were able to beat last year for their first ever Hockomock win.

"We're just happy to be moving on to next week and getting out of here healthy," Lee said. "The Kelley-Rex right now is just loaded with some very good, physical teams. Its more about survival than anything else."

SIGH OF RELIEF FOR TAUNTON: Late in the first quarter, KP running back took the carry towards the left sideline and up the field for a gain of 17 yards.

But all eyes quickly shifted back to the line of scrimmage, as Taunton junior defensive lineman Cian Doherty lay face down with little movement. There was a quick decision to call for an ambulance and minutes later paramedics arrived. Doherty was stretchered off the field but there was good news after the game.

“His neck kind of flung back and sent a sensation down his spine,” Greding said. “He has movement. It just more or less was a precautionary thing.”

Even better for the Tigers was that Doherty tweeted later Friday night that he was doing well.

Roundtable: Bigger things to come for Xaverian?

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
1:59
PM ET
1. SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYED A MAJOR FACTOR IN XAVERIAN'S 49-13 DRUBBING OF BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM, RETURNING TWO BLOCKED PUNTS FOR TOUCHDOWNSW, BUT A.J. KING (2 TDs) DIDN'T HAVE A BAD DAY EITHER. IS THIS XAVERIAN SQUAD CAPABLE OF ROUTINELY PUTTING UP BIG NUMBERS?

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: If this were 2012, or any other recent year for that matter, I would lean towards labeling that game an anomaly. Xaverian squads typically aren't known for blowing up the scoreboard, instead moving the chains rather steadily behind a conservative multiple offense and relying on change-of-pace backs to grind out the tough yardage. I've been in this for 10 years, and this year's Xaverian team feels like one of the more unpredictable squads that I can recall. And when I say that, I mean you just don't know that they're going to throw at you. Certainly, Jake Farrell brings about an escapeability intangible they typically haven't had with quarterbacks, and there is some promising sophomore talent.

By the way, whoever the special teams coach is at Xaverian, give that man a raise. If you think the B-R game was an aberration, ask the BB&N coaches how their scrimmage with the Hawks went.

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: I know we all thought the Hawks’ defense would be ahead of the offense entering the season, but this looks like a much-improved group thus far. I like the one-two punch Shayne Kaminski and Noah Sorrento provide in the backfield. They have some legit targets in the passing game with King and D.J. Sperzel and Jake Farrell has looked great at quarterback. If the offensive line keeps creating holes and pass protecting the way they have in the first two weeks, I don’t foresee a slowdown.

John McGuirk, ESPN Boston correspondent: With the talent Xaverian has they should continue to put up decent numbers. They have four 'big' games left on the schedule in Barnstable, Brockton, BC High and St. John's Prep. All four of those programs are outstanding but all have issues on defense as well which should work in the Hawks' favor.

2. NASHOBA OWNS THE STATE'S LONGEST ACTIVE WIN STREAK (28 GAMES), BUT TWO TOUGH OPPONENTS LAY AHEAD IN WACHUSETT AND ST. JOHN'S OF SHREWSBURY. DO YOU SEE THE CHIEFTAINS MAKING IT TO 30 STRAIGHT?

Hall: Wachusett matches up evenly on paper with Nashoba, but watch out for St. John's. Andrew Smiley is heating up (380 passing yards the last six quarters), and the running game seems to be hitting a groove with St. Louis transplant Shane Combs taking over the feature role. The "blur" offense is a whirlwind to handle when all is going right, and you always have to watch where Davon Jones lines up. I see the Pioneers stopping Nashoba's streak at 29.

Barboza: I think it’ll end at No. 29. The Chieftains will get by Wachusett, but I think the Pioneers’ athletes, particularly on the perimeter, will prove too much to handle.

McGuirk: I see Nashoba reaching 30 straight wins. Wachusett is going through a down year, having already lost to St. Peter-Marian and Fitchburg. And what has been noted many times, St. John's biggest weakness the last couple of seasons has been its porous defense and inability to make tackles consistently. If you look past those next two games, the Chieftains will face a pair of unbeatens (Marlborough and Leominster). That is where the streak could possibly come to a close.

3. BETWEEN THE SUPERB STARTS FROM BROCKTON, TAUNTON, TEWKSBURY AND WESTFIELD, THE TRIPLE OPTION IS MAKING A COMEBACK. WHICH TEAM RUNS IT BEST?

