Talented Returnees Buoy KP’s Softball Prospects

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
The KP softball captains are, from left, Hailey McCasland,  Jessica Bonner, Brianna Lacy and Elise Pereira.
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

Norm Beauchemin knows a thing or two about what’s needed to contend for a state championship in softball.
When he coached at Case High (Swansea), his squads finished as state runners-up three times in his four years there. At King Philip, where he’s now in his sixth campaign as head coach, the 68-year-old Beauchemin has led his forces to four Kelly-Rex Division crowns in the Hockomock League and guided the Warriors to sectional and state titles in 2016.
So, with nine seniors and two juniors returning from last year’s contingent that finished with an 18-7 record, it seems like qualifying for another tourney appearance will be automatic. Although Beauchemin lists qualifying for the playoffs as one of his objectives for the 2018 season, he insists that other factors are in the mix.
“This year’s team has lots of strengths but what must be emphasized are three conditions,’’ Beauchemin noted. “We have to improve daily, play as a team and stay focused. Our assets include solid hitting and pitching, speed on the bases, and a good defense. Our players are determined, mentally tough and coachable and our team chemistry is admirable. But, one area that needs improving is our left-on-base stats. We must string some hits together and cut down on stranding runners.’’
One player who won’t be on hand to absorb Beauchemin’s wisdom is Jen Hutnyan, who graduated after compiling a 10-4 record on the mound and a .364 batting average. Now at Merrimack College, she also led KP in RBIs. “Jen will be tough to replace,’’ Beauchemin said, recalling that her three-run homer against Doherty High was a key in winning the state crown two years ago.
But, four players who will be present and who’ll be counted on for their ability and leadership qualities are seniors captains Jessica Bonner (third base), Brianna Lacy (catcher), Hailey McCasland (second base) and Elise Pereira (pitcher/first base).
Bonner hit .342, had five homers and was second in RBIs; Lacy allowed only 16 stolen bases; McCasland was the team’s No. 1 hitter (.443) and tied for the lead in stolen bases (16); and Pereira compiled a 7-2 record with an earned-run average of 1.69 and hit for a .320 average.
“Jessica gives 100 percent all the time, has a great attitude and is a tough competitor,’’ Beauchemin said. “She’s a strong fielder who gets key hits. Brianna calls a strategic game and also calls all the pitches. She’s got a good arm and is top-notch defensively. Hailey has speed and a great attitude. An excellent fielder, she’s a contact hitter who struck out only three times in 93 at-bats. Elise is our top candidate as a starting pitcher. She throws a change-up, fastball and has a good curve ball. Her control is consistent.’’
Three senior outfielders who were major contributors last year include Sydney Phillips, Brooke Taute and Nicole Carter. Phillips was third in hitting (.431) and second in runs scored. Taute had three clutch assists in leftfield and Carter batted .316 and had an on-base percentage of .435.
“Sydney has speed, power and a strong arm and she’s a quality fielder,’’ Beauchemin noted. “Brooke is intense, smart and also a strong fielder. Last year, she threw out three runners in big games. Nicole is strong in the field, an adept base-runner and a consistent contact hitter.’’
Two other seniors who’ll be battling for playing time are Majorie Guerrie (courtesy runner) and Allie Kuchy (catcher/first base). “Majorie has exceptional speed and gives all-out hustle,’’ Beauchemin said. “She’ll be in the mix for an outfield job. Allie is a reserve catcher who can also play first base. She provides depth and her hard work in the off-season will enable her to battle for a position.’’
Two juniors — Meghan Gorman and Faith Turnese — are prime assets for the Warriors. Gorman played shortstop last year and compiled some dynamic stats. She was the second-leading hitter with a .436 average. She led in hits (41) and runs scored (36) and had six home runs. Tied for the lead in stolen bases (15), she struck out only three times in 105 at-bats. Turnese can play the infield, the outfield and she can pitch. She hit .316 and had a 1-0 record pitching last year.
“Meghan is a contact hitter who also hits with power,’’ Beauchemin said. “She’s a smooth fielder who’s very determined in all phases. Faith is a utility player who gives us great versatility and depth. She’s a capable pitcher who relies on control and moving the ball. Her assortment includes a fastball, curve and change-up.’’
Beauchemin, whose team will open the season at home against Milford on April 3, indicated that there are about a half dozen other players who are battling for positions on the roster. He also rates Taunton as the Warriors’ prime threat in the Kelly-Rex Division pennant race. “They’ve got a solid feeder system and their tradition is solid,’’ Beauchemin noted. “When we won the state title in 2016, Taunton won the division crown.’’
Beauchemin, who remains very pragmatic in his coaching approach, will enter the new season with a competitive philosophy he’s relied on year after year. “I stress reaching one’s potential and enjoying the competitive experience along the way,’’ he said. “If those things happen, then winning will be the end result.’’
That formula has taken Norm Beauchemin to four state championship finals.