King Philip coach Jim Leonard and his phenomenal pitcher Meghan Rico knew their game against Lynn Classical was something special on their schedule.
They read about Classical’s 13-0 record and its mantle as a Northeastern Conference superpower that had won 34 league games in a row. They understood that the game would be viewed as a classic Division 1 North-South showdown and have a state tournament atmosphere.
“We knew we were facing a quality team and we’ve been following them all year,” said Leonard after his two-time defending state champions bested Classical 8-0 at Plainville Athletic League Field in Plainville. “We approached this game like we would a tournament game. We went undefeated last year so we know how hard it is to do that. We had a lot of respect for them and they were right on par with the tournament teams we’ve seen.”
Rico, who has a Division 1 softball scholarship and will attend George Washington University, held nothing back from her repertoire in a dominating no-hit, 13-strikeout performance. Included in the 5-foot-7-inch right-hander’s mound mastery was her 500th career strikeout.
“I felt pretty good. I threw all my pitches tonight – curves, screw, change, drop, rise ball,” said Rico. “They’re all around the same speed but I’m sure a few were a little bit faster than others.”
Rico said she and her teammates were excited to be playing an undefeated Classical team that they had been following from afar.
“We all knew about Classical and what a great team they are,” said Rico. “We weren’t nervous but we were more excited to play such a good team. We need to play competitive teams and this was a great out-of-league win.”
Classical bench boss Chris Warren said Rico is the best pitcher he has seen during his coaching career.
“I’ve been coaching a long time and that’s the best I’ve ever seen on the mound,” said Warren. “She had everything: the velocity, the screwball that she was throwing inside on our right-handers and we couldn’t touch it. She completely shut us down. I talked to our players and the majority said they’d that hadn’t seen anyone as good as Rico is.”
Warren would like to have the first inning back against King Phillip. Classical’s ace right-hander Mackenzie Coppinger was one strike away from ending the inning before KP exploded for seven runs on a three-run blast and a grand slam. Coppinger held KP to one more run while Katie Cuozzo pitched a scoreless sixth.
“It’s unfortunate because we had two outs and two strikes without giving up a run and then seven runs follow after that,” said Warren. “If you do get out of that jam and the runs don’t follow, it’s a different game. Maybe we can start bunting and make them make plays, and it’s not all Rico being dominant. But it didn’t happen that way.”
To the Rams’ credit, they went all out in what was an uphill battle after the tough first inning.
“The energy was there from the beginning until the end,” said Warren. “The lead-up to this game was like a state tournament feel for our players. There was excitement in our school. People were wishing them good luck. It was good for our girls to compete in this type of atmosphere and when June comes, hopefully it pays off.”