Hall: It's tough to argue against Westfield's ridiculous numbers -- there are running backs that will go a whole season not putting up as many rushing yards as the Bombers have their first two games of the season. But it's hard to argue against Brockton's talent. Aaron LeClair and Jamal Williams get to the perimeter quick, and the Boxers can steamroll you inside with counters and dives. All four of these teams have a dynamic playmaker in the backfield -- LeClair, Tewksbury's Eddie Matovu, Westfield's Ben Geschwind and Taunton's Domingo Jenkins -- but I will give Brockton the edge here because of what they have in the trenches. Aaron Monteiro, the Boxers' prized prospect at 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, is a road grader at left guard with a pretty high ceiling.

Barboza: As of right now, I don’t see how you can argue with Westfield. The Bombers are running roughshod over opponents behind senior fullback Ben Geschwind. After running for 348 yards and six touchdowns as a team during last week's 49-20 win over West Springfield, Westfield has scored 109 points in two games, with Geschwind averaging more than 150 yards per game.

Josh Perry, HockomockSports.com: I can’t say whether or not Taunton runs it better than other teams in the state, but I can say that the Tigers do make it look fun. With Gerald Cortijo and Steven Harrison giving star back Domingo Jenkins some help in the backfield, the Tigers have speedy and shifty runners. It’s almost enough to make you forget just how good the ground game would have been without Jamal Williams’ move to Brockton. Taunton’s ability to run the triple option will of course get a much tougher test this week against King Philip and its strong defense, but the Tigers are unique among the other Hockomock teams and it can be fun to watch.

McGuirk: The way Westfield is dominating the competition (109 points in two games), I would say the the triple option is working best for them. They have the right personnel to execute it and coach Bill Moore is very good at putting the right players in place to keep it rolling effectively, especially his tandem of Ben Geschwind and Jake Toomey, who are both averaging over 10 yards-per-carry.

4. TWO OF THE MERRIMACK VALLEY CONFERENCE'S BEST SQUADS, CENTRAL CATHOLIC AND LOWELL, SURRENDERED A COMBINED 73 POINTS AGAINST NON-LEAGUE TOP 10 OPPONENTS LAST WEEKEND. ARE WE HEADED FOR ANOTHER SEASON OF HIGH SCORES IN THE MVC?

Hall: Tough to tell, because Tewksbury has more than pulled its weight in the defensive end so far. If there's one team that can avoid track meets, it's the Redmen. Everyone else, good luck. We anointed the MVC "Death By 1,000 Shallow Crosses" a year ago, and with the amount of spread offense and no-huddle tempo deployed in this league, we could very well be in for another season of Wild West scores.

Barboza: I'd take my chances with the defensive units of Andover, Central Catholic, Lowell and Tewksbury against just about any offense in the state, but what comes into play in the MVC is the teams' offensive style of play. With so many teams in its ranks adopting the spread offense, the big numbers put up seemingly on a weekly basis are more a function of the pace of the game, with shortened drives as opposed to rushing-oriented, ball-control styles of play. But as long as MVC teams continue to live and die by the sword (or the spread), I think we'll continue to see some lopsided numbers.

Mike Abelson, ESPN Boston correspondent: Yes and no. Central and Lowell, when the blur is working as advertised, can drop basketball scores on lesser teams because of the athletic talent. That being said, through three weeks there are only two MVC teams averaging 30 or more points. Central is one, and the other, North Andover, hasn't won a game. The only two remaining undefeated teams, Tewksbury and Methuen, are averaging 27 and 18 points a game, respectively, and winning games without all the flash and dash of putting up buckets of points. Yes, the MVC will have it's share of high-scoring contests (I'll put the over/under for Central-Chelmsford at 90.5), but it won't consistently translate to W's.

5. AFTER A ROUGH FIRST WEEK, HAS BARNSTABLE FIGURED IT OUT? CAN THEY KNOCK OFF NO. 1 XAVERIAN?

Hall: I feel like this is a sneaky good matchup. Let's not forget Barnstable was our preseason No. 12 before getting shell-shocked by Dennis-Yarmouth in the opening weekend. There is talent, between versatile athlete Hayden Murphy, shutdown corner Derek Estes and elusive scatback Justus Chafee.

