WRENTHAM — There are 27 teams in the field for the MIAA Division 1 South Sectional, and 26 of them will agree that Kelsey White and the Taunton High Tigers are deservedly the No. 1 seed.
“We’re all 0-0,” King Philip Regional High coach Kate Fallon-Comeau said of the sectional competition and the chase to upstage Taunton for the title.
“It all comes down to the pitching, and they (the Tigers) have the ace fireballer (White),” Fallon-Comeau added. "Really, it’s anybody’s game — until you hit Taunton.”
The Warriors are betting that freshman Jordan Bennett will be one of the surprise stars of the Division 1 South Sectional.
“She has more than responded to the challenge of varsity softball, she definitely stepped up in a big way,” Fallon-Comeau said. “She fields her position well and she can hit too.”
Along with Bennett and the Warriors in Division 1 South will be junior Maddy Rizzo and No. 3 seed Bishop Feehan (10-1), junior Lindsey Perry and senior Lora Woyton for No. 14 Attleboro (8-6), junior Kelly Colleran and No. 6 seed North Attleboro (11-3), and junior Alanna Conley and No. 18 Mansfield (7-7).
Pitching with a purpose in the Division 2 South Sectional will be Bella Vittorini for the second-seeded TVL champion Norton (15-1), junior Eliana Raposo with the SCC tri-champion No. 3 seeded Dighton-Rehoboth Falcons (7-2), eighth grader Emma Callahan with the No. 12 seeded Foxboro High Warriors (8-5) and junior Kate Leinson for the No. 16 seeded Seekonk High Warriors (5-4).
Hurling for the No. 7 seed Tri-County High Cougars (9-4) in the Division 3 South field will be Holly Swinimer.
Not so oddly enough in the “open” field for MIAA Tournament competition, 10 of the 27 teams in the Division 1 South Sectional have records of .500 or worse.
In her first season of coaching KP after leaving Franklin High, Fallon-Comeau guided the Warriors to victories in their first two games before suffering back-to-back losses to top-seeded and unbeaten Taunton.
“Taunton has good pitching, solid defense and good bats,” Fallon-Comeau said of the sure-fire success story that is the Tigers, who outscored foes by a 163-2 margin this season.
Fallon-Comeau contends that without an MIAA Tournament in 2020, the landscape is a bit different this year in that many schools were limited to “league-only” competition, to a reduced calendar of games with no non-league games.
“There are a lot of new pitchers out there that nobody has seen,” Fallon-Comeau said of the Warriors having another solid pitcher in junior Emma Sheehan.
Where Fallon-Comeau believes that KP can separate itself from its post-season opposition is with its defense and hitting.
Fallon-Comeau has an infield behind Bennett that consists of just one senior, Anna Bradley at first base. Junior Mia Bennett is stationed at shortstop, sophomore Ava Lanza was a late-season promotion to the varsity and has been affixed at second base, while freshman Maddie Paschke is a viable candidate for rookie of the year honors in the Hockomock Leauge.
Senior center fielder Paige Berdos has been setting the table as the Warriors’ leadoff batter. Sophomore catcher Sarah Cullen, in her first varsity season, is one of the best hitters (.515 with 13 RBI) in the Hockomock League and another sophomore, rightfielder Charlotte Raymond (.675 with 15 RBI) ranks among the top five.
Other than Berdos and Bradley, the KP starting nine is composed of underclassmen, a half-dozen in their first varsity season.
“We have some kids who have swung the bats pretty good,” Fallon-Comeau added, the Warriors averaging nearly 10 runs per game.
“There are so many unknowns this year,” Fallon-Comeau said of inexperienced rosters, teams that may be shadows of their records without true non-league competition. “It’s pretty much anyone’s game until you run into Taunton.”
Another factor is that KP, like many others, will not have played a game for 10 days to two weeks because of scheduling and limitation or elimination of non-league games.
“It’s a bit of a hindrance, you get out of your day-to-day routine,” Fallon-Comeau said. “It’s tough to simulate being in a game in practice. It’s a long time without a game.”
Oddly enough, KP is the lone of the area’s five teams in the Division I Tournament that is in the same side of the bracket as Taunton.
“They (Taunton) have a target on their back, we’re all trying to get to that championship game."