For the first four-and-a-half innings, it appeared that the showdown between King Philip (2-0) and Mansfield (0-2) was going to be a low-scoring affair, with the winner being the team that could make that one big play.
With Mansfield pitcher Trish Hansen throwing an efficient game and KP sensation Meg Rico striking out batters all day, no one was getting a break at the plate. In the bottom of the fifth inning, though, a five-run explosion was all the Warriors needed to win.
KP, however, had to hold off a seventh-inning comeback by the Hornets to win 5-4.
"Long and exhausting" does not even begin to describe Rico’s day on the mound. The George Washington University-bound pitcher struck out 11 over seven innings, but needed over 150 pitches to do it, as the Hornets were successful in forcing a deep count on Rico.
“Not a typical defensive pitching performance for us. You’re going to have those games,” King Philip head coach Jim Leonard said.
Hansen looked strong early in the game, pitching a shutout for the opening four innings. A five-run fifth inning put an end to that, but she quickly returned to her previous form in the final two innings.
“Trish thew her heart out for us today,” Mansfield head coach Jinneane Sperrazza said. “It was just that one inning.”
The Hornets almost had two bad innings when the Warriors were able to load the bases in the bottom of the second inning with one out. A strikeout by Hansen and a ground out by KP's Annie Shiebler ended what could have been a multi-run effort by KP.
The KP bats finally woke up in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Meg Carnase’s double to deep left field sent Cayleigh McCarthy and Rico home for the first two runs of the game. Only a batter later did Olivia Godin (1-3, 1 run) smash a two-run home run to give the Warriors a 5-0 lead going into the sixth inning.
“It was the second or third time through they saw her [Hansen]. They did a little bit more knowing what to expect,” Leonard said.
Forcing more out of Rico that she is used to almost paid off for the Hornets. With two on and one out in the top of the seventh inning, a three-run homer to centerfield by Bri Chiusano (2-4, 3 RBIs, 1 run) cut the deficit to two for the Hornets and gave them new life.
At one point, the Warriors were only a strike away from ending the game, but a double by Kelly English (1-3, 1 RBI) knocked in Hansen to make it a 5-4 game with two one and two out. One pitch later, Erin Glavin hit into a ground out as the Warriors survived a late come back by the Hornets to remain undefeated on the year.
“I don’t remember ever being able to come in and hit off of Rico like that,” Sperrazza said. “We had our opportunities. She’s [Rico] a good, solid pitcher and that makes me so proud.”
In addition to her pitching performance, Rico was 2-4 with a run. Cayleigh McCarthy went 2-3 with a run.
The Warriors travel to North Attleboro on April 12 while the Hornets host Canton the same day.