Defensively, Barnstable typically likes to stretch vertically and keep everything in front of them, which can be a bad matchup against spread teams like Dennis-Yarmouth. Last week against BC High, they looked like they cleaned up a lot of their mistakes. Xaverian's offense, while a bit more creative, has some similarities to BC High's. Going the other way, the Red Raiders use some funky misdirection in the run game to prevent linebackers from filling gaps. On their first touchdown against BC, for instance, a receiver backpedaled off the line of scrimmage, feigning a bubble screen, putting several defenders on their heels as Chafee came up the gut on a zone read.

That kind of stuff can keep even the best defenses on their toes. Expect some fireworks, and some dynamic playcalling, in this one.

Barboza: This is a yes-and-no proposition to me. I think the Raiders righted ship after an embarrassing loss to Cape rival Dennis-Yarmouth in Week 1, going on the road to beat another Catholic Conference foe in BC High. But I think Barnstable would need to play a near perfect game, while forcing the Hawks into some turnovers in order to make it four straight defeats of an ESPN Boston No. 1 squad. I'm not saying it will not be a close game, I just like Xaverian a little bit more.

Perry: In a preseason roundtable, I said that Barnstable was a team that was getting overlooked because of the players that it lost from last year. I’ll stick by that and say that the Raiders give Xaverian a run for their money. The No. 1 ranking has been more of an albatross than an honor this year, so I’ll say that Barnstable has a good chance of causing the Hawks problems.

McGuirk: Barnstable is good but Xaverian is playing with a lot of confidence, especially following the huge win over B-R last week. The Hawks should take care of the Red Raiders who gave up 37 points to D-Y in Week One but did bounce back nicely last week against BC High.

Abelson: In Hayden Murphy I trust. In the ESPN Boston poll curse I believe. Barnstable, 27-21.

6. THE HOCKOMOCK LEAGUE'S KELLY-REX DIVISION MIGHT BE THE STATE'S MOST UNPREDICTABLE RACE THIS FALL. AS LEAGUE PLAY OPENS UP THIS WEEK, PROJECT YOUR CHAMPION AND DARK HORSE.

Hall: Mansfield was the prohibitive favorite in most minds heading into the season, and so far they've done little to suggest otherwise. Consider that nearly three weeks out from their shocking upset of Dunbar (Md.), the Hornets are still without five starters. They're already a dynamic offense, between quarterback Kyle Wisnieski, 6-foot-5 flex tight end Brendan Hill, and space-carving tailback Miguel Villar-Perez. Hard to go against that.

For dark horses, I like Attleboro. I think it's understated how big their line is, particularly at defensive tackle, and there are plenty of weapons on offense between quarterback Tim Walsh, tight end Luke Morrison and receiver Brendan Massey. This program has long been a sleeping giant, and new coach Mike Strachan has re-awakened those sentiments.

Barboza: All along, I've penciled in Mansfield as the team to beat in the Kelley-Rex. I believe they had the most complete group of talent on either side of the ball, and also had the most upside. The scary part is that, due to injury, the Hornets might not have yet hit their apogee and will continue to strengthen as the season progresses.

Now, for the sleeper, I know we've talked up Attleboro up a lot in the early going -- to the point that I really think they're a threat in Division 1 South. Seeing that the Blue Bombardiers are for real in the first two weeks of the season, I'm going to go with Taunton. I don't think Chris Greding has gotten enough credit for the job he's done turning around the Tigers program in short order. Of course, an infusion of talent led by Domingo Jenkins helps, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Taunton knocks off one of the Hock's "Big Three" -- King Philip, Mansfield, North Attleborough -- at some point this season.

Perry: The favorite heading into the Hockomock League season is defending champions Mansfield and its new spread attack that takes advantage of its great weapons like senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski and junior tight end Brendan Hill. Attleboro has gotten a lot of hype from media, me included, in the preseason as a sleeper in the Hock. A new coaching staff, a new field, and new schemes on both sides of the ball have made the Bombardiers a much more confident crew and better utilize the weapons that it has. The Bombardiers were only a few mental mistakes from beating Mansfield last season and Tim Walsh is on fire running the spread formation – watch out for Attleboro. Of course, watch out for KP, Franklin, and North Attleborough, too. It really is up for grabs

McGuirk: The Kelly-Rex Division is solid with four teams still unbeaten (Mansfield, Attleboro, North Attleboro and Taunton). When it is all said and done. I believe it will come down to Mansfield and North Attleborough for the title because of their high-octane offenses. Attleboro has to be considered the darkhorse here because of its stingy defense which could carry them through. It will be interesting to watch all four of these team beat up one another during the season and see who survives.

