Sports Spotlight: BHS Softball Squad Loses in Second Round of Playoffs
Jun 28, 2019 06:00AM
By Brian Choquet
written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Sports Editor
The anticipated momentum from a dramatic 6-5 victory over West Bridgewater in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs failed to materialize when Bellingham’s softball team faced Monomoy Regional a day later in Harwich on June 9. The Blackhawks could muster only two hits, and Sharks’ pitcher Molly Charest struck out 10 in a 2-0 shutout in the tournament’s second round.
Top-seeded Monomoy, which opened the tourney with a 3-1 triumph over Wareham, scored its two runs in the first inning, thanks to Samantha Barr’s RBI triple and her adept base-running on an infield out. She managed to slide under the tag of Bellingham catcher Ryanne Haines.
“Charest is only a junior but she’s a Division 1 college prospect,” said Bellingham coach Dennis Baker, whose team finished its season at 16-6. “She’s the best pitcher I’ve seen in the last two years. She’s a superb competitor who relies on a live fastball and she locates the ball effectively.”
As sharp as Charest was, the Blackhawks’ pitcher, Kasey MacGowan, matched her inning for inning the rest of the way. “Kasey pitched in phenomenal fashion,” Baker said. “She mixed her pitches well and kept them off balance. The key for Monomoy was they got a clutch hit and their defense was great.”
Bellingham’s best chance to score was in the fifth inning. With one out, Kayla Martinis singled and moved to second on Charlotte MacGregor’s infield hit to first base. However, Kim Rodriguez took a called third strike, and Maddie Mantegani grounded out to Charest, ending the threat.
The victory by Monomoy is its second straight against Bellingham. Last year, the Sharks downed BHS, 2-1, in 10 innings, eliminating them in the first round.
The opening-round game against West Bridgewater was a matchup of similar teams. BHS was seeded eighth and the Wildcats were seeded ninth.
The Blackhawks led, 4-0, after the first inning on a Katie Reed RBI double, Kaleigh MacGowan’s single that drove in two more runs and Martinis’ sacrifice fly. The Wildcats cut their deficit to 4-1 when Natalie Fredericksen walked with the bases loaded in the third inning and tied the contest at 4-4 in the fourth inning when Ashley Jacques singled in a run and Kelsey Connors followed with a two-RBI single.
BHS regained the lead at 5-4 in the fifth inning when Haines’ sky-high pop-up in the infield was dropped, enabling Kasey MacGowan to score from first base. Martinis clouted a home run over the centerfield fence in the sixth for a 6-4 lead; but, in the seventh inning, Morgan Doherty’s sacrifice fly scored Fredericksen, making it 6-5. Kasey MacGowan, however, got Jacques to fly out to Reed, ending the game.
Martinis’s homer turned out to be the winning run, and she was ecstatic after hitting her fifth HR of the season. “I was so happy,” said the junior third baseman. “When I hit the ball, I wasn’t sure if it was going to get over the fence, but, when I saw it in flight, I knew it was gone. I hit a fastball down the middle.”
A key double play in the sixth inning helped the Blackhawks survive their pesky opponent. With runners on first and second and no outs, the Wildcats’ Meghan Willis lifted a fly ball to Alexis Rodriguez in left field. She made the catch, then fired the ball to her twin sister (Kim) at second base for a double play. The inning ended when Alexis Anderson grounded out.
I give West Bridgewater credit,” said Baker. “They changed the momentum of the game. We were able to get some timely hits, and that double play in the sixth was the turning point because it restored our momentum. Kayla’s homer was big. She’s got power and is always capable of hitting a homer.”
Four of the Blackhawks were named to the Tri Valley League’s all-star squad. Reed was selected as the Outstanding Player of the Year, Mantegani and Hayes were first-team choices, and Kasey MacGowan was an honorable-mention selection.
Wareham Eliminates BHS Nine
Bellingham High’s baseball team bowed out of the Division 3 Sectional Tournament, losing to Wareham, 3-1, on June 6. The 18-seeded Blackhawks, who finished the season at 11-10, had trouble generating any offense, scoring their only run in the second inning. Michael Reissfelder singled and advanced to third when Corey Chiappone reached on an error. Chiappone attempted to steal second, but the throw sailed into the outfield as Reissfelder scored and gave BHS an early 1-0 advantage.
Wareham, the No. 15 seed, bounced back and took a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning and made that margin stand up. “Erik Zine did a good job on the mound for Wareham, mixing his pitches and staying competitive,” said Bellingham coach TJ Chiappone. “Our problem once again was our inability to string hits together.”
BHS managed to get seven hits but they were scattered. A lack of timely hitting was a problem for the Blackhawks throughout the season. In nine of their 10 losses, they either scored only one run or were shut out.
“When a team doesn’t get timely hits, it puts pressure on your pitching and defense,” Chiappone said. “You can only hold your opponent down so long. During the season, we tried everything to get our offense going, but we had difficulty stringing hits together.”
The Blackhawks qualified for the playoffs for the 22nd straight year during Chiappone’s tenure, which totals 25 campaigns. “The kids take pride in that and it’s a testament to them, the youth program and our assistant coaches,” Chiappone emphasized. “We never talk about that during the season but we do take pride in the achievement.”
Chiappone lauded his seniors for their leadership on and off the field and was pleased with the work ethic of his entire squad. “The kids gave a good effort all year,” he noted. “Hopefully, we can improve next year.”
Improving Skills Key for BHS Spikers
Bellingham High’s venture into varsity boys volleyball in the spring didn’t produce a victory in its 16 matches, but coach Steve Mantegani saw significant improvement in skills.
“We were able to get playing time for all 11 of our competitors,” Mantegani said. “Grant Wojcik, an eighth grader, was one of our setters. He learned quickly and was named a Tri Valley League all-star. His future is bright.”
Senior captain John Hehir was a setter and an outside hitter. “John was one of our better servers and passers and he made the transition from setter to outside hitter after an injury, which helped improve our passing and defense,”
Mantegani said. JJ Moran, another senior captain, played outside hitter. “He’s an athletic lefty who smoothly made the transition to the right side once Grant became the setter,” Mantegani said. “JJ was a good leader for the younger players, an excellent role model who always worked hard. Nolan Wojcik (junior libero) is an excellent defensive player who dug more balls and was a primary passer.
“Wyatt Lee (senior middle hitter) did a great job blocking and hitting, and he became a more intelligent hitter. Damien Saccol (junior middle hitter) was our tallest player and at times was a very strong hitter and blocker. He has the potential to become more consistent and stronger.”
Mantegani, who coaches the varsity girls volleyball team, sees the boys program growing. “Our players demonstrated that they could learn the game quickly and compete in all matches,” he said.
Mantegani, who hopes to add more candidates to the roster next year, listed three optimistic moments during the season. They include winning a game against Medfield in the first match, scoring 19 points against a talented Milford program, and the players progressing in acquiring skills.