Tourney Loss Doesn’t Erase KP’s Success in Softball Warriors Bow to Taunton, 2-0, in SemifinalsJul 04, 2023 09:42AM ● By Chuck Tashjian
The 2023 KP softball team finished the regular season at 20-2 before bowing to Taunton in the state tourney.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
King Philip’s softball team set its sights on winning the Division 1 state championship after finishing the regular season with a 20-2 record and co-champs of the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex Division.
The Warriors’ prime objective was a state title but that effort fell short when the Warriors lost to two-time defending champ Taunton, 2-0, in the state semifinals at UMass-Dartmouth.
KP softball fans have become accustomed to gazing at state championship hardware in the school’s trophy cases (three state crowns in the last 13 years). But, the 2023 squad was unable to get to the tourney final, bowing out in spite of a plethora of strengths.
As the regular season was heading for the finish line, coach Kate Fallon-Comeau had her forces peaking at the right time, momentum was building and they were focused on the task at hand.
“We had experience, depth and a high softball IQ,’’ said Fallon-Comeau, who’s been the Warriors coach for three years. “Our kids were also athletic and coachable, and our pitching, hitting and defense were solid.’’
The second-seeded Tigers got all their runs in the fourth inning.
A walk to Ava Venturelli and a sacrifice bunt put Venturelli at second base before Hayley Krockta’s base hit into leftfield allowed Venturelli to score. Brooke Aldrich followed with a base hit to center to score Krockta, giving the Tigers some breathing room (up by 2-0) and enough of a cushion for pitcher Sam Lincoln, a Texas Tech University commit who struck out 10 and allowed only three hits.
Taunton did not hit KP pitcher McCoy Walsh hard. The only hard drive was a double off the wall by Aldrich late in the game. Walsh went the distance, walking three, allowing six hits and striking out nine.
Fallon-Comeau lauded the freshman, saying that McCoy was exceptional. There was one hard-hit ball off McCoy and it didn’t result in a run. “Sometimes that’s the way it goes in softball,” Fallon-Comeau told The Sun Chronicle. “McCoy threw a great game. She just threw outstanding. A freshman coming into this, she had a great game. We just couldn’t get those runs across that she needed.”
The Warriors tourney run began with a 3-1 win over Needham and a 3-0 triumph over Chelmsford. Bishop Feehan was the next squad to succumb, losing to KP, 4-0, before the Warriors faced Taunton.
“It’s tough,” Fallon-Comeau told The Sun Chronicle. “It was a good game and we fought right up until the end. We had a great season and they’ve got nothing to hang their heads about. It’s just a tough one.’’
A tourney run that ends without a state title so often is wrapped with disappointment. Failure is a harsh word but it sometimes works its way into the conversation, even for a team like KP that won 23 games.
Failure doesn’t apply to this KP squad.
The second-seeded Warriors approached the playoffs hopeful of producing quality at-bats, getting outs, winning the inning and eventually the game. It didn’t happen but don’t discount the amazing success the Warriors amassed from March till June.
Here’s a look at KP’s captains and its position players with Fallon-Comeau commenting on her troops. The individual statistics are through the regular season (22 games).
CAPTAINS -- Seniors Sarah Cullen (centerfield/catcher), Charlotte Raymond (leftfield), and Ava Lanza (infield/designated player.
Cullen hit .387, scored 32 runs, knocked in 18 runs and stole 21 bases. “An excellent leader, her softball IQ was high and she had speed. A strong arm, she excelled in centerfield and knew what to do with the ball. A two-time Hockomock League all-star, she led by example and by being vocal.’’
Raymond hit .444, had an on-base percentage of .581, knocked in 20 runs and scored 25. “Batting cleanup, she not only protected the No. 3 hitter, but she also hit for power. A three-time Hockomock League all-star, she relied on a high softball IQ, she was fast, her arm was strong and she squared up well in the box. A quality captain who was vocal.’’