Taunton's Johnson commits to Maine

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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Former Taunton baseball standout Connor Johnson has given a verbal commitment to the University of Maine, he tells ESPN Boston.

Johnson, a left-handed pitcher who is attending Bridgton Academy for a post-graduate year, was an Old Colony League all-star as a junior before becoming a Hockomock League all-star as a senior, following the Tigers' move.

In the last two seasons with the Tigers, Johnson was 16-5 with an 1.80 earned run average over 133 innings, with 111 strikeouts and 27 walks. He also picked up five saves.

"I'm really excited about it," Johnson wrote. "I went up there in August and loved everything about it.

"I think it's a great fit. It's great baseball, really good academics, top of the line facilities and I really like the coaching staff. It was a no-brainer to say yes when [Bridgton] Coach [Aaron] Izaryk told me they wanted to offer me a commitment."

The news of Johnson's commitment was first reported by Dan Ventura of the Boston Herald.

D1 South softball: B-R 5, D-R 4

June, 2, 2013
6/02/13
3:15
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BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Trailing by a run in the home half of the seventh inning in their Division 1 South tournament game Saturday, Bridgewater-Raynham softball head coach Mike Carrozza needed the bottom of his lineup to save the day.

No problem.

“As a team this year, we’re batting over .400,” Carrozza said, “so everyone, one to nine, can hit the ball.”

The Trojans had the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 hitters at-bat in the seventh. They set the rally in motion and No. 9 hitter, second baseman Sophie Perez took care of the rest, slapping a two-run single through the hole for a 5-4 walk-off win against No. 16 seed Dighton-Rehoboth.

It might not have been the type of game B-R (21-0) was looking for, after committing a season-high three errors, resulting in a pair of unearned runs, but it was good enough.

“A couple times we had the bases loaded, or second and third, and they made nice plays to get us out of those innings,” Carrozza said. “I told the girls to never say never. We came back in I don’t know how many of those games at the end of last year.”

The late-innings comeback was old hat for the reigning South sectional champions, who endured more than a couple extra-innings affairs on their run to the crown.

On Saturday, Jordan Rodrigue and Julia Milardo got the rally going with back-to-back singles to start the seventh. After a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt from Jenny Heller moved the runners along, Perez dug in.

“I knew we didn’t need much,” said Perez, a sophomore. “I knew I just need to get a single, score a run get it tied. That was my job. I saw a nice outside pitch and went with it.”

She pulled a 2-2 offering into left field, allowing Rodrigue and Milardo to score easily. Perez’s teammates mobbed her near second base.

It wasn’t the first big hit Perez (2-for-4, 3 RBI) delivered on the day. She drove in the Trojans’ first run of the game, during a two-out rally in the fourth, on with an RBI single.

“She stayed short on the ball and drove it through the hole,” Carrozza said of Perez’s game-winning hit. “That’s what it’s all about, getting the ball in play and trying to move your runners.”

SHORT-LIVED CELEBRATION
Coming off a season in which the Trojans fell just short of a state championship appearance, the group has greater goals set for this playoff run.

“That’s the plan,” Perez said, “working hard at practice [Sunday] and then beating Taunton on Monday.”

B-R capped an Old Colony League championship season with a perfect record, but knew they’d have their hands full with Saturday’s opponent. The Falcons (15-9) were a 16th seed only by number, coming out of an uber-competitive South Coast Conference.

The Trojans, who committed just eight errors on the regular season, had three errors, putting undo pressure on sophomore starter Sarah Dawson, who was making her first postseason appearance. Dawson averted further damage as D-R threatened in the fourth with the bases loaded, the result of another B-R error. In total, three of the four Falcons’ runs were unearned against Dawson, who struck out eight to earn the complete-game win.

Assuredly, B-R will hope to bring its A-game when it meets former OCL rival Taunton in Monday’s quarterfinal game (3:30 p.m., at B-R).

