PLAINVILLE, Mass. – In a game dominated by the two opposing pitchers, it was fitting that one of them would be the player that ultimately decided the outcome.
King Philip senior Anna O’Neill crushed a 1-0 pitch from North Attleborough’s Megan Colleran deep over the fence in straightaway centerfield to give the Warriors a 2-0 walk-off victory on Friday afternoon at the Plainville Athletic League Complex. The win completed a season sweep for KP over North and moves them one step closer to another league title.
“I didn’t want to pitch another inning,” said O’Neill about her mindset in the final at-bat. “When I hit it, I was just thinking, ‘Thank you Anna for ending this game,’ because I really wanted to win.”
After the celebration, first-year KP head coach Norm Beauchemin tried to direct reporters to his star pitcher and, with a big smile on his face, remarked, “She came up with the big hit…the big time. She’s a big-time player.”
Going into the seventh, KP had managed only two hits off of Colleran, who struck out six Warriors. Senior second baseman Tori Constantin, who had hit the ball well for outs in her two previous at-bats, drew a lead-off walk (Colleran’s first of the game). Renee Poirier failed on two sacrifice attempts before lining a two-strike pitch for a base-hit.
Constantin tried to stretch from first to third on the play but was gunned down on a perfect throw by North centerfielder Sam Moody. In the process, Poirier moved into scoring position with one out. Two pitches later, it did not matter, as O’Neill hit her second homerun of the season off of Colleran.
“Meg is a great pitcher. She’s going to UMass [in two years] and to say that I got two good hits against her feels pretty good,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill was also dominant on the mound, despite having to rush from Dean College where she and third baseman Shannon Jones were taking an Advanced Placement exam. The game time was pushed back and North coach Bill Wallace allowed extra time for O’Neill to warm-up after she arrived. It may not have been her usual pre-game routine but she showed no ill effects, striking out the first two hitters on her way to a nine strikeout, three-hit shutout.
Prior to the final inning, each team only managed to get a runner into scoring position twice. Poirier led-off the second with a base-hit and made it to second on a passed ball, but was stranded and in the sixth Jones was bunted to second but Colleran induced a comebacker and a grounder to first to end the inning.
“Megan has really hit her groove now. Those are the first runs that she has given up in regulation in three weeks,” Wallace said.
Beauchemin spoke about his team’s struggle at the plate. He said, “Offensively, everybody struggles against good pitching, plain and simple. Hopefully, we come around and start swinging the bats better against good pitching because we’re taking way too long of a swing.”
North Attleborough had its first base runner in the fourth inning on a lead-off single by Rose Mooney, who was bunted to second but stranded there. Jill Costello, who also had four assists at shortstop, led-off the sixth with a single and made it to third on a wild pitch before O’Neill struck out Marissa Gifford and Colleran to end the inning.
The Rocketeers have had a difficult week since being moved to no. 2 in the ESPN Boston statewide rankings. North lost to Taunton (the Tigers had also beaten KP previously this season), 1-0, in 11 innings on Monday before the walk-off defeat to the Warriors.
Wallace acknowledged that it was a tough loss, but argued, “We’ll be better for it.”
He added, “We’re playing good defense; we just need to get the bats going. Hey, what are you going to do? We’re seeing great pitching, you know.”
Prior to the season, there was some talk that the turnover at King Philip (losing eight seniors and head coach Jim Leonard) could make this the year that North Attleborough overtook the Warriors for the league title. Instead, O’Neill’s hit continued nearly 10 years without a win for the Rocketeers in the series.
“People have been talking that we’re not going to be as good this year as we have in the past, but I think that tonight just proved that we all have it in us and we still have a really good team,” O’Neill said.
Beauchemin said that games like this will be big for the Warriors as they prepare for another run at a state title.
“You don’t have too many cakewalks [in the Hockomock], which is good because it get s you ready for the playoffs,” he explained. “This team here, they’re concerned about the playoffs. They want to go deep, so these games hopefully build our character.”