King Philip takes D1 South title in repeat quest

TAUNTON, Mass. – The game plan for King Philip softball is usually simple: Hand the ball to ace Meghan Rico, scratch across a run or two and take the win.

While the Warriors are used to seeing their pitcher near perfection, Norwood put up a rare two runs against Rico in the Division 1 South final Friday night at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field.

However, the defending D1 state champions showed that they’re more than just pitching, exhibiting a fine offense while playing a little small ball with some shows of power mixed in. With a 4-2 win over the Mustangs, the Warriors continued their quest toward a second-straight state title.

“To many, they expect perfection time and time again,” KP head coach Jim Leonard said of Rico’s performance. “When you face another unbeaten team, they have quality hitters, good defense, they have good pitching. I thought Rico showed that she was equal to the task if not better.”

The Warriors (24-0) started fast, opening scoring with a run in the home half of the first. Leadoff hitter Jenn Robillard sent one to the left-center field fence off of Mustangs starter Ali Maloof. Alyssa Siegmann followed with a perfectly placed bunt single to score Robillard.

Anna Kelley plated KP’s second run in the third on an RBI single and Meg Carnase gave the Warriors a 3-1 lead in the fifth with run-scoring double.

KP first baseman Cayleigh McCarthy provided the exclamation point to the victory, belting Maloof’s 2-2 offering 225 feet over the left-center field fence for a home run.

Rico, while not perfect as usual, was still strong. Only one of the runs allowed were earned with Sarah Eckhardt driving a run on a fielder’s choice in the sixth. She surrendered two hits—one a bunt single by Eckhardt and the other a double to lead off the sixth from Norwood’s No. 9 hitter Kayla Garczynski.

“It’s bound to happen sometime,” Rico said. “They’re a good hitting team. All of the teams we’re going to play from here on out are going to be good hitting teams, so I expected them to score some runs.”

Still, it wasn’t as effortless as Rico typically makes it look. She went 13 pitches deep with Mustangs feared third baseman and UConn signee Lauren Duggan in a battle in the fourth inning. Rico finally got Duggan to succumb on a pop-up to catcher Olivia Godin with an inside screwball.

She was great when she needed to be.

“I think she showed what she’s made out of,” Leonard said of Rico. “She’s a composed young lady, but she battled.

“The combination of her and [Olivia] Godin behind the plate, I don’t call any pitches. I have the ultimate trust in Olivia to call and handle the pitching staff. It’s comforting to have that kind of competence behind the plate.”

After ending the Mustang’s perfect season (21-0 previously), the Warriors will play the North sectional champion in the Eastern Mass. final at Taunton on Tuesday at 7 p.m.