“I feel like we can do anything,” Perez said.

TOUGH EXIT
While D-R certainly played well enough to win, head coach Dave Driscoll, the veteran of multiple state championship teams in his tenure, took nothing but positives from his team’s season-ending loss.

“This year hasn’t always been a textbook year for us, but we overcame some adversity today,” he said. “We gave up a lead, but they came back. Our pitchers struggled some this year, but they battled today. I told all of them to be proud of wearing a Falcon uniform today.”

However, Saturday marked the end of a remarkable career for the Falcons’ four-year catcher, Nicole Lundstrom. The already two-time ESPN Boston All-State selection and Syracuse signee closed out her career with a 3-for-3 performance with two RBI and a walk.

D1 South softball: Taunton 2, North 0

June, 1, 2013
6/01/13
12:25
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TAUNTON, Mass. – When two teams are evenly matched, it is one bad hop, one mistake or one bloop hit that can decide the outcome of the game.

Taunton took advantage of each of those on Friday night for a 2-0 win against North Attleborough in a Division 1 South first round game.

In a scoreless game in the bottom of the sixth inning, Kailey March’s grounder took a bad hop off the chest of North second baseman Marissa Gifford and the leadoff hitter hustled for an infield single. The next batter, freshman Meg Navarro, tried to sacrifice, but third baseman Daylin Rhilinger could not field it cleanly. Navarro’s sister Mackenzie followed with another sac bunt, which moved both runners into scoring position.

Rocketeers pitcher Meg Colleran induced a weak liner from freshman clean-up hitter Jordan Wade and walked the catcher Alicia Pavadore, who had a base hit off Colleran in the second inning, to load the bases. Up stepped senior Katelin Morrissey and she dropped the first pitch just in between the shortstop and the left fielder to bring home the only two runs of the game.

Taunton head coach Dave Lewry noted that in a pressure situation like that, he was grateful to see one of his more experienced players at the plate.

“She’s gotten her swing back the last week or two,” he explained. “She’s been a three-year starter for us. You hope to see your senior up in that situation because you know that they’ve been there before.”

Following the game, North Attleborough head coach Bill Wallace could only shake his head at the struggles that his team has had at Taunton’s field in the past few years, including a loss to the Tigers (17-6) earlier this season.

“This is our house of horrors, I think we’re 0-6 here in the last three years,” he reflected.

Wallace continued, “In a game like this, in a game where both pitchers are dealing, it’s going to take a bloop here or a lucky bounce there and she couldn’t have thrown it in a better place. That was the Bermuda Triangle.”

Lewry admitted that he said just that to Wallace when they shook hands at home plate following the game. He remarked, “Like I told Bill afterwards, you knew there was going to be a mistake and then there was going to be a bloop hit. Fortunately, it happened for us and we were able to pull it out.”

The game finished in barely over an hour, mostly due to the strength of the two pitchers that stepped into the circle.

Jesse Aleixo did not allow a base runner for 3 1/3 innings before a swinging bunt single by Rose Mooney, who was thrown out stealing second two pitches later. Following the hit, Aleixo retired the final 10 North Attleborough batters that she faced.

“Jesse is our key obviously,” Lewry said about the junior hurler. “Meg Colleran is a tremendous pitcher but Jesse can hang with her and keeps us in the game.”

Aleixo was modest about her pitching performance and passed much of the credit on to her batterymate.

“Honestly, my catcher Alicia [Pavadore] calls all of the pitches and she’s so good,” Aleixo said. “She just called the right pitches and they worked every time.”

Colleran was also solid. She gave up only five hits (only two of which were hit hard) and struck out four batters. Aleixo finished with five strikeouts but, unusually for a top-level softball game, neither pitcher recorded a strikeout after the third inning. Both defenses came up with big plays.

Gifford, in particular, came up big for North. The second baseman made a sliding stop to rob Pavadore of a hit to end the fourth and started the fifth with a leaping grab of a soft liner by Morrissey. The middle of the Rocketeers order tried to get something going in the fifth, but Meg Wynn lined out hard to center and right fielder Lauren Mitsairis made a sliding grab on a sinking liner by Jackie Del Bonis.