Lanza hit .273 and drove in 10 runs. “Ava batted ninth in the order and was a calming presence as a captain. A left-handed hitter, she made contact, could bunt and was smart at the plate. A multi-talented fielder, she was smooth at second and third base and charged the ball quickly.’’
FIRST BASE -- A junior, Taylor Regan hit .298, scored 14 runs and drove in 16. “Taylor was great on defense, able to throw well and make the catch in the dirt. She goes the extra mile to make a play happen. Utilizing a great swing, she hit for power (home run against North Attleboro).’’
SECOND BASE -- A sophomore, Liv Petrillo hit .323, had 6 home runs, drove in 25 runs and scored 31. Her on-base percentage was .514. “A third baseman last year, Liv batted sixth in the order and she displayed a powerful swing and terrific bat control. A good bunter, she was smooth and fluid in the field. Her timing on force-outs and double plays was solid.’’
SHORTSTOP -- A senior, Libby Walsh compiled impressive stats. She hit .533 and clouted 13 home runs, knocked in 34 runs and scored 34. Her on-base percentage was .615. “A two-time Hockomock League all-star, she’s an elite player who’s passionate about the game. A powerful swing, she has a high softball IQ, is disciplined and makes playing shortstop look easy. After tearing her ACL as a sophomore, she underwent rehab for a year and still earned a scholarship to play at Arizona State.’’
THIRD BASE -- Junior Ava Kelley, who alternated with Lanza, hit .377, had 20 RBIs, hit one home run and scored 25 runs. “A smart, patient hitter, Ava batted fifth. She played third base effectively because of her quick hands and powerful arm.’’
CATCHER -- A junior, Maddie Paschke hit .407, drove in 23 runs, and hit 2 homers. “Maddie’s arm is strong, not many runners try to steal on her. A high IQ player, she calls all the pitches. A Hockomock League all-star, she had a fine year at the plate and behind it. She worked hard on her hitting in the off-season, became a great leader and a calming influence.’’
PITCHING -- Freshman McCoy Walsh compiled a 13-2 record, had an earned-run average of 1.39 and struck out 168. “A Hockomock League all-star, McCoy located her pitches well and relied on lots of spin. Her assortment included a curve ball, screwball and a fastball. A hard thrower, she mixed her speeds nicely and had great command of her pitches.”
Junior Jordan Bennett posted a 7-0 record, had an E.R.A. of 2.24 and struck out 41. At the plate, she hit .333, had 6 RBIs and scored 12 runs. “Relying on a fastball, curve and change-up, Jordan varied her speeds and her control was good. At the start of the season, she struggled with walks but settled in and was effective.’’
OUTFIELD -- Cullen handled centerfield and Raymond patrolled leftfield while freshman Ali Gill took care of the chores in right field. She batted No. 2 in the lineup and hit .373, clouted 7 home runs, drove in 24 and scored 26 runs. “An honorable mention all-star, Ali had the most speed on our team, was fast on the bases and always got a good jump on the ball. Her arm strength was an asset and at the plate she made contact and relied on a quick, powerful swing.’’
RESERVES -- Three players contributed effectively when called on. They included outfielder/pinch runner Liv Ali, junior outfielder Sydney Burch, and senior Charlotte Griffin. Ali hit .333, scored 12 runs and stole 7 bases. Burch hit .286 and knocked in 5 runs while Griffin hit .476, had 7 RBIs and scored 10 runs.
Fallon-Comeau knew she had a mix of players who had all the necessary attributes to advance deep into the playoffs and possibly come away with a state crown.
“We were capable of winning it all,’’ she said. “I never worried about their motivation. A state championship was their goal as little kids.’’
KP did all the right things. They competed hard, got positive results and were in position to earn a championship banner. They were ranked No. 2 in the state, both in the Boston Globe and in the MIAA (Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association) power rankings.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, it simply boils down to this — winning a state title involves plenty of precision and some luck, as Fallon-Comeau suggested.
Capturing a state championship is a Herculean task and the KP softball team can take solace knowing it gave 100 percent trying to achieve that goal.