North Attleboro senior captain Meghan Wynn stepped to the plate in the top of the 10th inning with less than two outs to face the reigning Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, Shannon Smith. She dug in, took a deep breath, and hit a rocket down the third-base line. With the crack of the bat, Marissa Gifford took off for home and beat the throw from third baseman Caroline Fairbanks to score the winning run for the Red Rocketeers and hand No. 2 Milford its first loss of the season.
“It was stressful,” said Wynn of her final at bat of the game. “It was so nerve-racking. I just told myself to breathe and then it was just like any other hit.”
The Hockomock League follows the international tie-breaker rule for extra-inning games, which allows a runner at second base to begin the inning. In the 10th, North had the speedy Gifford at second to start and she advanced on a sacrifice bunt from Megan Colleran. Coach Brian Wallace’s aggressive baserunning strategy paid off when Wynn stepped into the batters box.
“I told [Gifford] you’re going on contact,” said Wallace. “It was a chance we had to take.”
The risk paid off. In the pitcher’s duel between Smith and Colleran, one run was the difference. Colleran allowed only two hits and managed to strike out eight while Smith held the Red Rocketeers to three hits and fanned 17.
“Meg had an awesome game,” said Wynn, who was the catcher. “She was hitting all of her spots. She’s a hard worker and just keeps on improving.”
Knowing that Milford was going to bring its A-game on Monday, Wallace held practice on Sunday and focused on hitting for three hours. His goal was to have the Scarlet Hawks make at least 10 plays in the field, and with the extra innings, North Attleboro was able to put 13 balls in play.
North Attleboro has been an emerging force in the South, making the tournament for the past six years. The Red Rocketeers finished 16-4 overall last year, which included playing Hockomock newcomers Milford and Taunton in non-league games.
“Playing in the Hockomock and tough non-league games just makes you that much better,” said Wallace. “It will certainly help come tournament time.”
Wynn said the excitement and the energy of the win over Milford will carry into this week and the tournament. The Red Rocketeers are currently tied for first place in the Kelly-Rex Division with No. 7 King Philip and will have a chance to prove itself on the road again this week as it will play Taunton Monday and KP on Wednesday, both games at 7 p.m.
Wynn added, “It was the best feeling after the Milford game. I kept telling my team to fight and when we pulled through it was unbelievable. Now we know we can compete with anyone.”
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For those wondering, the state all-time strikeout record is 1,119. Shawsheen pitcher Jen Elwell surpassed Lisa Moore’s previous record of 1,078 in 2004, and the record has not changed since. Elwell struck out 304 batters while tossing 17 shutouts, with five no-hitters and a 0.09 ERA her senior year. She finished her career with 59 shutouts and 13 no-hitters.
The Kentucky-bound Smith is on track to break the record held by Elwell. Smith currently has 1,049 in her career, has notched 188 already this season, and is averaging 14.46 a game. She has seven regular-season games and the postseason to do it.
Game of the week
No. 3 North Attleboro at No. 6 King Philip, Wednesday 7 p.m. — The top dogs in the Hock Kelley-Rex will battle it out under the lights in Plainville. This matchup will be a pitcher’s duel featuring Megan Colleran from North and King Philip’s Ann O’Neill. Both teams are riding three-game winning streaks and are looking to claim the No. 1 spot in the Kelley-Rex.