When the brackets were released, the groans of disappointment could be heard from both North Attleborough (14-7) and Taunton, as the two league rivals were hoping to avoid each other until later in the tournament. This was the third meeting between the Hockomock League sides this season and they have combined for 25 innings and a cumulative score of 4-2 in those three games.

Lewry commented, “We’d played 18 innings against them already this season and we each scored two runs. I don’t think that you’ll find two teams more evenly matched. Neither one of us were thrilled when we saw the match-up in the first round.”

Wallace echoed those sentiments, “They’re a very good team and I’m sure he looked at the draw and said, ‘Oh no,’ just like we did.”

Taunton now awaits the winner of top seeded Bridgewater-Raynham and No. 16 seed Dighton-Rehoboth.

The Tigers are on a roll, having won 14 of the last 16 games that they have played (since a 3-4 start) and Aleixo believes that Taunton can compete with any team in the sectional.

“We have a lot of confidence,” she said. “We still have to play really tough and stay really focused, but I think we can beat anyone that we play.”

Shepherd Hill, Central Catholic debut in baseball poll

May, 20, 2013
5/20/13
4:02
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We updated our statewide MIAA Top 25 baseball poll this afternoon. To view it, CLICK HERE.

The next poll update will be Monday, May 27. That will be the final poll of the 2013 regular season. Following the May 27 update, the baseball poll will be updated once more, following the conclusion of the MIAA State Tournament.

A few notes and observations about this week's poll:

Prep stays on top: For the fifth week in a row, St. John's Prep is the No. 1 team in the land, following an excellent win over BC High that swept the season series and kept them ahead in the Catholic Conference. With a game today against Malden Catholic, Prep can wrap up the Catholic Conference title outright.

The top five remains unchanged, with BC High, St. John's of Shrewsbury, Walpole and Peabody rounding out the top five, in that order. Meanwhile, Newton North jumps back into the Top 10, climbing five spots to No. 6, while Amherst makes its first appearance in the top 10 after beating No. 7 East Longmeadow in extra innings.

Shepherd Hill jumps into the poll: Making its debut at No. 15, and perhaps a bit overdue, is Shepherd Hill, with quite the impressive resume. The Rams hold wins over Northbridge and Auburn (twice), and are led by sophomore sensation Brady Ravenelle, who is batting .690 and leads the state with 35 RBI. This also marks the first time in our poll's three-year history that three teams from the Southern Worcester County League.

Central Catholic (20), Westford (21) and Medford (24) -- all respective champions of their leagues -- make debuts this week, while Hockomock Kelly-Rex champ Taunton makes its return at No. 25 following a one-week absence.

Here's how the poll breaks down by league affiliation:

Bay State - 3
Northeastern - 3
Southern Worcester County - 3
Valley League - 2
Atlantic Coast - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Central Mass. Conference - 1
Dual County - 1
Eastern Athletic - 1
Greater Boston - 1
Hockomock - 1
Merrimack Valley - 1
Mid-Wach B - 1
Old Colony - 1
Patriot - 1
Valley Wheel - 1

AC, Apponequet enter softball Top 25

May, 19, 2013
5/19/13
2:49
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With many teams suffering losses in the last week, there was plenty of shakeups in this week's MIAA softball Top 25 poll.

This week's changes are marked by plenty of up-and-down movement, in addition to four teams entering the poll this week, including a couple of newcomers.

Both No. 24 Arlington Catholic and No. 25 Apponequet make their first-ever Top 25 showings, after some critical league wins. The Cougars claimed their first Catholic Central Large crown after beating Archbishop Williams last week. Meanwhile, the Lakers now stand atop the South Coast Conference standings, thanks to an extra-innings, walk-off win over Fairhaven.

Also moving back into the poll this week was No. 15 Bellingham and No. 20 Taunton on the heels of significant divisional victories. The Blackhawks split their season series with defending Tri-Valley League champion Hopkington while the Tigers nipped former No. 2 North Attleborough in an extra-innings Hockomock League battle.

(Editor's note: Records are as of Friday.)

Preseason MIAA softball All-State Team

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
11:19
PM ET
MilfordBrendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comReigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball Award winner Shannon Smith hopes to lead Milford to back-to-back Division 1 state titles.
STARTING ROTATION
Megan Colleran, Jr., North Attleborough
Anna O'Neill, Sr., King Philip
Lauren Ramirez, Sr., Dracut
Kendal Roy, Jr., Grafton
Shannon Smith, Sr., Milford

STARTING NINE
Tori Constantin, Sr. 2B, King Philip
Stephanie Cornish, Sr. 3B, Abington
Alexis DeBrosse, Sr. SS, New Bedford
Caroline Fairbanks, Sr. 3B, Milford
Nicole Lundstrom, Sr. C, Dighton-Rehoboth
Bella Picard, Sr. SS, Blackstone Valley Tech
Madi Shaw, Jr. SS, Bridgewater-Raynham
Dakota Smith-Porter, Sr., P/SS, Turners Falls
Reilly Weiners, Sr. C, Agawam

WATCH LIST
Olivia Antczak, Soph. P, Central Catholic
Allie Colleran, Jr. SS/OF, Concord-Carlisle
Megan Cook, Jr. P, Bellingham
Haley Currie, Sr. 3B, Burlington
Sara Dawson, Soph. P, Bridgewater-Raynham
Kaleigh Finigan, Sr. 3B, St. Mary's (Lynn)
Bridget Furlong, Sr. 2B, Malden
Courtney Girouard, Jr. P, Fairhaven
Galen Kerr, Sr. P, Concord-Carlisle
Taylor LeBrun, Soph. C, Milford
Rachel Levine, Sr. CF, Milford
Michaela Mazure, Soph. INF, Burlington
Shannon McLaughlin, Jr. P, Tewksbury
Paige Mulry, Jr. C, Boston Latin
MacKenzie Navarro, Jr. 1B, Taunton
Alicia Reid, Sr. CF, Abington
Kelsey Saucier, Jr. P, Holy Name
Rachael Smith, Jr. P, Winchester
Lauren Tuiskula, Sr. P, Leicester
Jurnee Ware, Sr. P, Hudson

Recap: Milford 3, King Philip 0

April, 5, 2013
4/05/13
2:10
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MILFORD, Mass. – The representing winners of the last three Division 1 state softball championships faced off Thursday. And, while most teams are feeling their way through the early season, a duel between Milford and King Philip always enlists a certain amount of intensity.

Reigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball award winner Shannon Smith looked near mid-season form in the circle for the Scarlet Hawks with 14 strikeouts in a complete-game, one-hitter in a 3-0 win over their new Hockomock League rival.

“You just look at this first week and playing a team like Taunton and then King Philip here, you know you were going have a test, big time,” Milford head coach Brian Macchi said. “We knew we were going to have an early indication of where we stand.

Milford (2-0, 2-0 Hockomock) churned out nine hits against Warriors starter Anna O’Neill and took an early lead in the second. Elizabeth Stallone drove in Caroline Fairbanks with a two-out single.

The Scarlet Hawks continued to produce with two outs in the fifth, when they pushed across a couple of insurance runs. Smith shot an opposite field single to the gap, scoring Sam Bonvino for a two-run cushion before Rachel Levine smacked a single to left, scoring Jenny Levine, who was running for Smith.

“In a game like this, you’re looking at one-to-nothing, as it could be the decider,” Macchi said. “But tacking on two runs … you just have that much more confidence as the game goes on.”

“She battled and found a way to get us another run, which was important.”

“She’s realizing that it’s her senior year and this is her last go-round. She’s relishing the opportunity to really leave on high note.”

“It’s a nice welcome to the league. It’ll be nice to see how the rivalries develop through time.”

WELCOME TO THE SHOW
With the addition of Milford and Taunton into the Hockomock League this year, both the Kelley-Rex and Davenport divisions have turned into an effective softball super conference.

While the defending champion Scarlet Hawks make their move from the Central sectional into the South, Macchi and his team realize how perilous the move could prove. They need look no further than their Thursday opponent, the owners of back-to-back state titles in 2010 and ’11.

The Warriors (1-1) have a new look this season, with an entirely new battery. O’Neill (10 strikeouts) takes over in the circle for Meghan Rico (George Washington) while junior Jordan Schaffer slides in behind the plate, taking over for another two-time ESPN Boston All-State selection in Olivia Godin (UMass-Amherst). KP also has a new head coach, as longtime Case bench boss Norm Beauchemin takes over for Jim Leonard.

And while the Warriors might be a team in (relative) transition, the Milford hurler still knew what the game represented.

“It means a lot to us,” Smith said. “It gives us confidence heading into the season just because it’s so early on and we’ve only played one other game. It shows us the potential we have. If we can beat a team like that this early, think of where we could be at the end of the year.”

D1 South: Taunton 65, Catholic Memorial 50

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
10:50
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TAUNTON, Mass. -– After an entertaining, back and forth first quarter that ended with No. 7 Taunton up 13-10 on No. 10 Catholic Memorial, a tough battle throughout seemed to be in the forecast.

Instead, Taunton used the second and third quarters to showcase its half-court offense, shooting an impressive 17-for-25 from the field in those quarters to pull away from Catholic Memorial, finishing them off for a 65-50 win.

“We respect that program,” Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey said. “We communicated to the kids the tradition that that school has and how they play. They always play hard and they’re always disciplined. I think we transmitted it to them what to expect.”

Taunton used a 14-3 run to open the second quarter, paced by seven points from reserve guard Corey Green. Junior Gerald Cortijo added five points in the run, and scored a deep three later in the quarter to make it 34-20 Taunton.

“My team told me to just stay aggressive and shoot the ball every time I had a chance, that’s what I did.” Cortijo said. “Just one person has to get it going and it’s going to open up the court for everybody.”

Shaq Davis scored another deep three for Taunton to give them a 37-22 lead at the break. Taunton shot 8-for-11 in the second frame compared to Catholic Memorial’s 3-for-13.

“They just made some shots and we just a little drought offensively,” CM head coach Denis Tobin said. “We just had trouble putting the ball in the basket in the second quarter and they didn’t at all.”

The halftime break helped Catholic Memorial break out of their offensive woes briefly, but Taunton didn’t miss a beat either. The Tigers matched each of CM’s baskets and then some, increasing a 15-point halftime lead to a 22-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“They shot the ball extremely well tonight,” Tobin said. “I give them a ton of credit. We wanted to try and slow them down some, and we did. They ran their half court offense tremendously and if we gave them an open shot, they made them.”

Cortijo tied for the team high with senior Anthony Parker with 14 points apiece. Green added 12 while both Davis and Fawaz Mass chipped in with nine.

“We made the rhythm three’s, which changed the way they looked at the game,” Dacey said.

Catholic Memorial outscored Taunton 14-7 in the final quarter, but was due in large part to the Tigers using the entire shot clock before firing up a shot.

Taunton will travel to play fourth-seeded Newton North on Saturday at 4 p.m.

CONFIDENCE BOOST
Taunton came into the tournament boasting a 15-5 record, but was still in search of a big time win.

The Tigers lost to the South's No. 1 seed Mansfield Hornets twice, but only by a combined 10 points. They lost a one-point nail-biter to fifth-seeded New Bedford in late January, and then another one-point loss to the Whalers in an exclusion game just before the playoffs. They beat No. 9 seed Franklin on the road by two, but saw those same Panthers come in and beat them on their home court.

With their big win over Catholic Memorial, they might have found that confidence-boosting win they’ve been looking for.

“We know it’s playoff time,” Cortijo said. “We slacked a couple of games, but it was time to put it all together.”

With the confidence, it’s not only Cortijo, Davis, and Mass that are demanding defensive pressure. Senior Anthony Parker used his athleticism to his advantage, working his way to 14 points and eight rebounds.

“Anthony, when we find a mismatch, we go at it,” Dacey said. “He’s a matchup problem for people. He’s quick, he’s a leaper and when we have the matchup out there, that’s what we want.”

Parker’s athleticism was contagious, as the majority of Taunton is very quick.

“We’re a fast team, we like to run,” Cortijo said.

THE BEST IS YET TO COME?
For Catholic Memorial, it wasn’t their most talented team they’ve had over the years, but Tobin made sure to credit their work ethic.

“This wasn’t the most talented team I’ve ever had, but it was by far the hardest working team,” Tobin said. “That’s a credit to the seniors, who day in and day out, gave more than 110%. They showed my younger guys, who are very talented, the amount of effort it requires to be successful.”

The Knights will lose captains Pat Hurley, Rich Lopez, and John McDonough, along with D.J. McClure and Chris Siggers to graduations.

They will return big man Gerard Adams -– who had a team-high 12 points and 10 boards –- and talented guard Guilien Smith.

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